Believe it or not, many stores don’t help customers buy products. Earlier this year I did some research on the in-store experience for buying a digital camera. The analysis looked at the experience of four leading electronics retailers: Best Buy, Circuit City, RadioShack, and Wal-Mart. Our target user was a 50 year-old male, who didn’t know too much about technology, who wanted to buy a digital camera for his son. Looking at the experience through the eyes of that target user, we evaluated the following elements of the experience:
Here’s what we found:
- Confusing first impressions. While two retailers received good grades for wayfinding, all of the retailers had at least minor flaws when it came to providing legible signage to the digital camera area. At one retailer, there was no signage for digital cameras and no directory explaining that digital cameras were on a lower floor. And at another, the user needed to guess at a direction from the door before spotting a sign to the photo area.
- Poor browsing experiences. This was the lowest-graded section in our evaluation. What was so bad? For one retailer, the digital camera display spanned three sides of a stand – without any logical grouping to help the user examine them. And the retailer that had the most useful content for selecting digital cameras, rendered it nearly useless by making it illegible or hiding it behind the cameras.
- Limited product information. When it came to studying the individual products, we found a surprising lack of product information. We were unable to find information about shutter speeds and battery life in most of the stores. One retailer provided a book with rich details about its lineup of digital cameras, but it was virtually hidden in a nearby section of printer supplies.
- Not much help. Employees were easily accessible at all four retailers, but employees at only 2 of the retailers were able to make a recommendation based on the user’s requirements. And while all of these retailers have rich functionality and content for picking a digital camera on their Web sites, none of the retailers provided users with access to those online resources in their digital camera areas.
The four retailers ended up with overall grades between B- and C+ for these in-store experiences. Is that good enough? You tell me.