Integrating Online and Offline Shopping: Buying at the Babies “R” Us
Ecommerce has come a long way, especially when stores let you browse online, and then make your offline shopping easier. My latest shopping experience merging the online and offline world came pretty close to being a very good one, but had some usability problems.
I was pretty much out of my comfort zone when it came this shopping mission. I can navigate pretty well around sporting goods, hardware and car repair items, books, and groceries. But surround me with cribs and strollers, diapers and pacifiers, and I have no sense of the intuitive layout of the Big Box store I found myself in last week.
I browsed the Babies”R”Us web site, and used the baby registry card I had received with an invitation for my Niece’s baby shower to find her gift registry. It was a good idea to include a Babies “R” Us card with the invitation, and made it easy for me to find the right part of the website, and the registry.
There were a few things listed in the registry that were only available in one of the stores, so I decided to visit in person since there is a Babies “R” Us nearby.
I arrive at the store
I was going to print out a copy of the registry, but had to add a new printer cartridge to my list of shopping items instead. That wasn’t a problem though. When I got to the Babies “R” Us, some sales associates pleasantly printed me a copy of the registry, which included a list of locations within the store of where items on the registry were located.
I also noticed a big desk in the front of the building with a “Gift Registry” sign, where a couple was talking with an associate about their registry. Looks like they let people create a registry online and in person.
Registry in hand, I decided to look at the strollers first, and the only stroller that didn’t seem to be in stock was the one listed on my printed registry. I didn’t want to buy a different stroller, and have someone else purchase one through the online store, so I decided to get a number of the smaller items on the list instead, and found a shopping cart.
I’m lost without a sitemap
Once I was pushing a cart along, I realized how out of place I was. The list was organized by department, and then by numbers within departments. That should have been helpful, but the numbers were hard to find. (A layout map of the store might have been nice.)
I found myself in the “Infants” department looking for section 6. Except, there was no section 6. I was able to locate selves 1 and 2, floor layout groups 4 and 5, Wall units 12, 13, and 14, and no section 6. The numbers were small, and hard to find.
I did pickup three or four things in those other sections on the list, but was determined to find the missing section, figuring that it was my lack of shopping experience causing the problem.
My missing navigation problem is solved, somewhat
A customer service representative found me wandering amongst lotions and notions and gift baskets, and must have recognized the lost look on my face. She helped me find what I was looking for in section 5 – there was no section 6.
She then helped me find a couple of other things on my list, as well as checking to see if something was available that wasn’t on the shelves where it should be (it wasn’t).
I asked her at that point, if when I checked out, the items that I purchased would be taken off the registry online. She told me that they should be as long as I let the cashier know about the registry.
I didn’t want to take her out of the department that she was assigned to, and wandered out on my own to other parts of the store. I was pretty much lost in the other departments, too. I wandered past her department again, and she asked me how I was doing. I pointed out a couple of other things that I was looking for which I couldn’t find, and she walked across the store to those other departments and helped me (very good customer service, there.)
After thanking my shopping assistant, I made my way to the checkout counter, and the cashier was also very pleasant and helpful, and reassured me that the items I was buying would make their way off the online registry. She gave me a gift receipt just in case.
The registry works, almost
When I finished my trip, and returned home, I checked the registry. I noticed that a book I purchased was still on the list of unpurchased items. At the shower on Sunday, I wasn’t the only one who gave her a copy of the book. I made sure that my neice had the gift receipt so that she could return it.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad shopping experience. The clerk and the cashier and the associates who printed out a registry for me were all very pleasant and helpful. A couple of things could have made it a much more pleasant experience – such as labeling the location areas more clearly, and matching the printed descriptions of items on the registry better with their descriptions on their shelves or hooks.
I didn’t buy anything from the middle of the store “racetrack” because it was just too hard to locate stuff in there.
I wish that the book that I bought was taken off the registry, and one of my aunts suggested that they didn’t remove it on purpose to get my niece to visit the store on purpose. You don’t want to raise suspicions like that in your customers, and the failure to remove the book from the online registry did.
The integration of the store layout with the printed registry was just OK. The clerk who helped me made it a much better experience than if I was wandering around on my own. There wasn’t a sign letting people know that they could have printed copies of the gift registries, and if I hadn’t asked, I would have really been lost.
Better in-store landing pages needed
I’d recommend that the Babies “R” Us people let folks know that they will print them out registries in the stores, with a few signs indicating that. Labeling the sections within areas, and the items within sections more clearly would have made that an excellent experience, and I’d probably be raving about the store this morning. And yet, even with these issues, I’m feeling pretty positive about the experience.