Retales is a new semi-regular feature from the front lines of retail, where Demandware bloggers from across the company report on their experiences as consumers – the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s both a dose of reality and a celebration of retail done right. 

One of the main themes of the recent conference was the idea of a “seamless customer experience” where shoppers effortlessly discover products on one channel and buy on another.

Oh, if only that were the reality.

Case in point:

I was recently in a pinch for a last-minute gift for my mother in law. Fortunately, she had dropped a hint about a shirt she wanted, at a store just down the road. My wife spun up her laptop and found the item, available for pick up in store (we’ll withhold the name to protect the identity of said retailer. You’ll see why in a moment). We had some trouble at checkout (problem #1), so I picked up my phone to place the order.  Unfortunately, there was no way to place a ‘buy online pickup in store’ order on phone (problem #2). We returned to the laptop and, success, order placed!

Bad news – it would be four hours until ready (problem #3). Yikes. I was on my way out to pick up dinner, and figured I would charm my way to get the package in hand before said four hours and head back home.

I had my wife’s ID and credit card (a store charge, to boot) and asked about the order. Here’s where the red tape really started to fly:

Associate – “That order won’t be ready until tomorrow at 10am.” (problem #4)

Me – Ok, can you point me to the section in the store and I can pick it up?

Associate – I won’t be able to give you the online price for it. (problem #5) We have the team picking orders right now anyway.

Me – Great, can you see if they can pick this one now? (I was pushing a bit – I’ll call it persistent)

Associate – (picking up walkie) “Have you picked order #xyz?”

Employee on walkie – ” Is it a green shirt?”

Me – Yes, yes – that’s the one!

Associate – Yes.

Employee – We can bring it up in five.

Associate (to me) – It will take a while to get this through the system.

A few minutes later, I return from taking a lap through the store and picking up a card. I see the shirt, the associate and another employee huddled around a terminal clicking and scanning feverishly.

Me – Thanks for doing this.

Employee – No problem, Saturdays are a bit busy. I saw this come in but the due date wasn’t until tomorrow. The order wasn’t due to be picked for 17 hours – the system gives four business hours lead time, and that stretches into the morning shift.

<end scene>

I walked out with the shirt.  I got a card too (in a separate transaction, problem #7). But, I spent more time than expected or was necessary, negating the upside of in-store pick up. Would I have been better off just finding the item, then waiting in line to buy? You bet.

Would I place a ‘pick up in store’ order again? Not with this retailer.

What happened?

I walked head first into the silo. Some retailers are still toddling with shopping scenarios, but we, the shoppers, expect these will be carried out with grace and enthusiasm. Are you putting your associates in a position where they can service the customer? Are they able to show the shopper a great experience, or is the process a pain for them to execute?

Unifying the key shopping attributes – pricing, inventory, shopper, orders – is at the foundation of making omni-channel real, and those that do it right win and keep customers.

As my experience demonstrates, we still have a long way to go.

Readers, let’s hear your “retale” stories, the good and the bad.