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A blog post

Buy Local, Online? It’s all about Service.

Posted on the 21 July, 2014 at 10:28 pm Written by in All, Business Strategy

For the past several years, area merchants have been beating the drum of “buy local.” Being someone who consults primarily in the Internet space (and prefers to run her life electronically), it has been a conscious choice to support local stores. Often that decision pays off with unique goods and services and the personal connection that comes from buying from a human.

Here’s a tale of two local purchases.

Home Depot & Ace Hardware
After speaking to five different reps at Home Depot who personally escorted me to where they thought the product might be, one finally sat at a monitor and said, “we carry it online, but not in the store.” Walking back to the car, I called my local Ace Hardware, who put me on hold for about 15 seconds and responded, “It’s in Aisle 3 on the left when you come in. We have it in two sizes.” I drove over and bought it.

Concord Pet Foods and Chewy.com
The second was to pick up some dog food purchased when the store was owned by a smaller regional chain. A larger chain had since purchased the local store. As part of the change in ownership I had checked to be sure the paid bags would be carried over. “No problem,” they said. This weekend I learned they had no record of my previous purchase. At the store, the food costs $48.99/bag. The same food can be bought at Chewy.com for $38.99/bag, and it’s delivered it to my door within 48 hours. Plus I can sign up for an autoship program which allows me to make changes in amount, delivery date and delivery frequency.

Using Technology to Improve Service
Ace Hardware leveraged technology (sales reps have ear buds) to find the product I wanted and save me from having to wander around the store. The price was a tiny bit higher than Home Depot, but I saved time traveling to/from the store and shopping in the store. While the Home Depot reps couldn’t have been more helpful, they didn’t solve my problem. Ace was the “helpful hardware place.”

In the local pet food store we have the worst of both worlds. The original store worked hard to earn and please customers. The new store acts like a chain (as in we don’t care who you are) but we have products at boutique pricing. They don’t “get” what it means to be a local store. There is no continuity of experience. Each time I go, I have to explain to the clerk who then has to call the manager. Contrast this to Chewy.com who knows who I am, what I want to buy, and how often I want to buy it.

So buy local, buy online. It’s all about service.