• United States
Contributing Writer

Shopping shouldn’t be this difficult

Oct 21, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Why better integration is needed for bricks and mortar and online stores

Last week, I ventured into the retail store of a large electronics chain. I was in search of a scanner for all my old photographs and figured this chain would have the best deal. I headed home to do a bit of homework and happened to find a good deal on the same company’s Web site. I printed off the page and headed back to the store. What follows is a tale of what’s wrong with the combined online and bricks and mortar world.

So there I was, armed with my printed out page of the exact scanner I wanted. I went straight to the customer service desk and showed it to the associate there. She immediately apologized and said that the company doesn’t match their online prices in the store.

BUT if I wanted to, I could go over to the kiosk they had on-site, place the order and then pick it up at the customer service desk. I look at her dumbfounded.

I asked her how I would know when the order was ready. “We’ll send you an e-mail,” she chirped. Okay. One problem. There was no access to my e-mail from the store.

“Oh,” she sighed. “Well, you could just wander around for a little while and then check back.” I asked her how long it usually took for orders to make their way from the online site through the back-end system into the store’s stockroom to the front registers. She shrugged her shoulders and came up with nothing. “I’m not sure.”

Then she added: “You could head back to that section and check to see if we have it in stock and then bring it to the front desk and tell them that you’ll be ordering it online and then show them the order and then you can probably pick it right up.”

You can imagine the look on my face. That look stayed plastered there for a few more minutes. I ended up just buying the product in the store, from the store.

This highlights the problem that exists right now with large chains trying to master both online and bricks and mortar. If you are going to do both and appear to have them tightly integrated – same branding, same look and feel – then you need to make sure that the back-end systems match up and customers don’t get a jolting experience like the one I had. There should be arrangements made that allow the store to meet the deals online – one that isn’t as convoluted as having to go online in the store to buy the product.

What do you think? Let me know at