Let me start by saying I do 80% of my shopping online. I have purchased everything from deodorant to a mini-split air conditioner, all online. I have been an Amazon member since 1999 and I love online shopping! It's convenient and a big time saver, plus the reviews give you some confidence in making an educated decision on items you purchase. Needless to say, I consider myself to be an expert regarding online shopping.
The main issue with shopping online is that you can't touch or see a product live in person. That may not matter for deodorant, video games, or even artwork but it's a big problem for items like clothes. Clothes are so personal with the fit, feel of the fabric, and even color. I have had no success in ordering clothes online! In fact, I don't even waste my time doing so anymore. I've always associated the tile business with fashion. Colors, patterns, and sizes change very rapidly. It's an item you need to physically see, touch, and even bring home samples to observe in your environment before purchasing. So I never worried about losing sales to internet shopping or even bothered trying to sell online. I guess I was very wrong since online tile sales are increasing rapidly.
I was in the showroom the other day repairing one of the computers and I overheard a conversation between a reputable general contractor and her client. Our design associate was showing the client and contractor around the showroom and was putting together some really cool selections and designs. She then went into the warehouse to gather samples for the client to take home. This is when the conversation got interesting. The client turned to the contractor and said she liked the designs and tile but wanted to look online for something better and cheaper. I thought the contractor was going to jump out of his shoes. The contractor refused to work with any material purchased online. The client seemed shocked and asked why, so the contractor tried to explain about quality control. He said, "What happens if you get mixed dye lots, or there is broken tile or they send the wrong item? Do you expect me to just stop the job and wait a couple of weeks for them to fix it? I deal only with brick and mortar stores that I have a relationship with. If there is ANY issue I know they will move heaven and earth to fix the problem and will do it super fast, plus I can see the product in person and so I know the quality of the material. You can't do that looking at something on a computer screen." I was a little taken aback but quickly realized the contractor was 100% correct! I know first hand if you order something online and there is a problem it's very hard to get it rectified.
A year ago a customer came into the showroom and selected tile for a 300 square foot room and left with the sample. Three weeks go by and the customer returns the sample and orders only 3 boxes of tile and asks how fast we can get it. The design associate was confused and responded that we can get her the tile in 2 days but 3 cartons will not cover 300 square feet. The customer says she needs the boxes to finish the job. She googled the tile and found it 20% cheaper online, ordered it, and then ran short. The design associate then tried to explain to the customer that our tile may not match the tile she purchased online. The dye lots probably won't be the same, so essentially the size and color may not be exact and it may look like a patch. The customer was upset and said that her job was now going to be delayed for at least a week and cost an outrageous amount of money for express shipping. At that point the customer had no choice but to buy the remaining tile online and wait to finish the floor.
The encounter above opened our eyes and we began to realize we were losing sales to online tile websites. We literally googled every product in our store and removed any product being sold online and totally revamped our selections. That caused a chain effect and we ended up replacing 80% of our displays. The end result was we revamped our entire operation to show newer and more tile that you can't find online! It also told this online shopper that maybe I'm missing out on things not visiting my local stores. If I keep ordering everything online the only stores in town are going to be nail salons, restaurants, deli's, gyms, or worse they will be empty!