I was at my desk working late at night, and the light bulb blows. Intuitively, I click to the Amazon website, type in “light bulbs”, and get 1.5 million hits. I look at the bestseller, and think to myself that it looks about right. I select it, add to my cart, and select check out. Because the light bulb is on the Amazon Prime list, it would arrive in two days time at my door step and I didn’t have to pay a cent for shipping. All that in less than two minutes.
We have been spoilt by the online shopping experience in the United States. With so many retailers competing across the whole of the United States, we the consumers are the main beneficiaries, with lower prices and incredibly short delivery times. Online retailers such as Amazon have made going to the stores almost redundant, and malls across the United States are going bust.
Although I don’t think that Singapore malls were going bust anytime soon, I was exhilarated to find out that we were going to get our own online bookstore – NoQ store, the e-commerce arm of Times bookstore. We love books and we love hanging out at bookstores. It is a pity these days that there are less and less physical bookstores due to alternative print such as digital books. We were very sad when a large bookstore chain at Wheelock Place closed its doors due to bankruptcy. So, we are glad that an old brand like the Times Bookstores survived the competition and is now expanding into online retailing. One of our favourite hangouts in Singapore is the little Times Bookstore at Changi Airport. My husband and I would sit by the cafeteria opposite the store sipping our kopi-O while the kids spend hours at the bookstore flipping through books.
So when NoQ store asked me to review their online store, I jumped at the chance. After all, I would get a couple of shopping vouchers at NoQ Store to buy books. I decided to look for Malcolm’s school textbooks as those were probably what we needed most. Finding the textbooks was a breeze, and soon they were all in the shopping cart. And since Father’s day was round the corner, I decided to find some of the books from my husband’s wishlist of about 20 titles. Because it was an online store, I could do all these while we were still in the States!
The NoQ Store search interface was usable and the selection of books was wide. There was hardly a book that I could not find. As long as you exceed $25 for your orders in Singapore, you get free shipping. Furthermore, NoQ claims that the prices are cheaper than in any physical bookstore and they are willing to backup their claim with a Price Guaranteed Program where they would refund you the difference if you can find the same item selling more cheaply in a physical bookstore. Delivery time in Singapore is estimated to be 7-14 working days. So if you want your book in a hurry, go to the bookstore and buy it. If you are willing to wait, get it online at a better price.
After the couple of pluses there, I must mention one important area for improvement. One of the most amazing aspects of online shopping in the US was the short delivery times. Amazon.com delivered many items in two business days. Zappos delivered the next business day, and even offer free returns for all its items. Yes, that means if you don’t like the item, you print out a return label, stick it on the box, and send it back to Zappos free of charge. We have been thoroughly spoilt by this experience, and so 7-14 working days felt like a really really long time. 14 working days could mean that the book is delivered three weeks from the date of order. I think many of us would be put off by the long waiting time, and would not mind paying the premium to get the book from the bookstore. After all, being a woman, most of my purchases are spontaneous and spurred by my intense need for (nearly) instant gratification.
To be fair to NoQ Store, this is a great step forward. Amazon was not built overnight, and they suffered teething problems in the beginning and many many years of negative earnings. I would say that the key to improving the shopping experience at NoQ is to substantially improve the delivery times. Perhaps one day, I would be ordering light bulbs from the NoQ Store too.
Get a 15% discount at NoQ Store
From now till 31 July, NoQ Store has generously offered a 15% discount to all readers here when they use the coupon code MALMAL at their online store.
So go grab some books for the kids this coming school holiday!