Typical shopping frustrations

by SteveBayle on December 22, 2009

I went to Whole Foods today at Fresh Pond, a store I’ve been to dozens of times over the years. I had two separate but similar experiences that are typical frustrations endured by shoppers because retailers don’t understand: stores are an information space. And what is a very efficient, popular and powerful way to navigate an information space? Search!

My wife wanted a container of crystallized ginger. I had no idea where it was in the store, so I asked a sales associate. He thought it was in the shopping aisle but wasn’t sure. He brought me over there and handed me off to yet another associate who quickly found two types of ginger. Both contained added sugar and weren’t in the plastic case that her last batch came in. Not what my wife wanted!

As I headed off down the next aisle, which happened to be one where they sell nuts, dried fruits and similar foodstuffs ,I took out my iPhone and decided it would be more efficient to call my wife and ask her where she finds her crystallized, no-sugar-added ginger than to try to get help from the “experts” at Whole Foods. Just as I tapped her number in my iPhone Favorites list, what did I spy on the shelf, but the plastic cases of crystallized ginger, no sugar added. I quickly cancelled the call and put a container in my cart. Score one for a random walk!

I had my own treat on the shopping list. Recently Whole Foods has stocked a very good type of black licorice, something I’ve been addicted to since a child and a candy that is hard to find without artificial flavoring and coloring.
So every trip lately I’ve been going to the end cap candy display in the bakery department and picking up a container or two.
After my success at finding my wife’s ginger I figured I deserved my own treat so I headed over to the candy display. Guess what? It hds been replaced by a display of baked goods! No licorice or candy in sight. So once again I tracked down an associate, who this time paged the bakery department (from a fixed location phone). After a couple of minutes wait they finally called back and told him where the licorice had been moved to and he guided me there.

How much of shopper’s time is wasted by the non-searchability of retail stores? How many sales do they lose because people can’t find what they are looking for? How many angry customers decide to shop elsewhere because store navigation is so difficult? Yes, I’ve heard the one about how they want you to be lost and wandering around because that generates impulse sales. Well it also insults the customer.

When will the superstores wake up and provide smart phone apps that help consumers find what they are looking for without having to track down a sales associate who has to page another sales associate who then calls back with directions! They could start by giving their sales associates smart phones to make them smarter about where the store shelves its products!

They need to understand one of the basics of computer science, the difference between logical and physical storage. I don’t care where they shelve stuff in the store IF I have a way of finding it that is logical, fast and easy to use, like a smart phone app that accesses the store’s inventory and includes its floor plan.

How about Google for superstores, in the palm of your hand? Or maybe you like scavenger hunts and have a lot of time to kill. I don’t.

Posted via email from PostVerbela

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