Sunday 2 February 2014

A Disappointing Shopping Trip

I’m a bit of a techno geek and the opportunity to buy a new stylus (pen) for my iPad filled me with shopping excitement. I understand that not everybody gets excited about a stylus but my experience is relevant across the whole buying spectrum so please stay with me here.

What I found was that doing online research before a shopping trip can create an expectation that is not always achievable when you go shopping. If you are a retailer that can be a problem. If a customer comes into your shop having done some online research and your product range bears no resemblance to what they have seen online, your ability to sell is going to be more difficult. Here is my experience.

A stylus is the sort of item that I would seriously consider buying on line, but on this occasion I decided to shop bricks’n’mortar in Melbourne’s CBD. Like most of my techno purchases I did some research online before heading off to shop. The idea of the stylus was to enable me to write hand-written notes on my iPad. Long periods of writing would require that the stylus was comfortable and worked well so I was very keen to read about the experience of others before I committed my $20 or $30.

There are many reviews on the web. Stylus’s (or is it stylii?) are common tools in the graphic industry and there are a surprising number of suppliers. My search revealed there were 4 or 5 key brands that had recorded good results and Melbourne has 3 or 4 dedicated pen shops plus a variety of technological outlets like Dick Smith and Officeworks, that I could try out. What I really wanted to do was try the stylus on my iPad to make sure it worked, and this is where the problem started.

The chain stores usually seal their products in elaborate packaging so it is often difficult to try them out. That was certainly the case with stylus’s. The pen shops had unpackaged examples but none of them had the 4 or 5 key brands I was looking for and instead of $20 or $30 I was looking at $50 to $70 for a good stylus.

The problem was that there was a disconnect between my online expectations and what I found in the specialty shops. Maybe it was difficult for Melbourne’s pen shops to get the brands I was after. (Although strangely, Officeworks had one of the top brands available but only online) I wanted one of those pen shops to have at least 2 or 3 of the top global brands in store for me to try and they would have got my business. In the end I bought a packaged item from Dick Smith for $20 and luckily it works fine.

To get to the point after that long lead up – do your products meet expectations for the customers who research online before they come to see you? A lot of customers are googling their purchases and what they learn online, rightly or wrongly, becomes the standard. For these customers, you need to have the type of product, and hopefully the brand, that is featured online to have a good chance of completing the sale. Just another hurdle we need to jump over to meet the demands of modern consumerism.