Physical retail shops can learn from online

Ok, this is a bit of a rant at physical retail stores so apologies that it’s slightly off topic and slightly ‘rantish’. Just something to get off my chest I feel.

Digital Retail has been following trends,traditions and best practice from the physical retail shopping world over 10 for years now. Clear sign posting, a clear and well presented shop window, showing sale price next to RRP. The list goes on. It’s not one way traffic ofcourse, and ofcourse many successful retail websites have had success because they’ve adopted their own approach.

It does however seem that shops could learn a lot more from websites. I wonder whether best practice knowledge around usability and accessibility is generally shared across delivery platforms by our leading retailers.

These examples below aren’t exhaustive, they’re just a couple of recent instances where I thought – if only the people running these shops thought in the same way that a User Experience Professional would.

Here’s the examples (I won’t name names but they are both massive , retail presence on the high street !)

Example – Mrs T and our two kids – 5 and 1 are looking for children’s clothes. It’s on the top floor of the department store – no surprises there. As we have a param, we have to get in a lift (tiny and also remarkably popular with the elderly, middle aged ladies and teengaers for some reason).

Once we’ve managed to get in the lift (we are beginning to get tetchy already !) we have to negotiate our way through a kitchen & furniture department with glasses, plates and ornaments, through very narrow ailes before we get to the Children’s clothes department. Well, after a few seconds looking at kids t-shirts and pyjamas we leave richer financially. Are they mad these people? Not only do we have a 5 year old who cannot resist touching anything remoely breakable, we have a daughter with very long (almost Mr Tickle ) arms who can grab things just as easily. Perhaps the store makes lots of money over accidental breakages I don’t know but it just seems really unhelpful – and we got out quick ! and shan’t return either !

Why don’t they put kids departments on the bottom floors, have wider aisles and not make you trapse through glassware and antiquesm, have better / larger lifts, possibly rules about who can use a lift (kids, wheelchairs, the infirm and ‘escaltorphobes’ – the corrrect term is Escalaphobia !)?.

Also, why can’t stores have really clear routes and ailses rather than the maze like systems. It would be a much pleasanter customer experience.

Example 2: A different store this time: We’re at the checkout and there are rows of sweets, medications and cosmetic items. My son loves grabbing lipsil and drawing with it. Well, the store’s asking for trouble isn’t it. Let alone all the sweets on display, and mini easter eggs (This was in February). After waiting a while in the queue and having to prise sweets, lipsill and lempsip out of my son’s hands, I walked out the shop without buying what I’d gione in for. Now, the store probably makes extra revenue from these displays near the checkout however surely they would have calmer, more relaxed customers if they kept the checkouts clear and allowed you, (and your kids) to focus only on the purchase. It may just be me but they definetely lost a purchase that day…

Again, this is something most online sites get spot on, ie allowing you to make your purchase via a clean checkout process without any distractions.

Ok, rant over. Back to the digital world. It’s much better laid out, more customer centric and less likely to cause childhood tantrums !!

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About philty

UX professional working for major financial services player in the UK
This entry was posted in Customer experience, Retail, Usability, User experience design and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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