Sunday, November 21, 2010

Warning: this post contains a convaluted rant...

Westfield opened their online store last week. To a complete lack of fanfare and pomp and after visiting it, I can understand why.

Why oh why would anyone buy anything from there? Things are expensive, shipping is prohibitively pricey and they don’t offer anything that I can’t get elsewhere.

Yes really.

What a disappointment.

Question for Westfield: Why on earth would I buy, say, a handbag from you? I can buy it for the same price from the original retailer. The shipping is the same. The time to ship is the same. You don’t offer any exclusive items or percentage off. In fact, I can probably buy a lot of the same items for a lot cheaper overseas.

I fail to see the compelling argument for shopping at Westfield online. If I want something from a Westfield, it’s only a 15 minute drive from my house. Why would I wait a week to get something I pay the same price in a store for? It’s cheaper for me to pay for the petrol to drive there than to have it shipped.

Westfield have failed to see the point in why Australians shop online. We do it for three very compelling reasons: convenience, price and availability.

We shop online because it’s convenient. Because we don’t want to walk down to the shops at lunchtime or trawl the aisles looking for that perfect Christmas present. Westfield’s online merchandising is shocking – almost as bad as Myer Online, and let’s not get started on their search engine. There is no style, no panache, no finesse… Shopping on the Westfield online site is worse than going to an actual Westfield.

They say that they have 150,000 items on their site but I’m not sure where they are hiding them. They have numerous categories they haven’t covered off. And, funnily, they have signed up some stores that don’t even sell in Westfields! Trixan Body, and The White Linen Company are all online retailers only. None of them have a physical presence at a mall – anywhere, let alone in a Westfield Mall. And I find it especially funny that Trixan espouses their desire to “cut out the middle man” on their website (i.e. the retailer) and have people buy directly from the distributor, reducing cost to the end buyer… Isn’t this the opposite of what Westfield wants it’s customers to do?

They have taken the principle of “white space works on a website” and amplified it. How very 1990’s of them. Note to the web designers sitting over at Westfield: It works for Net-a-Porter because their site is classy. Yours is cobbled together and filled with things I don’t want to buy. Your recommendation engine is non-existent. You have limited brands and most of the stores you have online are people I wouldn’t buy from anyway. No Veronika Maine, no Cue, no Witchery, no Country Road, no Nine West, no Mecca Cosmetica, no Kookai, no Sambag… Need I continue? I could for hours.

Australians buy things online that we don’t get in shops here. We look for unique items that no-one else has. Why would I buy the same Peeptoe clutch that every other person has online from Westfield? What is your compelling reason to purchase from you?

We shop online because the prices overseas are competitive, rather than being ripped off by Australian retailers for the same items – particularly luxury goods. I happily buy goods worth thousands of dollars per year from NAP, the Outnet, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstroms et al, as do many of my friends. We do it because the prices are often half of what you would pay for the same item in Australia, if indeed you can actually find what you want. The customer experience is delightful. For ordinary stuff, we are happy to walk into a store and buy something, or we buy it on eBay or discount websites. Or we wait for sales because we know they are coming. They always do.

I spent a good 45 minutes on the website this morning and didn’t find one thing I wanted to buy that I couldn’t buy elsewhere online – usually with a nicer experience and a prettier website. The customer service is non-existent. It’s a half cocked effort far too late in the game. Australians have been shopping online for well over a decade now and they know what they want and they won’t be fooled.

If you want to succeed, you should invest some time in trying to find out what Australians do want from an online experience. Clearly it’s not something you have done at this point in time.

Good luck Westfield. If you honestly think Australians will fall for a sham like this, you need it.



Sydney Shop Girl said...


I was afraid that someone else would think the same as me.

It is a challenging time for the Australian retail industry. Personally, I agree with you. Many of the established Australian bricks and mortar retailers should just not go anywhere near e-tail. Their competition has more product, better prices and can pull of a mean website.

Perhaps the focus should remain on the customer experience in store. Gifts with purchase, VIP events etc.

I don't see my shopping patterns in Australia changing much with the advent of Westfield and DJs online...

SSG xxx

Kate B said...

Here here KK and SG. I just don't think that the Australian retail giants 'get' why we shop online. For me its about variety, price, and lastly convenience.
Sure I shopped online at Country Road yesterday but only because my B&M store would not do an inter store transfer unless I was a VIP customer.
So I went online and got what I wanted + they had 25% off too boot. The unhelpfulness and the lack of range and this flagship CR store was annoying to say the least. These stores have to concentrate on in store customer service or I won't bother leaving the comfort of my home to fight for a car park etc.
I looked at the Westfield site and was singularly unimpressed. It will be interesting to see what DJ's do for their site but I am not hopeful.
Kate Bx

Christine-Louise said...

Well said kitty, perhaps you should alert the new westfield insider (see facebook) to your post..


Miss Kitty-Cat said...

Thanks for your comments girls. I knew I wasn't alone in this tirade!

Semi Expat said...

Miss Kitty - I only shop online from UK or from USA - not Australia but I think you should send this post to the head of shopping on line operations at Westfield... Am sure everyone else feels the same way! Great post.x

Not Quite Nigella said...

Good post Kitty Cat! It doesn't even make sense and is certainly an expensive exercise for them!