Department Store ecommerce – Not a Customer First Experience

Most traditional retailers have struggled with the shift to an online retail/ecommerce, reactive social media and other other technological innovations in meeting the ever-changing requirements of buyers from millennials through to the silent generation.

They may have largely deluded self justified reasons for this, but given that Amazon is now over 20 years old, the time for excusing or rationalizing poor customer outcomes from ecommerce for legacy retailers in any category is long gone.

Of all the major retail markets in the world that have tried to engage in online retail and ecommerce, department stores have been a true laggard in so many ways. The reasons for this, such as the franchise market, duopolies, leasing issues, regulations etc are reason for a lack of capability and enterprise skill, not excuses for a lack of success.

The loser in this systematic failure is the customer, and ultimately the shareholder. All because the department stores have no idea how to develop the experience their customer wants.

This is further evidence of the reasons why capioIT pioneered the concept of the Digital Devil’s Advocate  Each week we identify where too many enterprises fail to understand the role of the customer in the customer experience, digital or otherwise.

The failures are too easy to find because organisations just fail to understand the simple requirement for customers to have a real optimised experience on their terms. This can’t be achieved through technology alone. An app developer, or marketing executive asking a friend for experience is not validating customer experience. You need unemotional independent yet informed capabilities to act as the digital devil’s advocate and overcome these shortcomings.

On to the Department Store example.

The following pictures reflect the experience for shopping at a prominent Australian Department Store.

First Page – All good. The store is having a sale, the benefits are highlighted that is clear. One can shop for the usual categories at a department store, womenswear, menswear, shoes etc. 


Second tab (after clicking on womenswear) – Shop by size. What is David Jones thinking? This defies optimising the shopping experience in so many ways. 


Since when have women department store shoppers had size (6,8,10,12,14,16) as their first priority in terms of what they buy. Surely the type of fashion, e.g. formal, jean, casual, jumpers etc, is much more relevant. It is just a staggering approach that is so far removed from customer experience.

Overwhelmingly consumers will not just be a size 10, for some things, they might be an 8, for others 10, and 12. I showed the options to approximately 10 women (actual and likely customers of David Jones). Not one woman I spoke with would shop on the basis of size as the first point of call. After choosing womenswear, all would then chose the type of fashion, the brand, then size, in store as they would online. It just is a crazy and failed approach to customer experience for customers. It is  be difficult enough for department stores to attract the next generation of shoppers. With laughable online shopper environments it will be impossible.

Anyone who knows David Jones and the online experience in Australia will not express shock. They have long been laggards and failed to understand the customer experience. Not surprisingly the likes of H&M and Zara who understand, serve and engage their customer across platforms are blitzing the market locally. 

What can be learnt from the experience. It is quite simple. Retailers have to allow their customers to shop in any format in the way that best provides an experience. David Jones and other retailers need to

  • Make the customer central to all decisions, investments, and outcomes
  • Move-on anyone who cannot act on the unequivocal central role of the customer in all the enterprise does online or otherwise.
  • Ensure that the entire ecosystem is customer centric, from buyers, manufacturers, distributors and even external and internal technology providers
  • Continue to invest and involve
  • Understand the role of the Digital Devil’s Advocate

Capture Point 

The time for excuses for poor online customer experiences for retailers has long past. It is just not acceptable to have poor online experiences and customer outcomes. Learn from laggards like David Jones make the future viable.

  • Make the customer central to all decisions, investments, and outcomes
  • Move-on anyone who cannot act on the unequivocal central role of the customer in all the enterprise does online or otherwise. 

If you require further information, please contact Phil Hassey, CEO of capioIT. capioIT is an advisory firm focused on helping organisations to understand customer experiences from emerging technology as the world becomes Digital. Phil may be contacted easily in the digital and real world.


About capioIT - Phil Hassey

capioIT is an advisory firm focused on helping organisations to understand emerging technology in emerging markets. CEO Phil Hassey established the company in 2010
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