LOFTy Expectations

I’m a big fan of LOFT, the lower-cost little sister to the slightly more upscale Ann Taylor, but their most recent sale probably lost me as an online customer.

LOFT ran a big sale Sunday that offered a 70 percent discount off sale items. Who doesn’t love a good deal? The sale expired at midnight, so I started to browse late Sunday evening on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past browsing–the website constantly crashed. This isn’t the first time that LOFT’s website couldn’t handle extra traffic during a big sale.

LOFT Response LOFT’s response to my concerns voiced on social media Sunday night came on Monday morning–hours after the end of the sale–and instead of addressing the issue through that medium, they directed me to call an associate. Around the same time, I received a tone-deaf email advertising a 60% off flash sale email.

LOFT Flash Sale 07142014

I should note that the social media team at LOFT seems to be responsive to customers on its Facebook page. It’s true that I was disappointed that, instead of addressing the problem through social media, LOFT directed me to contact them by phone–an extra step that I didn’t want to take–but their team is just doing their job.

The real problem lies in the fact that marketing, product delivery and customer service aren’t strategically aligned.

Back in the late 1990s, I worked as a sales associate for The Bombay Co.  at our local mall, selling furniture and knick-knacks. One day we got the directive from corporate that metal and glass furniture would be on sale that week, as advertised in local newspapers. The problem? We didn’t have the advertised furniture in stock, and the warehouse had most of the pieces on back order. Marketing didn’t coordinate with product delivery and customer service.

Back then, we only reached customers in person, at the store. But we don’t live in that world anymore, and how companies reach customers continues to expand. This impacts banking as much as it does retail. Kevin Travis, managing director at financial services consulting firm Novantas, talked to me earlier this summer for a story that will appear in the next issue of Bank Director magazine. How customers interact with banks is changing, with more interaction through online, mobile and self-service channels, and the branch changing to a more sales-oriented focus with a smaller footprint. He said that, for many financial institutions, there is a disassociation between the channels. Many customers start online to explore the bank’s products and services but end up in the branch, so there should be a seamless connection between the two (or three, when you factor in mobile).

As a customer, what has LOFT taught me to expect? I’ve learned from past experience that I can’t browse the site during a sale, which is liable to crash on my mobile device. I won’t be compelled to visit their website and take advantage of their next sale when I get an email from them (which I did this morning, for 50% off, today-only).

I’ll still spend money at LOFT; I like their clothes and I like their sales. But I live half an hour away from the nearest LOFT in my area, and as your average busy working mom of two boys, the odds of getting me into a retail store are already slim. I’m going to spend a lot less with LOFT than I would if I was comfortable making an online purchase.

LOFT didn’t just lose a sale–they lost my loyalty.

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