Monday, 11 January 2010

what makes a good shopping experience?

i bought the below watch a while back, quite an impulse as i tell myself not to get any more fashion watches. but it was reduced to about £60, so i bought it in a whim. the watch served me well, but it's battery needed replacing now. i went to high street store ernest & jones, and they quoted me £40 and 3 weeks turn around for the battery replacement, needless to say i left in a hurry. then i trotted to selfridges, the friendly lady behind the counter said it will cost £30. gone are the days where it costs a fiver to change the battery on my old swatch watch!

anyway, i left and went to debenhams, another high street store. the guy quoted me £22, but went further to provide me with a 1.5yr warranty on the battery, promised to do it on the spot, and gave me a voucher for a free coffee while i wait. seriously, the coffee sealed the deal.

and so off i went to the cafe, never satisfied with just a cafe latte, i bought a slice of strawberry cheesecake too. while waiting for time to past, i ask myself, what makes a good shopping experience.

that must probably be the longest intro one has ever written!

shopping, just as in life, isn't just about the final end product or destination, it's also about the journey. i could have looked around more to get someone to replace the battery for a much cheaper price, but that guy did a great sale. rather than quoting a price, he went further to explain about the extra warranty, which i believe the other shops provide too but failed to mention. providing the coffee voucher just pushes the boat out. i ended up spending £2.99 on a slice of cheesecake which i don't actually need, but that's an extra sale to them, and it's smart.

.: salvatore ferragamo fall winter 2009 :.

speaking about free drinks, we were at salvatore ferragamo 3 weeks back. they were serving mulled wine to all their customers. and so we sat down, rest our weary calves, enjoyed the warm festive beverage and 2 hours later left with four pairs of shoes. and that's my pair above. the economy isn't doing well, there are a lot of homogeneous products out there. so a little effort to make customers feel a little more special, really does go a long way.

i read a very interesting article at "the luxury chronicles". the author wrote that at challenging times like these, luxury houses should not lose sight of their DNA, go with the flow and start churning out lower priced watered down products. more emphasis should be on how to retain that customer and build loyalty.

.: topman ltd spring 2010 :.

the environment plays an important part in the overall shopping experience too. i've probably moaned 26,484 times about the size and heat of topman's dressing rooms at oxford circus. last weekend i was there trying the above topman ltd spring 2010 blue cargo trousers. besides feeling a tad down as i can't quite squeeze into them, it was quite an exercise to then try to put my shoes back on. then i realised, there isn't a stool in there. granted they are in fast retailing, but i remembered h&m having little stools in all their rooms and that to me makes a lot of difference.

the point is, a little action goes a long way.

the sale doesn't end when the customer says yes to the purchase. many a times i felt so let down by the packaging. when we go for job interviews, the prospective employers make up 50% of their minds if they want to hire us in the first five minutes. first impression and packaging counts. i always have a problem with shops not sealing the bags for me. tape it, ribbon it just seal it already. i bought a burberry prorsum sweater from their online shop a while back, and was pleasantly surprised that it arrived in a nicely ribboned bag, just like how they do it in the shops. it's online shopping, they could have just wrapped it in tissue. but they made the whole experience so enjoyable, right from the packaging to the point of me wearing the sweater.

my favourite shopping experience is probably at french luxury goods makers, la maison goyard.

.: display at goyard aoyama, japan / brandon king :.

sometime last year i was considering getting a hard sided case, and was deciding between louis vuitton and goyard, both best in their fields. i emailed goyard with my queries, and left my details. i was very surprised to receive a call from them a few days later, all the way from paris. they spent time, explaining about the construction process, the way they paint their monograms, what makes the products special. and that makes me feel special, i wasn't even placing an order with them yet. what made the experience enjoyable, was that i could sense the enthusiasm in his tone. the sales person believed in his products and was passionate about it, and that is a great sale, the power of influence.

.: display at goyard aoyama, japan / brandon king :.

the sales person at goyard ended the call, much like an old friend, pleading me to visit them at their store in paris to look at their fantastic products on offer. i never did quite make it there, never did get my hard sided case. but the lasting impression meant a goyard luggage is still very much high on my wishlist. one day, one day, but for now they have a loyal prospective customer.

not everything is a bed of roses. i have some pretty shocking experiences to tell too.

2009 was a year of extreme highs and low for me. i wanted to get a proper watch to mark the passing of time, a reminder to myself to work a little harder, stand a little taller. i was very keen on the above watch, so i went for a closer look. i was genuinely intrigued, by what that lower meter does. unfortunately the sales person couldn't answer, and have to seek help from someone else. it wasn't as though i was there with the intention to ask difficult technical questions. it was a meter on the face of the watch, and i expect good product knowledge from someone selling this watch with a five figures retail price.

their website states that the watch was assembled by master watchmakers, and they spent 24 months developing the movement. but they lost me in 24 seconds.

.: archived pic, :.

three weeks ago i was at the above store along one of the most prestigious streets in london. i entered the store, and someone at the couch said hi to me. i thought to myself "oh, how friendly of him". i continued browsing, and then looked around to find someone to assist me. then the same guy at the couch asked "can i help you?". so he wasn't a customer!

i asked if the shoes were already on sale, he replied that it would be after christmas, all the while still sitting on the couch, legs crossed. i left the shop, checked my reflection on their shop window and didn't find myself looking too shabby. i never went back for their christmas sales either.

.: the gorgeous facade at cartier, old bond street, london / getty images :.

the creative director of a luxury fashion house could have the grandest of plans, produce the most illustrious products, but ultimately fail to engage if that same passion and vision aren't translated down to the shop floor. we all hear about how online shopping is taking off, how it is going to be the future. but truth is, when someone is looking to spend £5,000 on a bag or a watch, the internet is great for research, but i believe the ultimate sale will happen in a brick and mortar shop. customers will want to feel the product, ask questions and enjoy the whole process. so shopfloor selling is even more vital to high value / luxury items. spruce up the shop front, invest in good staff, give them a satisfying career and engage your audience.

so, what makes a good shopping experience?



  1. Couldn't agree more. I live in Australia and most (actually ALL) department stores here suck.

    Which is why my favourite department store in the world is Harrods London. The whole experience is just amazing, no one gave you that "you can't afford this" look and the staff were so professionally trained. From the doorman, taxi man, person in the bathroom, the locker person..

    I was shopping at Burberry in Harrods and one of the item was out of stock. Harrods was having on the 10% off Saturdays and they checked Burberry in Harvey Nicols and it was available. So they asked them to bring it to Harrods so I could have the -10% off. Amazing! I can almost guarantee most sales staff couldn't be stuffed and just say "sorry out of stock, try Harvey Nicols"

    And then I passed by Jo Malone in Harrods. I was just toying around and smelling few samples perfumes. Then this helpful sales assistant came and let me try every possible scents they have. Musky? No? Fruity? No? Sweet? No? Woody? on until I found the one i fell in love with. AND the packaging was amazing. Best 60 pounds spent ever, and you're right it's about the experience.

  2. thanks victor, that's a great comment. thank you for sharing your shopping experiences!

  3. I say shame and name, why blurring the name?

    well-written as usual.

  4. I think a big part of the shopping experience is the part that customers may not see, which is how a company treats their employees.

    I strongly believe in what you say, that with so many stores carrying similar if not the same product, I think customer service really is going to make the difference. Yes, online shopping is very popular and convenient, but it is much better to be able to see and try on something in person.

  5. I really really don't know where to start with this - like youself there's plenty of experiences to be shared and I will talk about the ones that is most irritating.

    Just because I am not living in a western country but still paying as much of a premium (and in most cases even more than our western counterpart) doesn't mean I should be substandard treatments. The product knowledge of the SA is most appalling, ranging from making up stories to never returning queries (BURBERRY). Excuses of running out of materials (when I need gift wrap services for a shirt that cost 100GBP) is NOT acceptable. In this time they are lucky if someone still spends that much on a shirt. Then there is the downgrading of packaging with really cheap materials during sale (even if it's on sale, I am still paying way above average)...all counts towards the shopping experience.

    Since it's so bad and won't see any chance of getting better, I have resolved to shop online as much as possible - I only visit the brick/mortar shop to 'test drive' them before clicking on the button. And I save more money that way.

  6. It reminds me of France with all the Marionettes and Christmas displays in the window. I miss all of that. I think it used to be more common here in the states but I guess you only see it in the bigger cities like New York.

  7. Why do you think I actually bought my Goyard Boeing45 in London so early on in my trip, lugged it to Paris and back? The moment I stepped into Goyard Mount Street I knew I was a goner. The SA was passionate and well-versed in their product range and the service beyond par. I was sold (and still am) right there and then.

    Yes, it's all about the experience...

  8. that first watch was beautiful

  9. Not a big fan of LV but i once had an amazing time.. the sale person was an old french man in his 60s very nicely dressed spoke with a wonderful english accent he helped me to find a belt for a wierd shoes i bought he found me the perfect one from some old collection that he knew they have one left somewhere in their stocks in some store in another city... he made phone calls and so on..
    he was pro gave me just enough attention and so on..
    i ended up spending 10 times of what i plannd about 3000$ that day and i left with a great happy exprince..
    Creed has also some really great sales people.. lol
    ok seriously i think many high-end shops are starting to put effort on easy costumers ..
    Old asian ladies or young asian guys who wear the most obvious gucci or LV shoes jackets and so on..
    Russian couples. they dont care anymore about those who have eye for fashion or dont care about logos dont want to show off the brand they are wearing.. or on the other hand they are being racist i have noticed many sales people are acting somewhat racist at dior i over heard two salespeople talking in french about the Chinese lady who just bought 3 handbags and their conversation was very nasty ..
    in short it totally pisses me off i usually think specially in department stores they dont give u enough attention..

  10. I agree, the shopping experience is very much as important as the physical product we buy. I got something at Hermès Bangkok recently despite the prices being much higher in SG. But the service in Hermès Singapore is so lacking that I am willing to spend extra bucks to get good service and pass off having to put up with snobbish attitudes from those sales people. I am paying good money contributing to their employment, I expect better service as a form of 'gratitude'. And it also irks me if my shopping bags are not sealed properly! Packaging and first impression counts! No over stuffing of items inside a shopping bag too!

  11. ...and I might as well add my worst shopping experience being Chanel in Paris.

    Considering how much their bags cost they sure give a crappy service. Chanel bags are highly demanded and is very limited, buyers (my friend) called ahead to make sure the bag was in the shop before we went there, God knows how many Chanels are there in Paris alone. (8 or so?) TREATMENT? HUNG UP ON.

    Anyways, not all Sales assistant were that rude, some was OK. Considering the price you pay for a Chanel bag, it sure is a nightmare to get hold on. When we went to a the Chanel store in Ave Montague (spelling?), the Sales just said Nope out of stock. We found it weird she knew what was out of stock without checking in the store room or the computer so we asked another sales assistant. The other went to check in the store room and said it was out of stock, sure, it was really out of stock at least we know she really tried looking.

    In the end, my friend left Paris very disappointed and as we were at Heathrow waiting for our flight back, we went to Chanel Terminal 3 and viola! she bought it painless and hassle free!

    Can I also say, walk in ANY store in Japan and you're bound to have a mindblowing consumer experience. Customer is God in Japan.

  12. Wow. That must be the best article about shopping ever. You were spot on and the amount of research and thought that went in it only proves that your passion drives your blog. Great one :)

  13. The best shopping experiences I had were in small independent shops. Like upcoming designer shops - in Berlin, Paris, Barcelona. . . .

    Usually the designers themselves sell the items and therefore they know a lot about their clothes and can tell a story how it was made and how to take care of the clothes.

    And like You said there is nothing worse than a shopkeeper who doesn't know about the stuff s/he sells....

    shopping experience in NYC is totally different though. They have taken the 'Customer is God' to a new level and maybe too nice at times, when you can sense the in-sincereness you know that something is wrong. . .

    So I think it is pretty difficult to find the perfect balance when they take interest in you to make your experience amazing but at the same time not too far when it becomes into something fake....

  14. Hi, I used to have the exact same Armani watch, bought it in Paris in 2008, but it got stolen, and now i wanna replace it, where did you buy yours? Please let me know, i cant wait to replace it, and thanks for bringing it back into my consciousness.

    Thanks & hope to hear back.

  15. I had 112 unread news items, and I said to myself... Gonna read 00o00 first, he's always good.

    And here I am. Man, you're good. I love your reports/articles. Keep it up, keep me as your prospective buyer. :)

  16. I've walked out of the same shop on the same prestigious street and the same "sales man". I work just down the road from him and he still doesn't have the time or energy to help! I have a severe sunglass fetish and have walked past him every day for a month in different sunglasses and when I went it to try a pair on, he sulked that I asked him to get the sunglasses out of the display. He sighed so loudly that after he went through the trouble of getting the sunglasses, I didn't even touch them. I just said thank you very much and walked out the store. Pained me to leave the beautiful creations behind but I don't want to support that guy!

    Well done to you and well done to the blog.. Love it!

  17. Another insightful article! I think my favourite thing about your blog is that you're a normal consumer and so regular people can really relate to your stories. I think maybe it also helps that you keep yourself anonymous...? Sometimes it's hard to relate to teenagers who make purchases like czarinas! But I can certainly relate to your story about getting good service vs bad service.

    I agree that in this economy, attention to detail is crucial to making the sale and how customers are treated can be the deciding factor. With so many stores having massive sales, there's a lot of options out there. But loyal customers will keep coming back to the store that treats them the best.

  18. its really very nice article with nice pictures thanks for sharing this with us.

  19. That is LANVIN on Saville Row, London!

  20. I had the good service at Hermès San Francisco and online rep. I e-mailed Hermès online about the availability of CDC bracelet and I got the response very quickly. They gave me the number of the store, phone number and name of the contact person.
    I have to say I was disappointed with the service at BALENCIAGA New York and Los Angeles.

  21. All the products are looking very beautiful. Specially the 1st watch is looking absolutely great. I just love it.

  22. Nice effort, very informative, this will help me to complete my task.


what's he wearing?