What the Furniture Industry Can Teach You About Online Shopping in Trinidad & Tobago
I’ve been sleeping on the same mattress for five years and decided it was time to upgrade.
Amazon has been my default to shop online, but the weight of a bed seemed too much risk with shipping and handling. Instead, I went to Google and typed Mattress in Trinidad. The usual suspects appeared on the first page Lensyl, Standard, Courts and Furniture Plus. Search results also included a surprising appearance by Dwellings.
After visiting each website, I was struck by the counterintuitive design, which did not gain the trust to hand over my credit card information. One of the most significant errors was the filter option. Most consumers already know what they want before visiting an eCommerce store. If your design did not create a sale, your website, like a new employee, did not do the job right.
As an entrepreneur, who charges an hourly rate, it’s difficult for me to justify visiting multiple stores across Trinidad for the ‘cheapest’ option. I made a plan to visit a few furniture stores along the east-west corridor and have a ‘lie down’ before choosing the right fit.
Like the Princess with the Pea, I knew what I wanted and managed to find the best firmness at the first store. It helped that they were having a sale. The salesperson advised that collection was not an option, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, I had no choice but to be charged for delivery. I paid for it in full and drove home in anticipation of brand new dreams the following night.
The next day, I received a call from “their warehouse” advising that I should be home the following day to be in the recipient of my purchase. No one showed up. Two days later, I received another call about the delivery of my mattress, and I shared the fact that someone else called with similar information, but no delivery. The customer rep requested that I hold on to check, two minutes later, I was advised that my mattress was not in stock, and I should go back to the store to choose another. That call lasted for another ten minutes as I shared my annoyance, and they responded with an as-matter-of fact tone.
I revisited the store the next day to be told by the person who took my credit card, ‘…the warehouse is always doing this…just because they don’t see the products doesn’t mean it’s out of stock…’. Four days later, I received my mattress. I told the driver I was waiting a week and his response, ‘….you’re lucky, that’s not that long.’
Amazon has been the top-visited website in the Caribbean for the last decade. Trinis willingly hand over their money and wait for weeks before receiving their items. When the consumer clicks ‘Place your order’; there is transparency on the journey of their products, from the warehouse to the PO BOX in Miami. In the ten years that I’ve joined Amazon.com, I’ve never spoken to anyone, ever.
For eCommerce to work in Trinidad and Tobago, the entire business has to transform to reflect what the customer experienced at the time of sale. Your customer will not tolerate the disconnect from the time of purchase to delivery. The buying process has to be seamless because businesses are not competing with the first page on local Google Search Results.