Gift Registries done wrong

Someone I know has a gift registry at Sears, a major Canadian retailer. Now a gift registry is an idea of marketing genius: convince your customer to make a list of everything they want, all in one place, to ensure that their friends/relatives buy everything from you. Wonderful! It works because it is convenient for the customers too, and it's a totally one-sided affair for the business.

However, in this day and age a gift registry must be as easy to use as possible. The stores already use technology to their advantage; if you are in the store you can add items to your registry by walking around the store with a barcode scanner and scanning barcodes. You can edit the quantity or scan an item multiple times if you want two or more. Easy as pie.

However, Sears makes three major blunders with its registry. First, their website, catalogue and retail stores don't all have the same inventory, and what they do have may not always have the same price. This is confusing to the consumer. Howerver the gift registry compounds the problem because it doesn't show the up-to-date price for anything! The price shown is the normal price when the item was added. There is no excuse, in this day and age, for the price being out of date. At the very least it should be accurate as of 24 hours ago. But even worse, as a result of the separate inventories, some things are not available except when you buy by a certain method. I can understand that the catalogue doesn't contain the entire store's inventory, or that the stores don't stock certain items, but you should be able to walk into a store and order a special order item, and the website should contain every product, and should allow delivery of any product. Anything less is simply bad service.

Second, the gift registry doesn't give you the most up-to-date website price when you click "buy now" (I should also note that the registry pages look so bad I couldn't find the buy now link at first). Instead, if you find the item at a lower price on the website, say because of a sale, you have to add it to your cart on the product's page, not on the registry page. WTF? The registry has a big scary warning "explaining" this:

Please note: Prices shown below were in effect at the time of registration. Our current selling prices may be higher or lower at the time you purchase. For retail store purchases, you will be charged the price currently in effect in our retail stores on the day you make your purchase. For catalogue orders and orders placed online from this Gift Registry, you will be charged the lowest current price in Sears printed catalogues on the day you place your order. Items that can be ordered online are indicated with 'Buy Now'. IMPORTANT: Some of these items may be offered at lower prices elsewhere on this website, but you must ‘Add To Basket’ directly from the website item page in order to receive the website price. Sears cannot guarantee that all items in this registry will be available at the time you shop.
It's simply bad customer service in 2008 to offer a product at one price but only if the user clicks a certain link, because your other link doesn't support the current price. Basically the warning message is saying "don't use the registry to buy items".

The third blunder is that the registry page itself is a fossilized relic from 1994; we're talking a plain, ugly HTML table, in monospace font, without a colour or graphic to be seen, but worst of all, without any links to a product description or picture or anything. Sometimes even the name of the product has been truncated so you can't tell what the item is unless you already know what it is. Great design, Sears.

Sears, do yourselves a favour, update your registry system. Maybe more people will use it, and you'll make more money?

No comments: