An Evaluation of Multichannel Shopping at PetSmart

Shopping Experience

Placing an order on petsmart.com is fast and easy either by clicking through the menu or searching on key words for the desired item(s) (Figure 1). Results can be filtered by the product’s features, brand, price, and whether it’s on sale, new, or available only online. Many products have additional options, such as flavor or weight. Fortunately, these additional options do not have a default set, so the shopper will be forced to choose the option before it will be added to the cart minimizing the chance of ordering the wrong item (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Navigational Options
Figure 2: Product Filters and Options

While the experience overall was satisfactory, there are several caveats to be aware of. First, it is important to check the preferred location’s inventory. In this case, for example, while the preferred location is less than 4 miles away, the next nearest one is over 10 miles in the other direction and would require traveling across town through a highly congested urban area. Consequently, to avoid going to a more distant and much less convenient location, it may be necessary to identify acceptable substitutes. For example, if the preferred location is out of large boxes of cat litter, it may be necessary to get multiple smaller boxes keeping in mind that down-sizing may result in a higher price per lb. (Figure 3 and 4).

Figure 3: Check Store Availability
Figure 4: Item Out of Stock at Preferred Store

Second, as is typical of online retailers, PetSmart (2015c) has a webpage that outlines the terms and conditions regarding the use of its website and the term of interest here is the company’s right to limit order quantities. Such limitations are generally imposed as a means to balance product availability between online and in-store shoppers, but also to prevent dealers from depleting inventory and reselling it for their own benefit. Generally, this is not a problem for consumers. However, it is prudent to check that the allowed quantity is sufficient.

Third, discrepancies between what is reported on the website as available at a particular location and what that location actually has may occur and may not be discovered until it is time for pickup. For example, after placing an order of a dozen ¾ lb. packages of salmon treats (kitties’ favorite flavor), it was discovered upon arrival that the store only had 11 packages. Rather than process a refund, the store manager offered a substitute of greater value. In this case, the substitute was two ¾-lb. packages of chicken treats (their second favorite) for the price of one. Certainly such practices contribute to inventory discrepancies; however the manager was rightfully more concerned with customer satisfaction and expediency, both of which may have been less than satisfactory if further processing resulted in a longer than desirable wait. As a final point, to protect consumers, retailers expect that the person placing the order will be the one picking it up as well. While PetSmart allows the purchaser to authorize a third party to pick up the order, the option is at checkout and appears after establishing the payment method, which is a bit late in the process. The option also is not all that prominently displayed making it easy to forget to do potentially causing logistical problems. For example, if the purchaser is expecting the delegate to pick up the order on his or her way to or from somewhere and forgets to indicate that before submitting the order, the store may refuse to release the order to that person. Further, consideration should be given to the possibility that the delegate may need the authority to decide to accept a substitute or wait for a refund in the event the order is incomplete. In this case, the order was ready for pickup within an hour of placing it and although it was incomplete, the substitution of two for the price of one chicken treats more than compensated for what was considered a minor inventory glitch. The pickup process was quick and hassle-free and took place in under five minutes. Most of that time was spent ensuring the order was fulfilled and loading the car, which was done by store personnel who were eager to assist.

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