Tag Archives: computers

Disconnects between online and brick and mortar stores

A recent shopping experience brought home to me the dangers of retailers quickly adding Web store capabilities. In the rush to make their products available online, they often don’t pay enough attention to the customer experience and its impact on the brand.

Last fall was the end of the summer selling season. I decided it was time to replace my aging gas grill and now was a great time to buy a new one on sale. I ventured down to my local big box store, and sure enough, all their gas grills were on sale.

As I perused the army of stainless steel grills before me, I found the one I wanted — six burners, a rotisserie, a side cooker, and seriously discounted to move, including free delivery. There was only one slight problem, the floor model was an LP, and I wanted natural gas (but the sales ticket said “available in natural gas”). Flagging down a salesperson, I asked if I could get an NG model. He said he would check in the back and see if they had one. He returned a few minutes later and told me that they were out of the NG model but that I could get one on their fancy new Web site. I asked, “But will I get the sale price and free delivery over the internet?” “Yes,” he confidently replied.

So I returned home and went to the store Web site and found my grill. However, it was at the list price and not the sale price. So, I had to hit the “contact us” button and submit my problem. A few days later I received a response telling me to purchase it off the Web and they would credit me the difference. I proceeded to make my Web purchase.

Soon after that, I got an e-mail that my product had been shipped and the delivery person would be contacting me. A few days later, I got a call from the delivery company asking if I could be home on a certain afternoon to accept delivery. I was thinking this internet thing is going pretty smoothly, until she hit me with the next question — “Would you be able to lift 500 lb.?”  I said, “No, but I could move the grill by pieces to my deck and assemble it, if need be.”

On the appointed afternoon, I looked out my window to find a ginormous tractor-trailer blasting its airhorn in front of my house. I went up to the street, and the driver told me that he wasn’t supposed to be in a neighborhood, as his truck was set up for loading-dock deliveries. I replied, “You and Bigbox.com have made all the shipping arrangements, I just want my grill.” He told me he could lower the pallet to the street, but that was as far as he could deliver it. I figured I would just have to carry my grill a little farther than I originally thought.

As the tractor-trailer drove off, I opened the box, only to find the grill assembled (except for some optional wheels). Conscripting my neighbor, I got him to lean the grill up as I inserted the wheels. I proceeded to wheel the grill to my front door, only to encounter a door stoop not level with the sidewalk. My neighbor and I then had to fashion a ramp out of some wood. (I was beginning to think this free delivery was not exactly what I had in mind.) Finally, after wheeling this grill through my house I made it out to the deck.

End of story, right? Wrong. The next thing I knew I got an e-mail telling me that my credit card had been debited by bigbox.com for several hundred dollars in order to pay for shipping my grill across the country. After several e-mails and phone calls, I finally got them to credit the charge back.

Moral of this story?  When you build your Web model, remember, “It’s the customer experience, stupid.” Building a Web order entry and delivery system is only half the battle.  What is the customer experience? Are you asking them to lift 500 lb.? Are you dropping a pallet on their street and driving off?  Are you requiring them to hit “Contact us” a million times, only to have to follow it up with a phone call just to get the advertised price in your brick and mortar location?

Until you can answer “no” to all the above, you have some more beta testing to do.

– Michael Reineck – Principal


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Change You Can Believe In

My grandparents used to tell me stories about what things were like back in the “olden days.”  You know… the simpler time before the television, microwave, cell phone, computer, and video game ruined everything.  Days when families sat together at the dinner table every night, and kids had to walk to school, uphill in both directions, with no shoes, in the middle of a snowstorm.

Their stories made me laugh, but as a child, I never gave much thought to how different their lives must have been before the technological advances of the past 50+ years.

With my 40th birthday less than a month away, I began thinking about how much different my life inside an advertising agency is today versus when I started in this industry.  It has only been 18 years, yet it is somewhat shocking to me how much the art and science of advertising has evolved in this short time.

On my first day as an Assistant Media Planner at Ogilvy & Mather, I was asked whether I wanted a typewriter or a computer in my cubicle.  This wasn’t 1970.  It was 1991.  Not that long ago!  I selected the computer, which came programmed with a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and a program to create flowcharts and input media buys.  That’s it.  No e-mail.  No PowerPoint.  No internet.  The fax machine (with rolled paper), regular mail and inter-office envelopes were staples of the job… and our only methods of communication.

I was responsible for generating media plans for some of the largest Fortune 50 brands in the U.S., and although I had some great tools to work with, it is remarkable how unsophisticated they were.  We had access to Nielsen, Arbitron, SRDS and MRI (not the nice Web version we have now – a version that required you to search for long and complicated codes in giant 3-ring binders!).  I’ll never forget having to calculate reach and frequency by hand!  For 1991, this was adequate, as the media options weren’t all that sophisticated.  Everything was about reaching mass audiences and screaming louder than your competition.  Cable television was still a bit “out there,” and niche magazines hadn’t taken off yet.

We have come a long way since then.  Not only have the tools of the job evolved (just look at what the internet and social media have done to the recent advertising landscape), but the job itself has changed.  It is now all about one-to-one communication, building relationships with your consumers, and outwitting your competition.  And everything has gotten much more strategic and measurable.  Gone are the days of throwing millions of advertising dollars out in the marketplace and hoping they reach the right folks and increase sales.  Clients now hold themselves and their agencies to a much tougher standard – every dollar and every message is scrutinized, and must be able to be tracked back to a positive return.

I was always amazed at how my grandparents adapted to change throughout their lifetime, and I never thought I’d see an era with as much change as theirs.  I’m starting to think I was wrong!


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