Let’s face it. Each year shopping in my small community of Flagstaff is becoming more and more like shopping anywhere in the country. Just close your eyes and you can pretend you’re in a mall in Phoenix, San Jose, or even Orlando.
For me, the internet is my choice for most shopping. And apparently others feel the same way. This is true of my own shopping websites — Creative Gifts To Go and Grand Canyon Teddy Bear Company as well as more and more of my business is coming from the internet. Even a lot of my local Flagstaff deliveries were orders placed on the internet.
In addition to orders that I filled, through our network of gift basket companies across the country, Gift Basket Network, I was able to send last minute customers to local gift basket companies as far away as Chicago, New York, and even Puerto Rico.
Based on my own experiences, I think I’ve discovered the reason for the transition from local shopping to online.
The other day I had a little time between making deliveries and stopped into a local store to find something special to add to one of the gifts to my granddaughter. This experience confirmed my decision to shop online. I was looking for a pair of ear rings. To get to them, I walked through departments where merchandise was on the floor or tossed onto a rack with no attempt to fold them or hang them neatly. I finally reached the jewelry counter where two clerks were laughing and joking with each other. I searched the counters for what I was looking for, never once being approached by one of clerks. Finally when a possibility caught my eye, I looked up to see that they had disappeared to the far end of the counter…still deep in conversation. I walked out, went home, and clicked on google and found the perfect gift.
This experience plus a recent one that I reported on in an earlier post while trying to buy a VCR recorder/player confirm why more and more retail is shifting to online. Stores have become unpleasant places to shop. Consumers want a shopping experience that is fast and efficient and to leave with the feeling that the company actually wants their business.
True, you have to pay shipping charges when you shop online. Beware of the so-called free shipping. Nothing in this life is free. You pay for it whether it’s called shipping, less product, or higher prices.
But, that aside, no one likes to be gouged for shipping (and many of the local shipping stores charge a premium for their services). No one likes to stand in long lines at UPS or the Post Office. The option, as more and more people are discovering, is an online gift company that ships quickly and reasonably. The telephone companies used to advertise, “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.” A quality online gift company could have the slogan “Let Us Stand in Line for You This Holiday season!”
Recent sales figures throughout the country confirm that I am right. Even those stores that have both a retail outlet and a website location have discovered that their web sales are outpacing their local sales. Some of these stores are getting it right when they go online–making the shopping experience a positive one for their customers.
But others are simply replicating their retail store — handling customers the way they always have done. I recently was looking online for a John Deere themed comforter for my grandson. I found just what I was looking for at one of the ebay stores. It was new. It was priced right and the shipping was reasonable. But thinking I should check some of the better-known stores first, I found a very similar one at J.C. Penney’s online store but the description didn’t match the picture. I emailed their customer service and received an automatic reply that they would respond within 48 hours. They did eventually reply several days later. By this time, I had completed a fast, efficient transaction at ebay and it was already on its way to me. Penny’s brand of customer service is a sure recipe for online death.