One of my facinations in ecommerce is in comparing the real world of ‘bricks and mortar’ sales to online.
Real world commerce existed ever since man decided that he wanted more than what he could create himself. Therefore, with online commerce barely 15 years old, it comes as no surprise to see so many websites failing so badly; after all, humans have been trading for many centuries. The art of traditional selling is light years ahead of the Web.
Having a little time on our hands we ventured into London town for some site seeing (yes even Londoners do this). However en route to Bond Street via Oxford Circus we alighted the bus outside of Hamleys, the self-confessed biggest toy shop in the world.
As she’d never been to Hamleys, my wife wanted to ‘take a look’ – generally for women, (a generalisation may I emphasise) going into a shop to take a look could result in losing several pounds – not of the weight-loss kind either.
It is indeed a vast experience, with toys for genders, ages, types and crafts – quite a daunting experience being parents, knowing where to start. Back in my day (many moons back) a toy was usually something second hand, received quite unexpectedly, though with appreciation. Of course these days it is a given right of children it seems… I digress.
So why was I compelled to write this article? With so much choice, Hamleys would surely suffer if it were not for their fantastic team of skilled helpers. We walked out a few hundred pounds (£) lighter than if these helpers were not available.
Put simply, not only on hand to offer assistance, they were always willing to offer that little bit extra to find out exactly what we were after and demonstrated their knowledge of the toys they were responsible for enough so to pursuade us to buy them. Had they not been on hand we may well have bought fewer things otherwise not available at our local Toys’r’Us and shopped again later. Instead I spent the rest of our ‘relaxing’ afternoon together carrying bags upon bags of toys around, to the amusement of tourists.
So how can we create this experience online? Amazon.com do a great job with lots of great widgets such as recommendations, wish-lists and peer reviews, but do these websites really know who I am and what I want? Surely if the Web was a truely great sales tool, traditional shops like Hamleys would suffer.
I for one believe that the mid-term future is a better integration of these traditional trading establishments together with a web presence fully integrated in giving the customer the best possible experience.
Long-term the Web still may mature enough to become intelligent. I wrote a while back on Web 3.0 and the possibility of the web actually knowing enough about you to give you truly customised experience. Imagine searching for a summer holiday and the results knowing that you love the Med, prefer a villa and have a family of 4…
Until then perhaps we will constantly swim the tide trying to out-do well run businesses like Hamleys…