Omnichannel Fail

January 4, 2016By Behind the Shelf Blog, Future of Retail

in-store kioskby Jen Johnston

My husband and I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Prior to the holiday we knew we were in need of two more place settings and also wanted to pick up two new sets of glassware. Since we had a few “store bucks” to spend at a nearby department store, we headed over.

Unfortunately, the store did not have the items we wanted in stock. Omnichannel to the rescue, right? Well, sort of.

This department store has in-store kiosks. When you order from the kiosk, they provide free shipping to the store. This is a great incentive to use the kiosk. I love the idea of an “endless aisle” and that an out-of-stock item at the store doesn’t have to be as big of a disappointment. However, this is where my praise stops and my challenges begin.

Challenge 1: Kiosk is located in a busy main aisle. I understand why the store put it there – visibility. However, we had our two children with us – ages 2 and 4. With the four of us at the kiosk, we blocked one whole side of the aisle. I saw the annoyed looks of my fellow shoppers – how dare we block the aisle? And with rambunctious kids no less! It felt extremely awkward to order from the kiosk.

Solution 1: Build a small, comfortable nook for the kiosk off of a main aisle with two or three chairs.

Challenge 2: Kiosk timed out after a few minutes. I understand why the store did this – security. After navigating the kiosk, typing in all payment information, and activating store bucks, I decided to run back quickly and double check something prior to making the purchase. My husband manned the kiosk. I was gone no more than two or three minutes and the screen, with no warning, went blank. Everything he had spent over five minutes typing in was simply gone.

Solution 2: Provide a warning message to let the user know their session will time out in 20 seconds – prompt them to click yes if they are still there. Perhaps a temporary password could be entered at that point as well.

Challenge 3: Customer service counter could not facilitate the order. We were so frustrated with the kiosk experience that we instead decided to head up to customer service to place the order. Much to our surprise, customer service could not place our order because that was the “e-commerce department.” We were told we would need to pick up the nearby courtesy phone and call them. Yup, e-commerce purchases would need to be made via a phone.

Solution 3: Empower in-store customer service associates to assist shoppers with online purchases if they have trouble with the kiosk.

Challenge 4: No free shipping from home. We decided standing at a courtesy phone terminal with overtired 2- and 4-year olds was a recipe for disaster, so we decided we would just place the order from home. However, since we did not order in-store, we did not receive free shipping to the store.

Solution 4: Don’t punish shoppers for ordering at home. Provide the free shipping to store option for all online orders, whether purchased at a kiosk, over the in-store phone, or at home.

The Bottom Line: Despite my negative experience, the store isn’t going to lose me as a customer because I like their products, they are close to my home, and their deals are good. However, to this store and all other retailers I say this: just because you aren’t going to lose me as a customer does not give you license to treat me poorly and not work to improve your omnichannel presence.

Have a little respect for your customers please. We deserve better. Would you rather have us begrudgingly shop your store or feel good about our purchases? Maybe you think a sale is a sale – but a disgruntled shopper is far less likely to spread positive word of mouth. And over time that is not good for your business.

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