One word: Fulfillment.
I recently purchased a set of Sony Ericsson earbuds from Amazon.com. I already knew the type of earbuds, which color, and even the model number I wanted to order. (That’s what we call a “late-stage” visitor.) Amazon didn’t have to do much to convince me to buy. All I wanted was a clear product image, showing what I could expect with my purchase.
I didn’t just want a new set of earbuds; I wanted the Sony Ericsson brand earbuds, since they’re specific to my phone. The product image confirmed that I was receiving a genuine Sony Ericsson product, and I was further convinced by the product title and description. As a repeat Amazon customer, I expected to receive what I was shown (see thumbnail pic).
You’d think Amazon fulfilled my expectation, but no. Here’s what happened…
The headphones were delivered in a flimsy envelope — not quite the bubble wrap-protected box I imagined. The shabby packaging, held together by a piece of tape that looked 10 years past its prime, was an unwelcome surprise. Where was the original Sony Ericsson packaging I saw on the site? It took me about 15 minutes just to be sure this was actually what I ordered (“Is this even an authentic Sony Ericsson product?”). These types of situations are what have kept me away from online auction sites.
Granted, this was a small, $10 purchase. But imagine ordering an expensive watch or handbag online, or even a gift delivered to a loved one. How can you be certain that the product is authentic or will be appropriately packaged and well-presented? We can’t. Instead, we rely on past experiences, product images, and brand recognition to do the job..
I’ve been spoiled by some great e-commerce sites, including Amazon, over the years. They’ve made my shopping experience delightful from start to finish by delivering the product as I imagined it, almost every time. And I’m a loyal customer to those sites. But now I’ve got a strange feeling about Amazon. They’re the industry leader for a reason. They revolutionized online order fulfillment. In fact, they’re supposed to be the gold standard of e-tailers.
Am I expecting too much from e-commerce sites? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m verbalizing what all people who purchase online are thinking — no, expecting. Consumers demand an easy and delightful shopping experience, from the first click to the time the order is in our hands.
I won’t give up browsing on Amazon just yet — they still have great product details and customer-generated reviews — but they’ve lost me as a paying customer for now. And regardless, I don’t see myself buying electronics from them anymore.