Online shopping demand troubles frustrate Yule shoppers

Happy Grouponicus!Just days before Christmas, Best Buy canceled online orders dating back to November because it ran out of some of the hot merchandise. Target’s website crashed twice while Wal-Mart and Barney’s also ran out of popular inventory. Best Buy apologized for the inconvenience and offered gift cards to affected shoppers, but shoppers have long memories and having to get out into the world of shopping malls just days before Santa is due to arrive can harbor some long-lasting ill feelings about any particular organization.

Where previously these brick and mortar stores catered to the shopping mall set, it seems the economy has more consumers heading to the Internet in search of better deals. This year many of these same stores offered free shipping and handling to boost their online sales, but the demand far exceeded their expectations. Although Best Buy’s public statement only admitted to less than 1 percent of their online orders having been affected, will this kind of inconvenience send more shoppers running back to the malls?

In store retailers have traditionally bragged about their personal customer service not readily available to the shopper with an online shopping cart, but statistics still show an encouraging edge to online shopping. STELLA Services, in a recent survey tallied a lot of disappointed online shoppers from Black Friday to Cyber Monday showing only six of the top 25 online United States retailers able to sustain high customer service marks. Still, $32 billion was spent by consumers online through December 18 this year.

The survey also revealed that 41 percent of shoppers were not satisfied with the ability to receive in stock merchandise in brick and mortar establishments compared to only 20 percent online; 27 percent were not satisfied with finding correct prices in stores as compared to only 14 percent on-line, and 42 percent were not satisfied with the in store check out procedures as compared to only 15 percent of check out procedures on-line.

The only category where brick and mortar stores surpassed online expectations were in return, refund, and exchange procedures with 41 percent of online customers dissatisfied as compared to only 25 percent of in store consumers unhappy.

Unfortunately it’s not painting a rosy picture for shopping centers – is it any wonder the vacancy rate is so high in strip malls? It would seem that stores are going to have to bring more to the price, product and customer service experience  if they don’t want to lose out to the competition of the online shopping mecca. Let’s bring in better trained staff, better merchandise choices, competitive prices and create the mood and ambiance to encourage shoppers to want to visit a store – one thing for sure there isn’t any ambiance on the Web, but who knows what the future will bring?

photo credit: Groupon