23apr2015 in store or offshore hero
23 April 2015

Opinion: In store or offshore?

Local stores need to conjure up loyalty in savvy online shoppers.

There’s this dress I really want. I know about it because I get emails from the brand that has this dress in its latest collection. I also follow the brand on Instagram and over the past 10 weeks they’ve posted a few pictures featuring this dress. It’s popped up on Facebook and Pinterest too.

I should just make an online order. But the thing is, this brand is in the UK. So I’ll be sending part of my pay to London rather than helping a little store in New Zealand. I always feel guilty about that – I hate reading about shops that have to close because they can’t compete with online retailers. So I asked Google if there were any stores in Wellington that sold this brand. There was – one I’d actually bought a few things from before.

I made peace with probably having to pay a bit more than it would cost to order the dress online – at least I wouldn’t have to worry about returning it to the UK if it didn’t fit. Plus I wouldn’t have to wait a few weeks for it to arrive.

But the dress was nowhere to be seen when I visited the shop – only old dresses from that brand. I asked the manager when the new collection would be coming in, expecting the answer to be “in a couple of weeks”.

Her answer was “September or October”. I must have looked surprised because she explained it was part of a summer collection, so would be in-store in time for our summer.

By then the brand is bound to have discounted the dress on its website because a new collection will have come out.

It’s not that the store is being slack – it’s just doing what it and others like it have always done. It’s shoppers who have changed. Because of social media and mailing lists, we know about items long before they’re due on our shores and what websites around the world charge to send them to us.

I know there’s no easy solution for local stores up against big websites, like Asos, but it frustrates me when people who work in shops don’t make the most of the advantages they do have. An online store can’t greet you with a smile or help you find the perfect outfit for your shape. But how often do you walk into a store, make your way around and then leave without being greeted?

There are plenty of ways to conjure up loyalty. I love how some savvy stores will send you a voucher for your birthday and I’m a sucker for a rewards scheme.

I won’t be waiting until spring for the dress to come in-store – it’s had its chance to make me a loyal customer. Time to get out the credit card.

by Kate Newton

What would a physical store need to do to keep you coming back rather than shopping online? Tell us on our Facebook page – www.facebook.com/consumernz

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