The e-Commerce conundrum

I walk into a brick and mortar store (say a book store), browse through some books, finally decide on my selections, head to the counter, make the payment and come out a happy customer. All that the vendor needs to do here is –

1. ensure that he is well stocked with books I like
2. have a search mechanism in place to find the right book for me
3. have someone manning the counter

The beauty here is that if the book were torn or something, I do get a chance to examine the goods before buying them. I decide to buy the goods only after I say its ok, who would I trust more than myself? Thus, I perceive the transaction as fair, and I pay the book store and head home.

Now consider a second scenario, I walk into a bookstore, and I inform the vendor that I am looking for, say a Jack Reacher novel. The vendor shows me his collection, but much to my chagrin the particular title I am looking for is not with him. The attendant assures me that they have run out of stock and will restock in 5 days. However, they would be more than happy to inform me once the book arrives. I hesitantly leave my no. with them and think that it’s good to have book stores who inform their customers about books they want.

Apply the same paradigm to an online shop. Rarely would I come to this shop for idle browsing, if I do have a title in mind, then I would be interested in skipping directly to it. If at this juncture, the store informs me that it is out of stock and will not accept my order, however they will be more than glad to inform me when the book is in stock – I won’t be that pleased. I will grumble and grudgingly close the browser.

If the decision making involvement is the same, if the outcome is the same, then why the difference in behaviors?

2 thoughts on “The e-Commerce conundrum”

  1. Interesting analysis, now here is what I think. I love going to a book store to browse thru the books, at times I may not have a particular title in mind but I am tempted to pick-up some for sure. I mean who would not like to! There have been more than 3 occasions when I wanted to buy a particular title and tried every damn big-small book store in Delhi to locate it. Alas! could not get it Checked if they could get it from the publisher or if it was out of stock order it for me. Left my number, filled in a request form etc etc. till date haven’t got a call back from a single store? So the service is there but is it executed? nope! why? because It doesn’t really matter if that custmoer will come back or not, and it is painful to just order for one or two copies of that particular title for them.

    While I browsed for the same titles on the internet and my books arrived within 15 days, nicely wrapped, good condition and the smell of the new pages was still intact :). Pluses of online browsing and buying, I can located the titles i want, get a good discount, delivery on time and in perfect condition…!

  2. Hi Pallavi,
    I agree, that there are several pros and cons of online and offline shopping. Maybe that’s why a lot of dotcoms in India try and have an offline presence as well!

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