It’s a fascinating phenomenon that has been reported on several times - consumers know more about the products and inventory than in-store associates. So, I thought I would give it a try over the last few days as I ventured out to buy my first refrigerator.
Knowing nothing about refrigerators (other than they keep my beer and frozen pizzas cold), I started my research on the major appliance players on the web – Sears.com, hhgregg.com and BestBuy.com. I did have a few requirements that my wife (as of June 2nd) and I determined:
- Stainless Steel so that it matched the other appliances in the kitchen
- Side by Side with an external ice and water dispenser
- Fit the size requirements
Other than that, the refrigerator world was an open arena of possibilities. After several hours of research online, I discovered my top 3 options, knew their specs, inventory, pricing, financing deals, discounts, etc.
So, after a few hours of research – should I know more about the products than the in-store associates? Admittedly, the in-store associate was very helpful and did answer a few outstanding questions I couldn’t get figured out online. The associate team jumps off to an early 1 – 0 start.
Then, we began to talk about inventory and specials – I was far more knowledgeable. I was buying a refrigerator in Indianapolis, but needed it delivered to Lafayette, IN. The in-store associate told me it wouldn’t be delivered until Tuesday (which I needed in this weekend) to the Lafayette store. However, I had seen online that they had one item left in Lafayette and told the associate I would just take that one. She seemed concerned, but after making a quick call my research was confirmed.
Goal! The score is leveled at 1’s.
Then, we began talking about pricing. The refrigerator was marked 50% off due to a great Memorial Day Sale, but I had found the price even cheaper due to discount codes on the web – thanks Coupon Cabin. When I asked the associate about the discount code, she seemed unaware and did not have that tool in her closing arsenal. She was forced to call her manager and get verification.
From a consumer’s standpoint, I didn’t really care which channel I bought the refrigerator, but knew the associate was going to receive commission (and I respect that). After speaking with her manager, we had to complete the purchase online just to receive the discount (in-store competing with their own online channel – ouch!).
And the consumer takes the lead 2 – 1 with only a little time left on the clock. But the in-store associate took the reins of the online purchasing process and began navigating the site to close the deal. At first, I thought this was great and we will get everything accomplished quickly. Could this be a 2 -2 draw and an overall solid cross-channel sale?
Well... it didn’t take long before I was telling her how to use her own website in her own store, so she just let me drive and complete the purchase myself right on the store floor. I applied my discount code, picked my pickup location, entered my credit card number and complete the purchase. Chalk another point up on the consumer board and the “nail in the coffin."
And the buzzer sounds with a resounding 3 -1 defeat of consumer vs. in-store associate. Granted the in-store associate was extremely kind and helpful, the entire process started and ended on the online channel.
All in all, the experience was good. However, being in the retail space has my mind thinking in a different way than most consumers. It was an interesting experience and as a new homeowner, I am sure I will continue to do my research (even though indirectly) for the foreseeable future.
Interested in chatting more about my experiences or have a similar story yourself? Drop me a note at email@example.com or leave a comment. I always enjoy learning and sharing ideas to make these experiences more engaging for all consumers.