The decomposition of the retail experience a.k.a shopping online FTW

Watch out Amazon’s come to Australia. Retailers wet their collective pants, the media was in a frenzy and Channel 9 is passing off retail plugs as news. Meanwhile, over at Target Chatswood, they just ditched all the checkout points and replaced them with, *ahem*, ‘self serve’ stations. Well OK, there was one token cash register for all those poor folk that don’t like the idea of checking out themselves — or are not able to.

The question I had as we left the store, with the paltry $30 purchase for a kid’s party, was simple — why’d we bother? I didn’t drive all the way to Chatswood, battle the car park and then schlep through Westfield just so I could have a complete self serve experience. I could have stayed home and in 15 minutes bought the same thing, maybe for less, and had it delivered to my door in a day.

In the face of the impending storm that’s really just getting started, it seems retail in Australia has a serious disconnect. On one hand it collectively frets and bemoans the ever increasing pressure placed on it by its online counterpart but on the other, it is systematically destroying just what retail should be, giving consumers every reason they need to shop from the comfort of their own home.

It’s hard to argue with buying online. I recently bought a pair of Converse shoes direct from Converse Australia. They not only had a pair of shoes that I have wanted for a very long time, they had them on sale, a very good set of instructions on how to size, AND had them in my hands in two days. All complete with a free 30 day returns policy. The experience I had was so good, a week later I went and bought another pair and will soon go back for a third.

But it’s more than that. My Converse experience was, in every way a self serve experience. I selected, sized and paid without any personal interaction and as I use a PO Box, I had to go and get them. But honestly, how is that different from going to Target or any other of the major retail outlets these days? I can’t think of the amount of times we went to the likes of Myer and were unable to not only find a staff member to ask a question but in numerous instances, finding someone to give our money to proved almost impossible. And let’s not talk about the chap behind the register at a particular store that went out of his way to show how disinterested he was in serving us.

And there’s the crux of the retail vs. argument. When presented with dwindling customer service, or in the case of our recent target experience, NO customer service, why would I make the effort to shop in bricks and mortar? Shopping online is less stress!


Originally posted on my *ahem* business website, where I am writing about running a SME online.

This is me