Not-so-instant gratification

04Nov09

On Sunday, I walked into a retail store with a handful of printouts from the retailer’s website. This particular company provides no way to check which products are carried in stores versus online, let alone any type of inventory status for one store versus another. Anyways, after browsing the shelves and talking to several employees, I learned that none of the 5+ products I printed out was even carried in the store.

In an apparent attempt to follow a script that the corporate office provided, each of the staff members tried to give me other options. They could check another store or order the product to be shipped there. I declined the first option since the nearest store would have been quite a walk, and declined the second option because I wanted to get something right away. 8-10 business days, as they stated it, isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

This underscores the importance of providing instant gratification for retail shoppers. People don’t walk or drive to your store just to talk about the product and then have to go somewhere else — or wait more than a week — to actually obtain it. They visit the store to see the item and take it home right away. Anything less, and most people would probably prefer to buy it online.

So what can stores do if the product is out of stock or simply isn’t carried in retail inventory? For starters, help customers find the closest substitute so they have at least one option for taking a product home that day. If the product is available at another local store, offer to have it couriered over to the first store — or delivered to the customer’s home — the same day. And finally, if you’re faced with the last resort of ordering it for delivery in a week or so, make it worth the customer’s time to wait. Give them a discount on the order, or throw in a $20 coupon for next time. Not everyone will take you up on these offers, but the added revenue from those that do should help make the efforts worthwhile.



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