I come from a digital marketing background, so please accept these observations based on 20+ years of experience with the industry.
It’s maddening how many companies and services – from massive international conglomerates to small neighbourhood shops – have been exposed by Covid and how poor their online services are. Nobody’s talking about it, but it’s the elephant in the room.
Examples? I go to Lowes.ca, try to find a product and then hope that something similar would be shown with search results. But no, that doesn’t happen. Or Canadian Tire, where nothing loads quickly or you’re told that there’s nothing in your local store so you’re SOL. If only Canadian Tire were a national retailer that was able to respond efficiently to customer needs. I didn’t know this until I started bugging a few friends that worked their and they confirmed that the online experience for Canadian Tire is a giant cluster fuck because they’re all franchises and no one is able to cooperate efficiently the way a business based on a central warehouse (eg. Amazon) is.
And then there’s the economic powerhouse Loblaws that takes and takes, but fails to invest in an efficient online ordering system. Twenty years ago (!!) Grocery Gateway and similar food delivery services in Toronto showed them how it’s done, but have they responded with home delivery yet? Nope. With Loblaws and subsidiary stores, you can ‘order online’ (ie. put items in a basket and then ‘check out’), but then you have to pick up in person. Consider yourself lucky if you get fulfillment within a week. AND THEN … you have to put up with shitty produce selections for your cart because the people picking your product aren’t paid to be produce managers. They’re paid to fill carts.
NOT a good service.
Many small companies and businesses are discovering the interwebs as well, only now realizing that there’s something magical in people being able to place an order in advance, pick it up at a specific time or … GASP … get it delivered by the restaurant. Too many places gave their first born to services like Foodora (see ya!) or Uber Eats and they forgot what’s it like to have direct interaction with their customers that order online.
Crave (the online entertainment subscription service operated by Bell) engages in multi-level price scams and relies on shitty Cancon rules to block Canadians from getting the services direct from the producers. After you pay exhorbitant rates for the middle person (Bell), you discover you have to add one package after another. Nothing like Bell sticking it to folks during the world’s darkest hour. I know … it’s a silver spoon problem.
Now, that’s the cost. Have you tried actually using their service? The user experience is a joke. Netflix has them beat by a long shot. Maybe the company the delivers internet services will learn a thing about actually making some of the subscription services effective. Or maybe not because, let’s not forget, they’re a monopoly that only cares about how much they take, not deliver for quality.
Disney (who, of course, now owns all content related to Star Wars, so I think I should comment on them) has their Disney+ content service, but it’s lame. All it is is a collection of Pixar and old movies that I’ve actually seen a dozen times or so. We cancelled our subscription within a couple of weeks. From a bigger picture perspective, Disney is one of the largest, if not biggest, entertainment companies on the planet. You’d think they’d roll out ‘virtual experiences’ for their theme parks. Maybe it’s in the works, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
Even Amazon sucks with the content service Amazon Prime. Surprisingly, history isn’t kept, their ‘recently watched’ is just a big cluster fuck of everything you’ve watched (and not just the LAST thing you’ve watched like Neflix, making the experience more streamlined) and it’s actually hard to find what you’ve been watching or keeping in a list of ‘would like to watch’. You would think the world’s greatest ecommerce company would have poured a few dineros into copying best practices for user experience, but again, I don’t think they care. People are signing up in desperation, knowing that if they aren’t distracted by entertainment, they’ll either slowly go insane or … GASP … do something that doesn’t involve a screen.
And who thinks to sign up for GEM, Canada’s own subscription service? Or free library content that’s got pretty much everything that these other services already carry? We seem to jump on the lamestream wagon because, well, we’re well trained.
Yeah … these are all silver-spoon problems. I’m whining about content because that’s all I was ‘allowed’ to do this past weekend when the sun was shining and the weather was warm for a change. (Actually, I did get out for a few walks, but that doesn’t help me make my point, does it?).
Conclusion About Ecommerce, Especially For Canada?
Canadian companies should do everything they can to leverage the ‘opportunity’ that Covid is creating in the form of new demand for online services, whether they’re subscription, online ordering, directories or other services. There’s a lot of money to be made and with all things in a market economy, the nimble and creative will eventually overtake the slow and sloppy.
So whether it’s user experience, efficiency or usability, our ecommerce companies and practices have a LONG way to go before we can call them ‘GOOD’.