Ask the readers: Dissecting the online shopping experience

February 18, 2011 · 18 comments

in Ask The Readers

I’m introducing a new series called Ask the Readers. Essentially these articles will be open-ended and EG welcomes all discussion, stories, experiences, etc. that relate to the topic at hand. Hopefully you shy readers will chime in with any related stories you may have. Of course there aren’t any wrong answers, we just want to hear about your experiences.

My collaborator on this article will be Matt Ruggieri. You may remember Matt from the series he did with us on skin care, hair care, and shaving several months ago. He owns an online shop called The Motley, and I’ve asked him to contribute his perspective as a small business owner. His response will be featured in an upcoming post.

LLBean Signature's online store

As dudes, I think we’re hardwired to detest shopping. Not sure what it is; maybe it’s our lack of patience for such seemingly unimportant things. Perhaps it’s the fact that caring about one’s appearance has been considered less-than-manly for many years, and we grew up watching our dads react to the idea of shopping with the same disdain. Naturally, it’s a learned response.

If you’ve been following this site for any amount of time, then you most likely are not part of the aforementioned group. Congratulations! You’re one step ahead of the majority of your male peers. And if you’re like me, you tend to do a lot of your shopping (or at least your window shopping) online, in the comfort of your own home. I mean, why not, right? It’s comfy, you don’t have to move much, you can view hundreds of products without lifting a leg.

I’ve been on plenty of shopping sites, both as a shopper and as a web designer (what I do when I’m not talking about all this style stuff). What I’m most curious about is how YOU view the online shopping experience? Namely:

  1. What do you look for in a shopping experience?
  2. What makes an experience great?
  3. Are there any online stores you frequent not only because of their selection, but also because you’ve had a good experience?

Assuming it’s a store that I already frequent in real life, I evaluate sites based on these criteria:

  1. ease of use (usability is very important to me)
  2. a vast selection of products, or at least more than what’s available in the store
  3. smooth transition through each step, from selection all the way to payment confirmation
  4. a clearly-defined process, with indicators telling me what part of the process I’m on
  5. competitive shipping (!!!)

Let’s address the one thing I detest the most

Speaking of shipping, I don’t understand why it would take over 10 days to get a product I ordered. Why the high expectations? One word: Amazon. I know not everyone has their leverage or turnover, but I feel that shipping rates and speed haven’t improved at all in the past several years.

Here’s an example. I recently bought a pair of sand-colored Clarks Desert Boots from Nordstrom. They were on the clearance rack for $46 (!!!), and naturally, the only available sizes were one too big, and one too small. I spoke to the sales dude and he checked the inventory. Even though they didn’t have any in stock, he offered to order a pair for me from another location and have it shipped to my place for free, and for the same price I would’ve paid in-store ($46!!!)

Superb! An unbeatable deal that I couldn’t pass up.

Let me preface this next part by saying I hardly ever complain about anything. The sales dude told me it would take about 5 days to ship to my house. Okay, that’s fine. What he DIDN’T tell me is that it would take 6 days for the order to go through. So I waited that long just for a confirmation email saying my order was processed, and that I should receive it in 5 days.

Seriously? How could it possibly take that long to process an order? Another thing, he told me the shoes would be coming from Sacramento (1.25 hours away.) When I checked my tracking number online, the package was leaving from Pentagon City Mall, in VIRGINIA. Sacramento is nowhere near Virginia. It’s pretty much the most opposite you can get in terms of location. I don’t blame the sales dude for the slow ass processing of my order (unless he just forgot to place it until 5 days later), but I do blame him for not telling me my order is shipping from Virginia.

What’s the name of the game?

Customer service. Where’s the love? Could he not have sent me an email telling me my order is going to take a little longer than expected? That it’s actually coming from the opposite side of the country? How about a call? He has all my information.

Perhaps this is all out his control; after all, he may just be following protocol and he’s but a cog in the large corporation that is Nordstrom. But this is the exact reason why I love small businesses. You may be paying a premium when you buy goods from your local small business, but you’re supporting your community, and at the same time you’re probably getting better customer service than you’ll ever find at a big box store.

Let’s discuss

  1. What do you think? Have you had similar shopping and shipping experiences?
  2. Do you think huge companies can still justify these high shipping prices?
  3. What about online shopping do you like / dislike?
  4. What would you change if you could?

Looking forward to reading your responses. Stay tuned for Matt’s response in an upcoming post.

By the way, make sure you subscribe to Effortless Gent by email or RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.


Barron is the founder and editor of Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to helping guys figure out what looks best on them. He's based in San Francisco. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Previous post:

Next post: