Something Old is Something New in Retail Shopping Experience

I am part of the back end of the Baby Boomer generation; because of that I missed out for the most part on a nostalgic era of customer service: home delivery. I recall a dairy in my hometown making home milk deliveries, but that service stopped before I was old enough to remember it. The dry cleaners delivered completed orders, the TV repairman came to our house (probably because the TV was too heavy and bulky to take to a store), and the pharmacy brought prescriptions to our door. It was a convenience that was not necessarily driven by shoppers' hectic lifestyles. Instead, it was an amenity a service providers offered because it fit with their customer service philosophy.

Unfortunately, home delivery gave way to mega shopping malls and later, find-it-yourself e-commerce. Delivery was no longer viewed as a benefit for customers as much as it was an expense that could be controlled and ultimately eliminated. After all, if the Walker household needed milk, they needed milk. The absence of a home delivery option would not eliminate product demand. But, just when it seemed that home delivery was little more than something one stumbled across while walking down Memory Lane, online retailers and their brick-and-mortar competitors are rediscovering delivery as a tactic for enhancing customer experience.

Recently, Amazon, Ebay and Google have experimented with same-day delivery of purchases. Walmart has considered a unique twist to delivery- asking for "volunteers" to drop off purchases to family or friends. Online shopping already owns a convenience advantage, and same-day delivery removes the number one drawback to buying online: delayed gratification. Brick-and-mortar stores can give in to e-commerce merchants on this amenity or negate it by offering delivery, too. While store-to-door delivery is the exception and not the rule, some retailers are experimenting with delivering purchases. Sport Chalet, a 53-store sporting goods chain based in California, began delivery from store in all markets earlier this month. Delivery is a means for Sport Chalet to differentiate itself in the highly competitive sporting goods market.

Traditional retailers have been getting squeezed by competition and technology for years. Before we marginalize brick-and-mortar stores, they may opt to return to the past to deliver (pun intended) the next big thing in creating value through the customer experience. The costs of offering delivery to customers must be wrapped into a more comprehensive calculation of revenues attributable to delivery and the impact of delivery on brand loyalty.

Labels: , ,