I always like to share personal insights into different facets of my everyday life and how it relates to technology. Being that I am the tech geek in the house I would always show my wife new sites or apps to enhance her shopping experience. Some of my recommendations she liked and some she just never tried. She was always set in her ways when it came to shopping, usually by just going to the stores. That has now changed and I am going to share some observations and views injecting the old “5 W’s” Who, What, When, Where and Why.
Here is a little background on my family to help set the stage. I am 44 and was born (and still live) in Queens NY. My wife 40 grew up there as well. Our kids, 1 girl (12) and 1 boy (9) are both active with sports and school. Total devices in our home equal 9. From laptops to Ipads to phones. We are a modern digital family. Within the past 12 months I have witnessed a shift in the shopping experience in my own home. I have always been an online shopper. Amazon Prime was a positive change in my purchase habits. Because of my crazy schedule this is the first place I go when I need to make a purchase, I love it when I don’t have to go to the store to pick “it” up. The shift I am talking about is how my wife shops. Her transformation went from always going to the “store” to mostly purchasing what she needs online.. I’m starting to wonder about the UPS guy and how often he is at my house for deliveries.
WHO – The PURCHASER – AKA My Wife, 90% of the purchases are made by my wife! These purchases range from general home products that everyone uses (food, cleaning supplies, paper goods etc) to specific purchases for my 2 children. This varies of course since I have 1 girl & 1 boy. These include things for school, sports, every day clothing and more. **If you are a retailer then get mom on your side! Us dads are just the guys holding all the merchandise outside the changing room (you know who you are:) ultimately waiting for our better half to make the final purchasing decision.
WHAT my wife shops for and WHY. These days my wife is a savvy online shopper and can usually find coupons (Retailmenot is a favorite) and other deals before she makes the ultimate purchase. For her personal purchases she still likes to try things on at the store. However all her other purchases are made online and shipped to our home. Shoes are purchased at Zappos, why…. Because she finds It easier to make multiple purchases and then return the ones she doesn’t like. Zappos makes it convenient and hassle free (pure genius Mr. Hsieh!). 90% of the purchases for our kids are online, if they don’t fit they are returned to the store for a different size or store credit for later purchases (GAP/Old Navy brands). Price adjustments are always being watched out for and redeemed. Because she got so savvy she now has more personal time and doesn’t have the stress of frantically shopping at stores with or without the kids. Besides what mom doesn’t want more personal time? 🙂 One of the things I find interesting in all her online experiences is the value of “trust”. I’ve observed her ask questions to representatives of the company she is shopping online with and she gives me updates to what sites are convenient and easy to check out and return if necessary. This information guides her buying decisions and influences mine. I’m a big proponent of security but for her it’s the sense that the person on the other side is taking care of her and seeing her purchase through completion. This is one of the main reasons I believe she struggles with the idea of Fresh Direct or Pea Pod, she is concerned about “trust” in the person picking out the food on the other side. How can she trust them to pick the freshest produce her family is going to consume? Why would a non-family member care about what we eat? This is something I notice her and her friends have strong opinions on. These women travel in packs and breaking into that circle of trust is tricky. I know incentives would help sway them to at least try it but if you fail then you will feel the full wrath of a group that has no mercy. 🙂 All you need is one to have a positive experience then the group becomes open to it. Companies always talk about having brand ambassadors but in this case its not so much the brand ambassador but the experience ambassador for that specific purchase or exchange. Just having a small positive experience is huge, and they love to share those experiences. This one thing can yield a return 10 times over.
WHEN and WHERE: In my opinion these 2 functions have both blended into one. WHEN we make these purchases and WHERE no longer matter because of the mobility aspect of shopping. I’ve actually purchased something on my Amazon app while at a holiday concert for my kids at school. I know this is a bad thing to admit but it just goes to show the power the consumer has at their finger tips. Now, my wife only uses Apps and websites for purchases before even thinking of going to a store. Its a complete shift in her shopping experience! Retailers must adjust how they target consumers and use the data that their purchases provide wisely. It doesn’t have to be the Davinci Code, it just needs some extra effort into who the consumer is and understand what and why they are looking to purchase. My wife recently commented to me about a great experience with Restoration Hardware. They opened up her purchase history and were able to advise on additions to a new purchase and combination of shipping options that would help delivery method. She found this very helpful and had a pleasant experience with a knowledgeable person. Reaching out to new and returning buyers on the site and asking them about their experience is key. Not through a survey but through good old-fashioned conversation. I’ve even noticed my wife giving her experiences in a chat window with a representative. I know most of the time its hard to gather information because the customers just want to buy and go away. Coming up with an appreciation “credit”, store gift or something that makes the consumer feel special is essential.
Reflecting back to when I was a youngster.
Sam the Butcher, the Brady Bunch
Growing up most stores we went to were mom & pop places. Since you got to know the owners and they got to know your family they would always know what you wanted or what you might need since your last visit. They would tell my mom “Hi Mrs. G, we have those items you like to keep in your house” and boom my mom would buy the extra items out of trust and friendly advice. These stores got to know my moms shopping habits on a personal level. I like to call this the “neighbor notion”.
Then came the larger stores like Wal-mart and Home Depot for example. You can buy anything you need but because of its scale the experience is empty. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to both Wal-mart and Home Depot and they have great employees help me with my needs but they don’t know me like a neighbor. Now here is where it gets interesting.. These large companies spend millions on how they can make the shopping experience better for their customers using technology and other methods of gathering data and shopping patterns. But they seem to be missing the one most important fact – knowing the person on an intimate level, similar to how the mom & pop stores did. With all the power technology brings to the larger companies it all boils down to them seeking to be as closely related as the mom & pop places from the past. Getting to know the customer on a level equivalent to being their neighbor.
-I still think more can be done by retailers to take advantage of this aspect without being intrusive. Below is a chart of my view as to why online and store purchasing is lopsided. ( I will talk about this more in a future Blog about retailers and creating the perfect shopping experience) – Adding this “neighborly” aspect on the store side is one of many potential ideas to help retailers. Careful combination of the digital experience and in store purchase is another.
In conclusion the customer experience is very different among everyone. Finding ways to customize the experience whether online or in store is crucial and exciting. This is a challenge we are currently trying to solve with some of our partners. I’m excited to see another shift in purchasing power as we move toward paying with our cell phones (Apple Pay). It also makes me nervous of how much easier and convenient spending money for my wife will be!