Sunday, February 22, 2015

Online Retailing At The Expense of Stores?

The American Customer Satisfaction Index, a very reliable source of research and information, has revealed that their research shows a more than 5% increase in overall customer satisfaction with online retailers for the year 2014.


While this is good news for online retailers, I’m finding another aspect of their research to be a bit disturbing. During the same 2014 time period, this research also showed that overall satisfaction with “retail” actually declined 1.4% compared with 2013.


What this means is that consumers are less satisfied with physical retail locations, while feeling better about the online experience.


This is excellent news for the likes of Ebay and Amazon, and other business which are primarily online. My problem with this is that some of the major retailers, which achieved their financial status from having numerous large stores, are reducing their concern about their physical locations while beefing up the online attack.


Just last week I saw a story about the increased millions of dollars that WalMart is spending specific to its e-commerce operations in 2015. If and as the large physical location retailers push their online inventory to shoppers, they could very well be reducing the traffic to their actual stores. This would eventually mean fewer jobs and fewer customers going through their doors. Yet, at the same time, WalMart, Target, and Meijer appear to have increased a portion of many of their retail stores which sell grocery items.


It would appear that the strategy is to give local residents reasons to come in to the stores at least once per week for grocery shopping and “move” the other items to online. As more and more grocery and related items come to the shelves, it means other items are being removed, and likely kept in the warehouses to be sold online.


The view from here is that consumers should have a reasonable choice between the physical location and online. Some enjoy the “touchy feely” ability to be able to go in and look at a product, compare it with others nearby on the shelves, and be able to head right home with their purchase. Not everyone wants to deal with shipping costs and waiting for days before their item arrives.


Too many of the large retailers don’t see this as a problem. They should. Many of them still advertise the convenience and availability of their inventory online. However, it still takes too long for orders to be shipped out. They don’t care, but consumers should.


If it is their business to sell anything online, they should have the staff in place to ship it out within 24 hours at the most. This crap of ordering something on a Monday and then wait until Wednesday to receive a “Your item has been shipped” e-mail needs to stop. Consumers should not have to pay extra for expedited shipping. If they can’t ship it out right away, then don’t have it available online.


As it is, the online “people” and the in-store “people” don’t always work together as it is, even though it is the same company.


Here is an example. Two weeks ago, we decided to get a new printer for our office. I went online and found a couple of possibilities, and then discovered that, on that day, Office Depot had the best price by more than $20.


Using their “Check availability” feature, it turned out that the most convenient store had only one of them in stock. Not wanting to take any chances (at that price), I ordered it online for “same day pickup” at that store.


After receiving my confirmation e-mail and going in to that store about two hours later, they store associate “could not find” my order in the store. She then called her manager who realized that the printer was still on the shelf and was never processed for pickup. The manager went and took the item from the shelf, entered the data, and after a roughly ten minute wait, I left the store with my printer. A ten minute wait with nothing more than a quick apology.


I still wonder what would have happened had that specific printer been sold during that time. But that isn’t the point.


The online service by a lot of retailers needs to improve drastically. However, it should not be improved at the expense of reductions of store inventories either. We need for the consumer satisfaction levels to be on the increase at BOTH the retail and online levels.







Monday, December 29, 2014

Why Have Online Retailer Satisfaction Levels Dropped?

It is hard to believe that many in the industry are surprised that customer satisfaction ratings for major online retailers are down again for this year. Maybe the people that analyze the data and/or write the recaps do not order very much from major online retailers.


What is ironic is that the latest statistics came out within hours of separate research showing a noteworthy increase in the amount of mobile shoppers during the 2014 holiday season.


Consumers appear to be more willing than ever before to make a bigger percentage of their retail purchases online. Yet, retailers appear as not being ready, willing, or able to catch up to the increased demand.


Solving this problem should be relatively simple for retailers, whether for an online division of a retail store or a primarily online entity.


For the retailers with stores across the nation, such as Target, WalMart, and Best Buy, they all need to make their online wing more of a priority than it appears to be. They often fail to realize that their customers expect these web sites to be updated and provide necessary information at all times.


We the consumer should never again have to experience going through the steps of logging in and entering information to order a product to THEN learn it is “out of stock” or “not available”. It is really time to start complaining to the Federal Trade Commission every time this happens. Retailers should not be allowed to advertise an item if they can’t provide it immediately. Or at the very least, tell consumers they can’t get it right away at the beginning. If they are willing to wait, let it be by choice ahead of time.


There are more reasons why the likes of Amazon and QVC are also among the online retailers showing a drop in consumer satisfaction. Sorry, but when selling products online, especially when online only (such as the two just mentioned), these retailers should always be ready to ship immediately.


When ordering something online, we should EXPECT immediate shipment. The retailer is supposed to have the item(s) ready for immediate sale, expect orders, and have arrangements in place to ship within a few hours. If the order is placed at 3 AM, and the location is closed until 8 AM, the notice of shipment should come by e-mail no later than 10 AM.


If a retailer is not staffed enough to handle a large amount of orders, that should only be the case for one day until help is called in. It isn’t hard to hire people to box and send items these days. If a retailer has so many sales it can’t keep up with shipping, it means they are generating enough revenue to hire enough workers to keep up with production.


As The Frustrated Consumer sees it, with more consumers ordering online, there should be fewer delays in the fulfillment of orders.


I happened to order something via Amazon a couple weeks ago, and waited more than a week to receive it, when the “Your Item Shipped” e-mail didn’t arrive until the second business day after it was ordered.


Before I received the package, I received a follow-up “Satisfaction Survey”. What did it ask? It asked how I liked the packaging.


Great! Amazon was more concerned about the packaging when it took them more than two days after the order was placed to send it. If only they were half as concerned about the time it supposedly took to package it.


Now it is “news” that Amazon is among those companies with a lower customer satisfaction rating.


Hopefully this situation will improve. Of course, we won’t know for a while. I’m betting it will take them several business days before any of their decision makers decide to read the research.


For those that missed it, here is one of the stories about this:








Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pulling Out The Staples

It's one of those seemingly minor things that the majority of people don't give a second thought to, and don't complain about. Not complaining about consumer issues is not a good thing.

For the past few years, Staples has been among office supply sources offering a credit for returning finished printer cartridges to their stores to be recycled. Just a few weeks back, I got a $6.00 credit for bringing in three of my recently used cartridges.

Last week, I was going in to Staples for something unrelated, and, of course, used the opportunity to bring in two finished cartridges. When I handed them over, I was then told that "the program has been changed". The rep said something about how much I need to buy over a period of time, and told that I would not receiving any credit for these. Sure enough, my receipt showed "$0.00" for my returning the cartridges.

It is true that a $4.00 credit isn't worth this time time to deal with. But that isn't the point. Staples had been giving these credits for a few years (that I know of). If they were giving away "too many" of these credits, it really meant that they had a successful promotion to guarantee return business. If they weren't giving away very many of these credits, there shouldn't have been any reason to mess around with this promotion. This was not something they only did on a limited basis.

However, this action hurts them more than it hurts me. I can simply start throwing out my finished printer cartridges, and not have a reason that in the past would get me to go specifically to Staples. For years, I would often go there even though their nearest location to both my home and business is further than a couple of their remaining competitors.

This is nowhere near as strange as when OfficeMax did away with their Perks program a few years ago and took away a huge reason for frequent shopping there. And it wasn't long after that when that company's problems began.

While it's true that these businesses don't have to provide regular customers with additional benefits, taking them away is another story.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Think Before You Promote

There is nothing wrong with AMC Theatres sending out special offers to its e-mail list. But there is something wrong with, on January 25th during the coldest winter in years, sending out a promotion for a free ICEE - when you purchase one. Oh my!

Granted, doing this is probably the least costly promotion they could implement, but the idea is to give people reasons to visit their theatres. It's a lot cheaper to stay home and enjoy a hot chocolate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wondering Why...............

We as consumers should spend more time questioning ludicrous charges. I'm taking the wise suggestion of pointing them out as they come up.........

The All-American High School Basketball Game is taking place tonight (3/28) in Chicago at the United Center. For Bulls and Blackhawks games, concerts, and special events held there such as Ice Capades and a circus, attendees are asked to pay in the $25 to $35 range just to park their car in the closest parking lots.

Yet, for this basketball game, the promotional materials point out that it will be "free parking". Of course, we don't want to say or do anything to discourage this. But it raises a very important question.

What is it that was done so that parking for THIS event could be free? Why can't the same thing be done for concerts, sports events, and special events all of the time? Especially when you consider the cost per ticket, plus fees, gas prices, and the cost of traveling to the venue.

Speaking of ticket fees, I see where Aerosmith will be in concert at Milwaukee Summerfest in July. They are promoting $25 tickets, even if it is for the lawn. I suppose that's reasonable. Yet, the TicketMaster site indicates that the "convenience fee" per ticket is $25.50. Well, we know what entity this fee is "convenient" for.

However, TM continues to escape the majority of the lawsuits filed over this. Even though it is not necessarily the fault of the musical act (or team in the case of sports), those ridiculous charges for the Aerosmith show (among others) bring one response. Dream On !!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Poor Banking Chase Continues

It is possible to take a break from reading about more of the antics of Bank of America. In doing so, there is this about how attorneys were also involved with the false inflation of debts owed to Chase Bank, and how they are being 'found out':

I continue to think that now these large banks should pitch in and bailout the government.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Waiting Out The Movies

Now it looks like Warner Bros. is indirectly making it possible for us to pay less to see movies simply by waiting a while longer.

At first, when I saw today's announcement about Warner Bros.' new "deal" with Netflix, I thought it was another way for a large movie company to aggravate consumers who choose to buy or pay-for-view for recent new releases.

The story basically says that Netflix customers will now have to wait an additional 4 weeks to be able to watch selected movies beyond the on-sale date for the DVD. Clearly, Warner Bros. wants anxious consumers to purchase the DVD, at a higher profit margin for them, than to view the film through Netflix. Until now, consumers could make that choice immediately. Warner Bros. is banking on (literally) the possibility that more consumers will purchase the DVD than otherwise would if given the immediate choice.

After thinking on it for a few minutes, I realize that this actually helps us frugal consumers in the long run. This formula of the theater release, then DVD sale, and THEN via Netflix. Thus, the longer we wait, the less it will cost to see these movies.

I have no problem with waiting to see a movie, and hope others adopt this approach. The fact remains it is the SAME movie no matter when you see it for the first time. It is not like sports, where every game is different and there are specific plays and results every day.

Over the years, I go less and less to movie theaters. Years ago, theaters would have double features plus 'short' features in between. You could easily be in that movie theater for more than 4 hours. It was what you did for the evening for the entire afternoon. And it was affordable. Now, these theaters expect people to pay more than twice the price for less than half of the entertainment they used to offer. And that's without buying anything from the overpriced concession stand. (Of course, that's not necessary, since we are in and out of there so fast these days that there's not enough time to get hungry.)

All things considered, the new formula is taking shape. The same $10 that now gets you only 90 minutes in a theater will get you 2 or 3 movies at home a few weeks later. I, for one, can wait.