Shraples is one of many big-box stores trying to execute well on the concept of omnichannel; where the customer experience travels and blurs across online and in-store for a consistent brand interaction. To their credit, Shraples pricing is consistent online vs brick & mortar. This is better than some other retailers.
Browsing the Shraples website a few times across a couple days, I decided on the new chair where my derrière would be living for many hours a day.
I added it to my cart.
I started to checkout.
Before completing my normal order with free shipping, the Shraples website teased me:
I looked at the list of locations near me, and the Shraples store just a few miles up the road had the chair in stock. I could grab it during my afternoon errands and save a few bucks.
So instead of completing my typical online Shraples order with free next-day delivery, I took the detour they had offered, and I selected store pickup.
At that point, Shraples omnichannel’s cracks emerged and the whole thing fell apart:
The email came 15 minutes later, letting me know the store I selected did not really have the item in stock. Shraples said the item was “unavailable for pickup at this time” and I wouldn’t be charged. They provided their customer service phone number to help me find alternate products. I guess that means they cancelled my order. After I got the email, the Shraples website still indicated the item was in stock for pickup at that store.
I was still okay just getting the chair delivered as I originally planned. So I went to the LIVE CHAT on Shraples website, to have them switch my order to delivery. I was in queue for 6 minutes, mid-day on a weekday. 6 minutes! I shot Shraples an email while I was waiting. A six minute wait in a retailer’s online CHAT queue feels equivalent to waiting in line at a store for two weeks.
UMMM, NICE BUT NOT OMNICHANNEL SUPPORTIVE
So when I did get to a live representative, the guy was courteous enough. He politely explained that because I selected “in store” pickup, he could not change my order to be delivered. The order was cancelled since my selected store didn’t have it (despite the website stating otherwise). Four other stores in a ten mile circle supposedly had it, the Shraples distribution centers had it, but the CHAT representative had no tools to simply assure me he’s resolving it and will get me the chair. He apologized.
SORRY FOR OUR OMNICHANNEL ERROR, PLEASE START OVER ALL AGAIN
The CHAT representative said I need to place a new order and select delivery this time; instead of selecting in-store pickup. If I didn’t want to go back to the website, I could do it by phone. Yes, I could have placed a new order – this time for delivery - and have been done within four minutes.
The Shraples strategy seems to put the burden on the customer when falling into one of its omnichannel holes in operations and systems. But by the time I ended with the CHAT session, something else distracted my attention, and I didn’t place a new order.
WHY NOT JUST GET MY REAR IN GEAR AND DRIVE TO A SHRAPLES STORE, BYPASSING THE WEBSITE?
The truth is, I didn’t pick up a phone to see if another store really had it. I didn’t drive to a different store, swim through the sea of office chairs to locate the one I wanted, pick up a "buy it" slip, and head to the cashier; and then wait for a stockroom worker to bring my chair to the front on a handcart.
My expectation was to order the thing quickly online, and then have it waiting for me at the front of my selected store. Boom, done.
This isn't an article humble-bragging about laziness - it's a critical commentary on this chain's current state of online-to-offline operations.
A multi-location retailer offering ecommerce cannot rely on “if a customer gets frustrated on our website, they’ll just come into the brick-and-mortar store or try again online.”
MY BEHIND IS NOT BRAND LOYAL ON MOST PRODUCTS, NOR ARE MOST CUSTOMERS
A few days later, a competitor’s flyer landed in my email. It reminded me I still needed a chair. They happened to have a similar chair in their flyer, a bit better on price. I ordered it from the competitor.
If it were a custom piece of furniture, I’m brand loyal to the seller. But for 90% of my shopping – including basic office supplies and furnishings – my loyalty is easily swayed by a shiny offer or greater convenience. Most consumers behave similarly.
Omnichannel is a long-term challenge on effective execution.
The short-term challenge – when there are known systemic and operational weaknesses during an omnichannel evolution – is taking the burden off customers and giving a customer service team the training and temporary tools to “fix” cracks when they appear.