How often do customers leave your store empty-handed? Having the right inventory on hand is one of the keys to increasing your sales. Case in point, my office phone died and I wanted to replace it and several other $9.99 specials around the house. Several months ago I’d gone online and learned the differences between 2.4 and 5.8GHz. I’d even found exactly what I wanted (a small base with two wireless handsets) in about a half-hour. I wasn’t ready to buy at the time and I had to go out anyway so I figured I’d just buy locally. Should only take a few minutes right?
I drove over to Office Max, they had a display unit that was pretty close to what I was looking for. But they were sold out. They were sold out of the one other system that would have worked too. I spent 15 minutes or so looking at my remaining options. I didn’t care much for what they had in stock so I drove across the street to Best Buy. After another 15 minutes reading specs and not finding what I wanted. I took my rising frustration next door to Circuit City.
After wandering around looking for phones for about 5 minutes before I asked directions. A very nice salesperson actually walked me over to the phone section. Circuit City had the type of extension phones I was looking for but no matching base station. They also had a base station I liked but no matching extension handsets. Sometimes you just can’t win. Just before I decided to leave I noticed the sign that stated, To see all our phones go to www.circuitcity.com.” Great, another twenty minutes down the drain.
I’d wasted enough time. I returned to Best Buy spent another 10 minutes before settling on something passable. What took less than a half hour online took the better part of 2 hours driving to and shopping in traditional stores and still not finding exactly what I wanted.
Take a lesson from WalMart. Have what the customer wants when the customer wants it. If it’s selling keep it stocked no matter how many “similar” products remain in your inventory. In this ever-increasing age of consumer control, not having what they’re looking for is an invitation to buy online and pay a little extra for express shipping or to shop WalMart.