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Real shopping is awful

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I went shopping the other day with my glamorous other half. To real shops. I was shocked. It was awful.

There I have said it. Having spent the previous week in a tent half way to nowhere in the Peak District and, while there, having actually managed to buy a load of stuff – cycling shorts, a coat rack, children’s books and a pair of vintage Adidas Marathon 85s —with nothing more than my phone, I was appalled at how difficult shopping in real shops is.

Yes, I knew it was unpleasant: all those people waddling about, crashing bags into your legs, screaming bored children, queues for the toilets. But I wasn’t prepared for how bad an experience the actual shopping is. Then I realised: I have been spoiled by e- and, particularly m-, commerce.

People may complain that they want to touch the goods and try them on, sniff them, check their provenance and so on, but really shopping online – ideally slumped on deckchair outside a tent in the sun – is so much easier and nicer.

For starters, search makes finding what you want – and at the best price – super easy. Recommendations, both from the software and from other shoppers, adds an element of surprise and, frankly, checking out is simple online.

While there are endless column inches devoted to how people don’t want to tap in a 16 digital card number or go through 148 taps to check out, I argue that having stood in endless, unmoving queues, while inept, untrained, unhelpful staff all try and sort out one return problem as 25 people stand waiting to buy is a far worse experience.

It has been quite a while since I did a Saturday at the mall with my better half, but my god has it become unpleasant. I wasted so much time queuing that we barely got round half the shops she wanted to look in. But the real shocker was that we gave up and didn’t buy stuff on three separate occasions – loosing three retailers hundreds of pounds in revenue. It was appalling.

So, while I usually use this newsletter to promote mobile in all its glory, this week I am calling on retailers to take a long hard look at their real in-store experiences. OK, so you all get that you need omni-channel and that you have to bring the best of the web and combine it with the best of the store. But before you can do that you really need to revolutionise how shopping in shops work.

The online retail side of the industry looked at process for the shopper and especially check out and has made it slick and increasingly simple. The real world shops have sat back and done nothing. And it shows. While the online and mobile commerce departments of major retails – and all the online only ones – have refined and designed to get a slick, one click check out process going, great search functionality and above all stock in all sizes, the bricks and mortar ones have done nothing.

They have limited size stock, they have huge queues and have totally unhelpful, miserable staff.

I am an early adopter, and I hate shopping, but it won’t be long before, spoiled by their relatively excellent online shopping experiences that keeps getting better and better, all shoppers start to see how rubbish shops actually are. You guys need to be ready for this. It really is time for a total rethink of the in-store experience from the ground up. This is the 21st Century: I shouldn’t have to queue to pay, the staff should be helpful and armed with data and you really do need to make sure you have stuff in my size.

Now, I am off back to my tent for one last week of communing with nature, let’s see what I can buy while I am relaxing.

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