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Mind the gap between experience and execution, as Argos web glitch leaves customers disappointed

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A reminder from Argos of how shoppers react when the digital future they are promised doesn’t match up with their experience.

The multichannel retailer, which last month promised a digital future of joined-up shops where iPads and large screens will replace the familiar Argos laminated catalogues and order slips appeared to have come up against a harsh reality of misfiring systems. It’s reported that a glitch on its website allowed shoppers to order online purchases for collection at one of the much-heralded six new stores. Those stores, however, are not yet ready for business, and there were reports of long queues outside shuttered shops, customer frustration as just one or two customers at a time were let in and some transactions were completed outside shops, and social media fury.

Argos managing director John Walden responded thus: “Two weeks ago we hosted an early press preview of our digital concept stores, and announced that we hoped to open six stores by Christmas. Our teams continue to progress towards this goal, including testing and finalising the systems that support improved customer journeys. As planned we are providing limited service from these stores while our testing is completed.

“Our work on the new digital trial stores does not impact our remaining 732 stores throughout the UK and Ireland, or our digital channels, which are fully open to customers during this exciting Christmas season.”

All this, of course, overshadowed Argos’ latest announcement of innovation – that it was enabling social media co-buying through a partnership with Buyapowa. To be found at, the initiative enables Argos customers to ask for special offers on products, and then sharing on social media. The more items are sold, the more the price comes down.

Of that, Argos head of digital innovation Neil Tinegate said: “We’ve got a really strong community of followers on social media and we wanted to take our interaction with them to a new level by integrating social media with our core business, which is, of course, selling products people want at great prices.”

Gideon Lask, chief executive and founder at Buyapowa, said: “Argos is an excellent example of an innovative retailer and this implementation shows the power of social to generate business and long-term loyalty. Retailers need to start thinking how to turn social into a transactional channel in a natural, social way – creating buzz while gaining customer loyalty and consumer insight.”

All interesting stuff. The bottom line, though, is that promises of future retail have to work in practice, just as much as retailers must deliver on any other promise. Indeed, arguably the more innovative the innovation, the more it really has to work if customers, dazzled by the vision, are not to be left disappointed rather than delighted by the execution. And that’s true for all retailers, not just those with the most recent glitch.

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