So, Black Friday 2015 has come and gone, and retailers are determining their success rates. I am typically not a Black Friday shopper. I choose family and sleep over the chaos ensuing across stores and malls that starts late Thanksgiving day, in many cases. However, this year we unexpectedly found ourselves in the midst of Black Friday shopping mania on our way home from our Thanksgiving trip.
Self-imposed, to be sure, I couldn’t help but be aware of all the Black Friday “deals” pounding my inbox, and my curiosity got the best of me as we made our way home from South Carolina to Virginia. We’d been eying prices for stand-up paddle boards (“SUPs”) for quite some time, and given the typical price points, we determined that since we already own two kayaks, we’d probably be better off budget and storage-wise just getting one SUP. However, the Black Friday deal from one of the major sporting goods stores was just too good to buy only one. As I traversed our SUV across the miles stretching along I-95, my husband researched our local store’s inventory on his mobile phone – a perfect intro to Parker Avery’s most recent point of view, “Omnichannel Inventory Accuracy: Implications and Customer Impact,” authored by consultant The Parker Avery Group.
Being an athlete, this particular retailer is one of my favorites, but I usually shop in their physical stores, so I wasn’t familiar with their mobile site user experience. It did give us an indication of whether the SUPs were available in any location by simply indicating “In Stock” or “Limited Stock.” Stores that had no quantities of an item were not displayed. The mobile site indicated that our local store in Virginia had “Limited Stock,” but didn’t give us the ability to buy online, pick-up-in-store. My guess is that they have some confidence in their inventory accuracy, but not enough to risk committing to fulfilling order-online-pickup-in-store orders when the inventory levels reach a certain level. Fair enough.
So even though we were still several hours away, my husband called our store, but the associates in the kayak / SUP department were busy with in-store customers, and we were told they’d call us back when they got a chance. That was disheartening, and my instant-gratifying-worst-case-scenario nature made my heart rate immediately increase – surely if we waited and took our chances on trying to buy it at our “home” store, we’d miss out on this deal forever.
Not on my watch.
Plan B: We called a store just off I-95 where we were planning to stop for lunch, where the store inventory showed “In Stock.” Not only did they have two of our now-highly-coveted SUPs in stock, they were happy to hold them for us – surprisingly without needing a credit card.
Upon arriving at the busy store an hour later, we were quickly helped, and they even honored several digital coupons we had, which sweetened the SUP deal even further. Moreover, the obviously sleep-deprived manager and several associates went out of their way to unpack both SUPs from the boxes, ensure we procured the right tie-downs for our vehicle, and helped us secure them on top of our SUV for our remaining four hour drive home. This helpful, friendly team had been working from 6pm Thanksgiving night through 2am Friday, then back again at 5am Friday.
While it was disappointing that we couldn’t use the order-online-pickup-in-store feature as would be the case on a normal day, and we understand that Black Friday mayhem was probably why our “home” store couldn’t hold any for us – the fact that the team at this store in South Carolina went above and beyond what I would consider “expected” customer service made us stronger devotees to this brand. I also appreciate that this retailer understands that their inventory accuracy is not perfect, and so they’ve seemingly designed their digital experience to accommodate shortfalls and have instilled a sense of customer service in their employees that promotes a seamless and exceptional customer experience.
In his “Omnichannel Inventory Accuracy,” piece, Chris outlines how technology, employees, incentives, processes and customers are all intricate pieces of the puzzle that impact inventory accuracy and ultimately, great customer experiences. He also discusses the omnichannel expectations and implications of accurate store inventory. These elements were all highly evident during my own personal Black Friday 2015 SUP shopping experience and should be closely scrutinized by all retailers who expect to excel in the omnichannel game.