Lynne Wilson is a director at WD Bathrooms and has worked there since 2005, having previously headed up Pendragon PLC's call centre team
Clicks, bricks and the personal touch
Posted 9th Aug 2013
A recent article on KBBDaily got people asking: "Can online retailers really offer the same kind of personal service associated with a bricks and mortar shop?" Designer Bathroom Concepts – the company focused on in the article – described the customer buying experience as “a journey of creating a bathroom that is unique to each of our customers”.
As an online retailer, I have to agree with Designer Bathroom Concepts’ sentiments. While we do retain an element of the real bricks-and-mortar experience – after all, we have a showroom in Sheffield – the bulk of our business takes place online, so it is definitely in our interest to make the online experience pleasant and problem-free for our customers. We want them to come back and we want them to recommend us to their friends.
The big difference between online retail and buying from a store is that customers don't 'see' the products. Granted, we're not in the business of selling clothes where people probably want to try something on before they make a decision, but toilets, sinks, shower enclosures and baths are big purchases – so we have to ask ourselves what we can do to make sure the customer is seeing as realistic a picture of the products as possible.
An online store must make its pictures are high quality. Customers need clear pictures which load quickly – research has shown that online viewers will lose patience if pages don't load within three seconds – and preferably show the product in situ. Product descriptions must be detailed, too, listing the size, colour, height, material etc.
Not seeing the product may sometimes mean the delivered item doesn't match the customer's expectation, and online retailers need to make the return process as easy as possible. We allow customers 14 days to return goods to us, for example.
Customers visiting showrooms often have a lot of questions, so to compensate, our email and phone teams are available seven days a week. Contact details are easy to see so anyone browsing through our products have no problem getting in touch.
One of the biggest customer concerns with online buying is safety. To offer reassurance, we have SSL certification, meaning personal information and credit card details can't be viewed by outside parties.
Finally, one benefit shopping online has over the traditional approach is reviews. Customers can rate our products and services, which works well for us and gives us a competitive edge over the traditional showroom.