A Clash In Expectations & Retail Reality

Mar 30, 2016 — Megan Howse
Online Experience vs. Retail Reality

I was out indulging in some retail therapy and came across a very common disconnect consumers are facing today – a mismatch between expectations and experience.


I went into a furniture store and was in the mood to purchase a new chair or loveseat for my apartment. I found the style of chair I had been looking for and upon closer inspection, it was the perfect dimensions I needed. My only objection? It was entirely the wrong color and fabric.

In-store Experience

I asked the nearest sales representative if the chair came in any other colors. He informed me that it did, they could customize the chair in multiple fabric types and colors, and pointed me to a giant wall of fabric. I started going through the hundreds of grades and colors and then trying to match those fabrics with other items in the store so I could see it on a larger scale.

After thirty minutes of fiddling around and still not having a clear picture in my mind, I started to walk away.

A different sales representative asked me if I needed help. I told her I was looking for my specific chair and thinking “Polo Grey”. She offered to write up a quote for me and I could go from there. She then said, “I’m assuming you would want "Ash" legs?” I agreed, not knowing what “Ash” was or what my options were. I asked if I went forward, would they deliver my order to my home? The sales representative informed me they couldn’t deliver that item directly but I could pick it up at their warehouse – a thirty-minute drive away. The rep handed me a catalog and said, “Your chair isn’t in here but it will give you some other options too.” I got her name, my printed quote sheet, and left the store.

Online Experience

When I got home I remeasured my window and was excited all over again about the possibility of that chair in my window. I decided to go to the retailer's website and look at it again. The chair looked the same in the image, but still upon looking at my fabric choice it would not show me what the chair looked like in that color. I also discovered that in addition to “Ash” I could select “Walnut” for the chair legs, which actually went way better with my décor. Again, there was no interactive visualization. I was tempted to bust out my laptop and use Microsoft Paint just to get a better visual of my large purchase so I could move forward…I still haven’t.

What Went Wrong

Where do I feel the retailer went wrong?  I love their brand, their products, their prices and the sales people were very nice. However, there were a few key opportunities where they easily could have closed the sale but missed the mark based on my consumer expectations today.

In Summary

  • Help me visualize  I recognize retailers cannot physically have all products in all colors on hand. However, ideally the company would have had some way for me to see my chosen piece and visualize it in different colors as well as with lifestyle imagery. This would have allowed me to feel more confident in my fabric selection but also visualize it in my home. 
  • Fulfill my expectations – Ship to home is becoming more and more common and therefore, has absolutely become a norm and expectation among customers. Rather than allowing me to easily say yes to the purchase, I experienced an added layer of objections. I would need to find a way to travel out to a suburb with a large vehicle, and then somehow get it into my apartment myself. Had they offered to ship, even for a fee, I would easily have agreed. Time is money and customers will pay money to save time.
  • Printed waste – I kindly took the catalog but felt it was such a waste. I’m not saying there is never a place for printed material, but I felt it should have offered me more than my physical and digital experience. Because I knew my desired item wasn’t in the catalog, I only gave it a skim at home before recycling it. On the website, I realized that the catalog truly didn’t have any additional value beyond their site.
  • E-Commerce – Even if the store could not offer me an in-store interactive retail solution, I was truly hoping I would get more information, interaction, and visualization on the website. I was again left empty handed. I just wanted to SEE what I would be spending my money on. I was still in the mood to buy, the retailers could easily have still won me over at this point. 

Next Steps

We all know it’s not easy to instantly evolve your company to fulfill every touchpoint for consumer expectations in the omnichannel experience. My point in telling my own personal experience is so that people see there were multiple opportunities to enable me to say yes to the sale. Look at your overall company experience, put yourself in the consumer’s shoes, and take steps to fulfill those expectations.

Have questions or a similar experience? I encourage you to comment below!

Topics: Retail Operations, Customer Experience, e-Commerce

Recent Posts

Comments