Is ‘in store availability’ worth the risk of frustration?

December 20, 2019

Trips to Ikea carry so many emotions in our family. My kids excitement at the prospect of devouring mountains of meatballs. My fear of losing a toddler when they play hide and seek in the wardrobe department. My husband's dismay at the crazy drivers that speed through the Dartford Tunnel. So when we needed to purchase some new storage boxes I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Write a list of what we actually need, and try as hard as possible to stick to that list (I know full well that I will come home with so many items that I didn’t need). 

I went online and checked their website to see if the boxes I wanted to buy were in stock at our ‘local’ store. 47 in stock! Perfect. I only needed 4. We arrive and start to look for the boxes, Ikea give you that extra bit of help by telling you where to find it in the store, but its not there. I check the website on my phone and it says stock is available. I ask an employee tells me, ’They are definitely not in stock, lots of people have asked me today, it's probably a problem with the website’.

Now I have fallen victim to this multiple times before when buying from DIY stores and its part of my job to understand this tech. So why did I fall for it again and get trapped feeling frustrated and annoyed? 

It's impossible for retailers to be 100% accurate, even if they updated their systems in real time (most don’t), because of theft, breakages, customers picking items up and putting them down in another department, unforeseen website bugs etc. 3 top US grocery retailers who provide this functionality know themselves that it can be inaccurate:    

  • Walgreens displays this message "*Inventory count is approximate: Items in the process of being stocked, restocked or returned may result in minor discrepancies. Online and in-store prices may vary." when users enquire about local store inventory.
  • Walmart updates every night at 12 a.m., according to the Walmart website. So, the later in the day it is, the less likely that item count is accurate.
  • Target's site states "Keep in mind, quantities are limited and availability changes quickly. As a result, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of production information. We recommend calling the store to confirm availability." on their help section.

So what can be done? Is it best to try and give more detailed information that might be wrong? Or should only the details we know to be true be given to customers and remove the risk of frustrating potential shoppers? Omni-channel shopping experiences should reflect the needs of the customer first, and if you can’t get it right for every customer go back to basics and start with what you know is right. 

Dotter provides where to buy solutions for online and offline purchases, giving the users the information they need to make an informed decision. Our choice to give users the details of known stockists only, (and provide contact, opening hrs, plus additional info like delivery options, product type stocked etc) was based on user experience rather than marketing demands.  

Help your potential customers find your products in store and avoid risk of lost sales, even worse a repeat or lifetime customer. Sign up now for your free trial or contact a member of the team.

Author: Donna Parkin