Is e-commerce “gaining ground” even in terms of convenience shopping? I am not sure if this is a social issue or a business issue.  If you have read prior blogs, I have talked about how to make the purchasing experience not only pleasant, but at a bare minimum, easy. This seems to be a challenge in so many industries.  When done right, it can be a strong competitive advantage.  The new Fairways in New York City comes to mind – intense population in a very big grocery store but an abundance of checkout counters gets the shopper out of the store with minimal time and grief; this measure ensures a satisfied customer and shopping experience.

The Wall Street Journal presented an article on how long it takes to buy a car.  The time commitment to shop a new vehicle on the lot, do the finance and purchasing agreements, then learn the cars technology adds up to an average of 2.25 hours. Keep in mind this proceeds the 18 hours (on average) of Web research devoted to narrowing down vehicle candidates and which brick and mortar storefront to visit. Regardless, I personally think that less than 3 hours is understated. We might replace our older cars more often if we didn’t have to fork over thousands of dollars to endure the water torture.  The first dealer to figure out how to shorten this time investment will have a huge competitive advantage by engaging in relevant selling.  AutoNation is trying; it will sell on market data not sticker pricing.  New software will show customers buying and leasing options – cutting buying time in half. It seems the buying experience at brick and mortars are getting worse not better.

I went to Walgreens recently – simply to pick up some eye drops.  Much to my surprise all the products were in lockdown.  It used to be just the cough syrups that provided ingredients for illegally manufactured drugs were locked up.  Not now: In my local Walgreens, my theoretical convenience store, nearly every product in the symptom relief aisles were behind lock and key. This requires the customer to literally hunt down the elusive store employee, (it took me seven minutes to find someone) who would come unlock the product to allow me the honor of purchasing it. I was puzzled.

We all live in time compressed worlds, and this was not a productive use of anyone’s time.  So when I asked the store about it, I was told “there is so much theft”, they have no choice. . . Really? So my guess is 90% of us are honest. Even if a whopping 10% are stealing, do the rest of us have to pay the price of shopping for locked up goods?  I don’t know how much loss Walgreens experiences that justifies this approach, but for the business they will lose to folks who won’t tolerate inconvenient shopping at convenience store pricing and locations, wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in extra security guards? Better surveillance?

This does not reflect a relevant selling approach to today’s shoppers and is likely tipping the scale in favor of the rise in e-commerce vs. traditional brick and mortar retail. Creative solutions and all kinds of technology are emerging.  If retailers insist on insulting and punishing those of us who just want to make a simple purchase, then my guess is many of us will make our lists and shop online.  It will be more convenient, no waiting for the lock and key, no waiting in a cashier line and no feeling like I was being punished for being a loyal customer. With all the business books, industry conferences, industry seminars on how to run better businesses in these changing times, is this the takeaway for the drug store chain giant?  Have they gotten arrogant?  Or will they go the way of Best Buy, Borders and other brick and mortar stores who are fading from our landscape?  Today requires relevant selling more than ever, so those who drift from it are at risk. Reflections:

  • What products do you shop for online, that you used to shop for in traditional brick and mortar storefronts? Why did you make the switch?
  • Are there policies in place that may be driving customers out of your own storefront? If so, does the benefit of the procedure outweigh the cost of dissatisfied customers?

Similar Posts