Retailers Need To Know We Check Their Website
Sunday, 26th December 2010
Judging by the high street this Christmas, retailers have put us all into two distinct categories. Some of us shop online and the rest of us pitch up to the store. Whilst this sounds feasible, it ignores what I think is a massive slice of the market and it will mean trouble for retailers who don't plan how to react to customers who don't fit into these two buckets.
So why do I think that retailers have put us all in silos and what is the problem with it? Well, I think that the mistake retailers have made is that they have ignored the overlap between online shoppers and in-store shoppers. I think that a large group of customers do both - they check prices online to get an idea of how much something is worth before they pitch up to the real store to have a look, try it out and potentially spend their cash.
This wouldn't be a problem except that retailers use a different pricing strategy on their website to the one they use in their shops. I don't think there is a problem with having a difference between the online price and the in-store price per se, but when a customer questions the in-store price based on the same retailer's own website the store should have a strategy other than just saying "you have to buy online to get that price".
Here is an example to help to illustrate the problem in question. It is a real story, but I won't mention the name of any of the shops featured. I want to buy a Nikon AF-S 55-300mm Telephoto Lens. I have researched the lens online and found that it is available from a reputable online shop for around £260 and also online from a specialist camera retailer for £292. For the sake of £30, I would rather buy the product in the high street store - I can get the product immediately, have a look before I buy and ask questions. If I buy online, it won't actually be any more convenient as I'll probably have to collect the item from the local post office when they attempt to deliver it while I'm out - it is likely that I will have to make a trip out whether I buy the item online or in store.
So I make the trip to the actual shop and find out that the in-store price is a whopping £369. I'm no longer paying a £30 premium for the privilege of getting the lens straight away - I'm paying nearly £80. On top of this, I know I can buy the lens online for over £100 less - so now I'm thinking that maybe I can suffer the inconvenience of an online buy as I'm actually going to save a lot of money.
Not only is the specialist retailer in danger of losing my initial impulse to buy, they are now looking at losing the sale altogether as if I am going to have to buy it online, I might as well buy at the cheaper price from the other online shop, who I know are very reliable with their dispatch process. Now, I did consider using my smart-phone to reserve-and-collect from the comfort of a bench outside the store - but as soon as I am shopping in the online zone once again, I am definitely more inclined to buy at a lower price.
So here is the problem. On the high street, the store might be at the top of its game. The advice, range and customer service convinces me that I can spend a bit more than I would spend online - but by offering a low price on their website that isn't available in-store it gets me thinking about whether I am spending my money wisely.
At the very least, the people on the shop floor should be able to match their online price, especially if the retailer operates reserve-and-collect, which allows people to get the online price, but collect and pay in the real shop.