I am not someone who particularly enjoys the high street shopping experience. I find nothing more annoying than having to dodge around people who walk at a snails pace, getting in the way and preventing me from getting in, buying what I want and getting out again as quickly as I possibly can. Despite this though, over the last couple of weeks I have ventured into town to visit both a leading high street sports shop and a well known electricals store and in both cases the till service has been diabolical. In the case of the sports shop there wasn’t a member of staff anywhere to be seen for at least 5 minutes, resulting in an angry queue of people. When one did appear he served at an incredibly slow rate and it took 3 customers before light dawned and he signaled for another staff member to come and help. I consigned this experience to bad luck and moved on, so it was to my dismay that I had pretty much exactly the same experience a week later in the electrical store. And this is a trend that seems to be fast becoming the norm in high street stores.
The reality is that high street shopping has become an experience that is highly irritating and that stores, presumably due to these cash strapped times, are not employing the staff (either the number or standard) required to make the experience any better. Mix that with the archaic practice a lot of stores still use of moving products around to encourage browsing and cross sell opportunities and it is not surprising that people are often seen storming from the premises, steam almost literally coming out of their ears.
This is why I prefer online shopping. There are few occasions now when I actually require contact with a person to purchase what I need and most places deliver next day. Online shopping sites are usually laid out well with a good search facility, so that I can find exactly what I want within seconds, rather than wondering aimlessly around a store for hours on end like a wally without a clue. Better yet, the best shops (Amazon is a good example) even give me useful alternative or additional product options based on things that are relevant, rather than some idiot on a till trying to sell me whatever is left in stock. The clue why it is still in stock is because no one wants it!
The best advert for online shopping at the moment is the low customer service provided in the majority of high street stores today. The challenge for us as digital practitioners is to make sure our online experience maximizes on this opportunity and gives users simple, intuitive, attractive interfaces mixed with streamlined processes. If we do this, then it surely won’t be long before a lot of shopping will be exclusively online and only stores with good customer service will be on the high street. Either way, the end result is good for us all.