A small local business markets its products online via an online store that it has created to increase its offering. The other day when I tried to order from this online store there was a problem because the store doesn’t take instantaneous payments like its international rivals.
An email is sent to you stating that an invoice will be sent with instructions on how to pay. Two days later I had still not received the invoice. So I called the online store number but was unable to get through for a day. When I did get through two days later, I was told that the item was unfortunately hard of stock and they would not be reordering it. The contact person also apologised for being so late because their online store and office telephones had been down for a few days. I enquired whether they could order the item from their agents overseas but was told that they wouldn’t be doing so.
Is this the way to run a local online store? How can online businesses advertise products that they don’t have in stock, nor do they intend selling? They didn’t even have a notice on their online store to say that the item was out of stock or had been discontinued.
The problem with this business model is that if the item was in stock in one of the physical retail stores locally, then there would be no compelling reason to go online. The reason in many cases for going online is because the item is not available locally and the expectation is that online stores will be able to source it from virtually anywhere in the world. Yes, they may charge a margin for handling and a shipping fee but if the item is something you really want or you required urgently, then the slightly extra cost is justified. But certainly not if it’s going to take weeks to arrive locally.
I don’t want to pick on local online retail stores but they still have a long way to go. The large manufacturers from Europe who supply products into local retail stores only offer a limited range of product for the broader demand. They don’t bring in the speciality lines into this country. I recently enquired about a certain product from to manufacturers in Germany and weeks later I still have not received replies. I’m not sure what to make of it but one thing it’s telling me is that they don’t seem to have a system where they can quickly reply to customer queries. Or they just couldn’t be bothered to answer queries from countries outside the main markets even though they have online forms for accepting queries.
What’s your experience with online purchasing? If you are going to offer products and services online, how are you going to deliver your product quickly and at the best possible price? Online stores that do offer the convenience of shopping online have opportunities. But it’s no good just being an intermediary where you are fronting for another shop in the US or UK but carry no stock and make your customer wait 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. Online purchasing at some local online retail sites still has still a long way to go before customers have confidence and faith in purchasing online.
It’s quite understandable that decisions about providing an online experience which delights the customer can go awry. That’s why if you are starting something from scratch or changing the processes in your business, you need to understand errors in decision making, manage risks, test solutions and redesign until solutions meet and surpass customer expectations. In “Breakthrough Ideas” you are shown a process for developing ideas that helps you manage bias in your decisions whether for a startup or even deciding on a new direction. Here is the link.