Ronni Marshak on Customer Experience: Multi-Channel Shopping

A Commerce Experience Should Be a Blended One

January 17, 2002

Different touchpoints and channels have different strengths. Product research is easier online; checking the texture and size of products is easier done in person at the store. Most of us mix and match touchpoints in a blended-channel shopping experience.


Researching Online. The oven to my stove had been broken for about three years. (This gives you a good idea about the priority cooking has in my life.) And the time had finally come to replace the stove and get ready to cook a holiday turkey. So I hopped online to find out what to look for.

I went first to the Sears Web site, probably because my existing stove was from Sears, and Sears is a kind of comfort store for most Americans. It was very easy to navigate to stoves (clicking on “appliances,” “cooking,” then “free-standing ranges”). Once there, I was offered access to The Buying Guide. I was very pleased. You see, I don’t know much about how to select the right range for me, and expert advice was much needed.

Unfortunately the Sears Appliance Advisor (which, I guess, is the same thing as the Buying Guide) didn’t offer any answers, just some questions to ask myself with no guidance on what to do with the answers. A key question for me was whether to buy a gas or electric appliance. I’m not sure what the benefits and limitations are of each power source. The Sears Advisor did address the question, but the advice was, “Unless you’re building or remodeling, your choice may be limited to the existing power source in our kitchen.”

So, on to Yahoo to see what I could find. I ended up at Yahoo shopper, which, after going through about four pages of navigation, allowed me to specify the price range of stove I was looking for. The resulting list of ranges, prices, and the online stores where they could be found was a bit daunting. I was encouraged by the “Do Your Research” link to free product evaluations by Active Decisions, but only a small number of brands were included in the research.

I then went to Maytag because of brand-name recognition and effective marketing—I still worry about the lonely Maytag repairman. I was very pleased to discover a much more useful Appliance Finder, which asked me useful questions about my cooking needs. By selecting the options that apply to me, the site pinpointed a number of stove models that would be most appropriate to my needs. I was pretty happy.

Asking the Pragmatic Questions. Having done some pretty thorough research, I now had some pragmatic questions about the actual process of getting my stove installed in my kitchen. There are actually two issues here: installation and removal of my old, broken range.

Maytag had won my affection with its Appliance Finder, so I went looking for information on installation. And what I found was a listing of dealers in my area that I could call. I wanted a seamless online connection with the dealer! I wanted all the information I had entered on my preferences on the Maytag site to be transferred to the dealer. I didn’t want, at this point, to pick up the telephone and start calling.

So I went back to the Sears site, where I did get information on Sears installation and delivery service. The price range for installation was given as $70 to $200—quite a range! But at least I knew that Sears could get me up and cooking.

I then tried to find out information on disposing of my existing stove. The Appliance Advisor gave me some generic, and not very useful, information. Deep in the product description page of one of the ranges I was considering, however, I discovered a small note stating that ...


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