I recently visited the US, and as I was unpacking, I realized that I didn’t have too many diapers. I took my mom’s phone, ordered diapers on Amazon.com and by the afternoon, they were delivered right to her door. I spent three minutes placing the order and like magic, they just showed up. I didn’t even need to walk outside!
Then the next day I realized that I misplaced my computer charger. I needed it urgently and I was debating whether I should go to the store to pick it up. Sure enough, I checked on Amazon and I would be able to get it the next day. Yet again, I clicked a few buttons, and the charger showed up just a mere 24 hours later. Besides loving the fact that I could basically get anything I wanted with the click of a few buttons (and very quickly), as a busy mom of six, with a full-time job, I really loved the idea of how much time I could save if I could order everything online.
As I compare these experiences to my own at home in Israel, I am really bothered by the lack of e-commerce. Israel is a leader in technology and 21st-century living. We built Waze, Wix, and Mobileye. The ability to buy online would save hours of time a month. While my recent trip to the US did lead me to ponder this question recently, the truth is that I have been thinking about e-commerce in Israel for a while. It seems like we are on the verge of getting there and need a few key changes to make it a reality. The below ideas are really based on my own observations, so feel free to comment below if you have any other ideas.
Israelis are known for always trying to bargain for a better price. I believe this is one of the reasons why they would rather go to the store than buy something on the internet. While I don’t think this mentality is solely holding back Israeli e-commerce, it is not helping it.
The biggest obstacles that I think are preventing e-commerce is shipping and returns.
In Israel, deliveries go to a post office box. First, you must go to that mailbox (which for many Israeli’s is not right outside their doors) to get a slip of paper telling you that your product has arrived. Once you get the piece of paper with your package number, you must get to the post office which requires you to leave the house. Another issue is the hours of the post offices here. Where I come from, the post office is open for an hour, once a day, and each day is a different time. For anyone working full time, this poses a huge problem as the one hour falls during the work day. The point here, is that not only does this require you to venture out of your home twice to get your package, but it takes up a lot of time. There is no question that ordering something straight to your door is much simpler. I have ordered from places like Next that have free shipping to Israel. It was great, except for the fact that I had to leave my house to get the package. It took about 10 days to receive it. The shipping is from the UK, so the time for delivery was pretty good considering the location, but the concept of getting something right away here does not exist.
Despite all these annoyances, there are a few examples that I personally have experienced in Israel which has shown me that e-commerce is in its infancy stages.
Example One: I usually order ink from a store online, which now offers free delivery the next day (via ups), but you must call them to place the order.
Example 2: Golf has a new ecommerce website that allows you to order items straight to your door. To be fair, I have never ordered from them and it is only 19 shekels for shipping.
Example 3: Groupon has to the door delivery service, but it is a hefty fee and depending on the price and urgency of the items, not always worth it.
My favorite is Supersol – your groceries are delivered right into your house and they have amazing customer support which I will get to later.
So, how do we get companies to have ecommerce sites that consumers can order items from and have them delivered straight to them? My idea is as follows:
A brick and mortar that has room for the storage should have an option like Amazon Prime, where you pay a set yearly fee and you can order unlimited packages to be delivered to your door. Obviously, the logistics need to be hammered out, but home delivery would be a` game changer. This phenomenon of free shipping to your door, has a long way to go.
Now that we have looked at the shipping issues, let’s look at returns, as I think this also affects why e-commerce is lacking here in Israel.
Simply put, Israel has subpar return policies, and customer service leaves much to be desired. It is rare to be able to return something and get your money back in full. Yes, there are return policies, but there is a very short time limit and I don’t think I have ever succeeded in getting cash back. I usually end up with store credit. This week while in the US, I ordered 10 shirts, each in 2 sizes because I was not sure what would fit me. A few days later, I returned the half that did not fit and got my money back with no questions asked. This concept does not exist in Israel. People are apprehensive about ordering on the internet if they can’t return it for their money back.
I recently entered a small clothing shop and asked them if they would be interested in building an e-commerce website and their response was unbelievable. “We just don’t think that these things will sell on the internet, people must see it and try it on”. I wanted to scream – “Have you heard of Gap, Old Navy, Jcrew or any of the other multi-million-dollar companies that sell clothing online – they have figured out how to make it work”. I think the mentality here is different and needs to change before e-commerce can succeed.
I think new advances regarding e-commerce in Israel have been made, but there is still a long way to go. Just doing some research for this blog, I was shocked to see how many good websites there are that you could order online from; I guess I need to test those out. (I hope it ships to my door and has good return policies!).
I think once the shipping and return issues are solved, e-commerce can be a real part of everyday life. I look forward to the day where I don’t need to get into my car, drive to the store, park in the mall (which is always crowded), get a shopping cart, push it around the store, stand in the checkout line, checkout, pack my bags, pack everything into my car, drive home, take everything out of my car into my house and unpack it. Whoo, I am exhausted!