A Shopping Report Card: Evaluating Brands

By now, it would seem reasonable that retailers and others would have perfected the art and science of integrating technology with websites and stores. Alas, we’re not there yet, but the graph line is clearly trending upward. Here’s a look at my shopping experiences.

Amazon: The retailing giant continues to lead the way in innovation and delivery. No retailing site does a better job of serving up products seamlessly, based on searches, previous clicks and other data—and delivering everything to you quickly and seamlessly. The mobile app is stellar, especially the built-in voice search using Alexa.

My only complaint? Amazon’s pricing isn’t what it used to be. In several instances, I found a lot better deals elsewhere. Grade: A

Best Buy: The electronics retailer has done a good job of bringing stores into the 21st century, particularly at the point of sale. It accepts mobile payments, allows customers to cash in reward points on the fly, and it offers QR codes on shelves for more detailed product information.

What’s more, online systems and stores are reasonably integrated, including a well-designed mobile app that accommodates barcodes, QR codes, weekly ad images, and photos to identify products, prices and more detailed product information. Grade: B+

Macy’s: The department store has done a good job of improving its shopping experience. The website and app work well, with the latter offering barcode and image scanning, as well as the ability to view a store directory, various details and promotions. There are also reasonably targeted alternatives while perusing items. Macy’s also uses beacons to help customize the in-store experience.

The only thing missing? More salespeople on the sales floor at stores. Too often, there’s no one in sight. Grade: B+

Costco: Let’s face it, almost nobody beats Costco stores for sheer value. The website and app are no exceptions. The wholesaler organizes products by easy-to-track categories (though the list is seemingly endless). Moreover, it’s possible to order photos and cards and tackle often time-consuming tasks.

However, Costco.com doesn’t display inventory levels for more expensive products, and there’s no voice, QR code scanner or barcode reader built into the app. It also lacks the ability to order online but pick up an item in a store. Grade: C+

The takeaway for business and IT leaders? The ability to make shopping and buying simple—while melding bricks and clicks into a seamless experience—is critical for creating a competitive brand, website and app. These days, the biggest shortcuts should be for customers.