During this holiday season I had the chance to visit a number of retail establishments that I do not frequent often.  I also had the opportunity to interact with the staff at these establishments and to take a look at their selections.  I have to say, the results were disheartening, so say the least.

The most memorable of those visits took place just after Christmas.  I went to Best Buy to (hopefully) purchase a few Bluray disks with some Christmas cash I’d received, take a look at the musical instruments I’d heard they have and also check out a dishwasher.  After that visit, I had an even better view of the issue.

Best Buy

Upon arriving in the store, I went directly to the dishwashers and found what I was looking for.  Then, a helpful salesperson, a woman, asked if she could help me.  I won’t go into the specifics, but her complete lack of knowledge and deer-in-the-headlights look was not the help I was looking for.  Turns out their musical instruments were a joke and they had none of the 5 Blurays (all released in November) I was looking for.

The experience left me wondering about the future of the in-store purchase.  As I went over what happened, I came up with these three observations:

  • Our online shopping expectations are different.  The cost of an online shopping session, in terms of effort and commitment is nothing compared to driving to a store.  Expectations are low, the session can be ended at any time and there’s no commute time.  This is a bit different to the store visit where you drive over to the store thinking about your potential purchase and leave disappointed if you do not find that item.
  • When it comes to raw knowledge, it’s hard to compete with a computer.  No matter how good the in-store salesperson is, they’ll never even approach the speed and accuracy a computer has.  Amazon’s website and engagement process do a superior job suggesting additional or alternative purchases, as well as answering all questions related to the item.
  • Has the “big box” store concept run its course?  There’s a huge irony to me that the so-called “big box” stores came along 20 years ago and replaced mom and pop shops in all sorts of industries and now, Amazon is returning the favor.  I think it will depend on the industry, because some industries, e.g. office products and musical instruments, still thrive on the big box stores.  However, for general consumer electronics, computers, TVs and appliances, maybe the writing is on the wall.

As I was leaving the store, a young gentleman was stationed by the exit asking each exiting customer if we found what we were looking for.  I replied with a laugh that, no actually I did not find anything I was looking for.  I felt bad as I walked to my car, as I had found the dishwasher, so I did see one of the three things I was looking for.  I did not go back and tell him.

The moral of the story? I ended up buying the Bluray disks from Amazon. Best Buy should not hold its breath waiting for my next visit.

What has been your recent experience with retail?  Are you on top of your company’s retail experience?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

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