Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shopping in the 21st Century

Well, it really is that time - Spring is sprung-ing, the sun and rain are fighting it out, and it's even brighter later at night. Time to dust of your gear, give everything the once over and get ready for a rocking good season of paintball. So what if you need something? Well 10 years ago you'd go to your local paintball store and buy it. Maybe drive to the city to pick up what it is you couldn't get locally. Not anymore... Now you just go to your Google machine, click in what you're looking for and Blam! There it is, priced, ready to ship, in your hands in no time. Isn't the convenience of science AWESOME! And i immediately know what you're thinking, "Why would a retail paintball store tell you it's ok to shop online"? Am i crazy? Why would i even write a blog post about online shopping? Isn't this counter productive to my own business survival? The honest truth to all those questions is yes - and no. While it is true that online shopping does not support your local business, or small business owners, it still stimulates the economy, and promotes a  more competitive marketplace. Which, at first thought might be an issue for the small time, local business owner. But I can tell you first hand, we at Valley Combat are proud to compete with the online sellers, and here's why.

There are several types of customers out there - ranging from the the ones we want, all the way down to the ones we don't - and believe me there are some customers money, that regardless of what they are willing to pay, we would rather not do business with. Today I'm going to discuss the "average everyday normal guy". Here's a guy that works hard, makes ok money, and has a once or twice a month hobby - paintball. Now he's not made of cash, and the price tag matters to him. He has to stretch his dollar - and this is where online shopping was born. How great is it that in 1/2 an hour you can price shop ALL competitors and get the best price guaranteed? So this guy makes his purchase, pay's the least for his product, and pulls out that credit card and lets fly the buying. Now, he didn't support local business, he didn't support a family. He supported a huge manufacturer probably overseas. His money didn't even stay in his own country - ALL BAD right? Well I'll be the first to say it - when cash it tight you do what you have to - we can't all be local business economy saving hero's all the time. The question I'm going to ask is this; did he get the best deal?

Price is, and has always been, only one part of any purchase. What about his costs of freight? Oh right, it's free if you spend "x" amount right? OK awesome - free shipping - for now. What happens if he gets his new "whatever" and its damaged, missing pieces or its incomplete? Well he has to send it back  - that's not free, and he's still without whatever he ordered - for even longer! SO, lets say he ordered his stuff, got it, and it was perfect... What happens if it breaks down or becomes defective? Months later he's still paying return freight etc. Then there is customer service! If he has any issues, problems, questions etc, what does he do? It's not like he's entering into an online chat with the seller for free advice. Accountability is the number 1 biggest item you do not get when you order online. Who do you go to for help for install, trouble shooting, warranty, or exchanges etc? It's all done via robot and post office or Currier experience.

My point here is buying online has some advantages, and some big disadvantages if it's done wrong. The entire purpose of ordering online is to avoid going anywhere, and to pay the least. But if you do it wrong, you end up having to go to the post office or to the USA border and mail forwarding place not once, but twice, or more times. And if you're paying for return freight, brokerage or duty and taxes at the border - then the costs start to climb. What is your time worth? Gas? Im sure now you're getting my point. Don't ever forget that buying local means dealing local - which will not only save you in the long run, but it also builds history with the business owner - which means increased customer service and a better shopping experience.

And if you do buy online, I will share one more pearl of wisdom; buy from an online seller that has a retail store location - reasonably close. You still get the advantages of online shopping, and shipping right to your door, with some form of accountability. You at least can make the trip to their actual location for issues and warranty.

Well, can't wait for the full swing of the paintball season to start, until then - happy shopping!