As you know, I'm a passionate online shopper. A couple of posts ago, I did a list of the top 5 things that make internet shopping awesome. However, I'm a balanced sort of person and I thought it would be best to be honest and share some of the less lovely things about clicking 'purchase' and waiting/hoping as a bunch of internet elves somewhere magically scrape money off your Visa debit...
1. Stuff doesn't fit
This is self-explanatory. Sometimes a brand is small or large for size, sometimes the cut is very small across the bust or roomy in the waist. Frustrating.
2. Stuff doesn't look how you thought it would look
In this scenario, stuff does fit. In fact, it fits just fine. But the fabric or the cut or the embellishment or some detail that you would definitely have noticed had you been able to look at/try on this item in real life, makes you look bizarre or otherwise renders the garment unwearable.
One of the biggest factors at play here is the way products and clothes in particular, are presented to us for online consumption. In order to maximise the realism of the internet shopping experience, Net-a-Porter does a superb job styling, modelling (including videos) and otherwise marketing individual pieces. They use real models who walk against a bland background so that the clothes really stand out. You can see how the clothes look in front, back, profile and full length. However, at the end of the day sometimes you still lift the clothes out of the box and think 'Ah. Well, if I'd known it really looked/felt/wore like THAT...' At the end of the day, I don't have the model's height/weight/modest bust. I'm short and curvy and that's the end of it. And some styles will never, ever look as good on me as they do on other people.
To be honest though, in my experience it is rarely the size or style that's 'wrong' (except when I'm going through my fantasy moments where I'm totally 5ft 10in and weigh 50kg.) It's far more likely that I will obsess over an item, stalk it madly, buy it, anticipate it, rip of the packaging when it arrives like a werewolf hacking into a butcher's delivery only to find the fabric is impossibly heavy and unwearable for the weather we really have in Brisbane 95% of the year - #sadface.
3. Orders get mixed up/partly delivered/can't be fulfilled
Most recently, a pair of shearling LK Bennett boots I had been obsessing over for my Chicago trip and that were on sale. Grrrrr...Again, it is rare but when this does happen, the foremost thought in your head is "Well, this wouldn't have happened if I'd bought it in store..."
4. Returns and refunds take time
The best e-tailers have their returns process down pat and make it as painless for the customer as possible. Off the top of my head Matches and Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter/The Outnet all do returns very well. However, it still takes 3-4 days for the package to reach the return destination and then it will be a day until they process the return, then up to 3 days for the refund to appear in your account. Le sigh.
5. Internet shopping changes how you shop in real life.
At it's core, internet shopping is all about maximising information access and convenience. You shop when you want. You have all the information to compare prices at your fingertips. You can access any number of reviews and feedback about the product and particular stores. So the role of the sale assistant is essentially reduced to processing the transaction.
In most cases, this is all for the better - I've discussed poor customer service from sales assistants in bricks and mortar retail in previous posts and for those individuals, processing a transaction accurately, quickly and with minimal chit chat is probably the best way for them to earn their wage. However, some sales assistants ARE knowledgable about their product. Some of them genuinely want to know what you're looking for and tell you what product they have that could best serve your needs. For these people, internet shopping has the potential to render them obsolete - the customer can get all that info online. They just need someone to swipe the card.
At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to both forms of shopping. I am undoubtedly a huge internet shopping proponent. But there are also things I greatly value advice from a human being sought face to face before I take the plunge and make my purchase. I like to think that the advent of internet shopping and the competition between it and bricks and mortar retail effectively push each sphere of retail to improve on the gaps in service quality and performance. Neither form will ever be the be-all and end-all. There is absolutely a place for both :) xo