A Sure Way To Kill Your Retail Business – And How To Avoid It

Shopping cart in the water.

A website is a website. It’s not an in-store tool and certainly not meant to be used to enhance the customer experience in your store. If you are thinking about putting your website on an in-store kiosk – think again. It’s actually a lot worse than not having a kiosk at all. Here’s why.


Recently my wife and I went to a party supplies store, looking for all those little things we needed for a kid’s birthday party. And I knew that we would find a lot more than what we actually needed, but it would be pointless to say no. While walking through the aisles in a somewhat deserted store, we realized that their assortment was about as limited as the associate’s motivation to actually sell us something.


Disappointed and almost ready to leave the store, we overheard an announcement instructing us to check out their kiosk if we couldn’t find what we were looking for. I was really excited as this sounded exactly like the concept I had been preaching for years: Before customers leave your store (because they can’t find what they’re looking for) lead them to your ‘endless aisle’ – creating a great customer experience. My excitement was short-lived. The “kiosk” was an outdated PC with a keyboard, a mouse, and a bulky monitor on some sort of stand that reminded me of old hospital equipment. I let my wife engage with the “kiosk” as she had a clearer picture in her head of what we needed for the party.


After a few clicks and laggy loading screens my wife turned around and said “I think this is just their website in full screen mode”. And surely it was. “I’ll just do this from home later”, she concluded, and we left. On the way home, we treated ourselves to Panera just to make sure the trip wasn’t a complete waste of our time. There’s nothing worse than someone that doesn’t respect our time. And if that someone is a company, they will never see us again.

Later that night, my wife ordered all the decor we needed and – as expected – a little bit extra. Online, in bed, from her tablet. The package from Amazon arrived a few days later, just in time for the party.


That store didn’t just lose a transaction that day. They lost a customer – for good. Putting your website on a touchscreen or – even worse – on a regular computer in your retail store is counterproductive and damaging to your business. It’s a slap in the face of every consumer who went out of their way and made it to your store. Customer experience is everything – and having to browse a retailer’s website in their store is a very bad one. Why would I then come to the store in the first place if the website provides the better experience? I will not.


Instead, I will go to your website to start a journey well beyond your control, that invites me to cross-shop, compare value, and to finally buy the same exact product much cheaper from your competitor. Maybe a drop-shipper, without the expense of brick & mortar locations and store employees. And all this happens on my own terms, on my preferred device, from the comfort of my home.


Retail is an extremely competitive market, and customer experience is one of the few tools left to differentiate one retailer from another.  You need to provide something people can NOT have at home. For example, a super-responsive native application on a large commercial-grade touch screen. Surround it with high-margin items, strategically placed in a nice setup that inspires your customers. Serve coffee or a refreshing soda while customers browse your assortment on the in-store kiosk or tablets. Simple steps that truly set you apart.


If the expense of a custom-built in-store app is outside of your budgetary possibilities and you absolutely have to use a web-based solution, at least make sure you are using code that was specifically built for touch-screens. Small buttons, dropdown menus, drag & drop, etc. are wonderful when used with a mouse but they just don’t work with fat fingers. Ideally, use a distribution system that provides local caching of all content for a blazing fast experience.


Also, please don’t replace sales associates with technology! The “silent salesperson” is an illusion, and self-service in a brick & mortar store is nothing more than a lost opportunity. Instead, provide your employees with smart tools that help them engage, consult, and create the great customer experiences that trigger excellent reviews. Soon, more and more people will come in to enjoy that great experience.

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