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I thought I would pose this question to the tribe, as many of you have made several online purchases for those hard to find and not so hard to find items.

I have had lots of good transactions and a few bad. I am curious about a few things…

Regarding online fishing based websites (no eBay) what have you experienced?


What impressed you?
What disappointed you?
What don't you see stores doing that you would like to see?


How important is reliable inventory?
How important is fast shipping?
Are you going to buy more if shipping is free?
Would you like to see a continuity program (buy 10 get one free)?
Is an easy to navigate website important?

Curious to see what you see as being important.

Thanks in advance


B
 

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Flat rate shipping fees...GRRRRRR

I do quite a bit of buying on line, now mostly from Europe and the UK. I used to do some of my shopping in the USA, but many US shops, big and small, have started using a flat rate shipping fee policy. I don't mind paying for postage, not at all, but when the fee is in the minimum $30.00 range, I balk. Recently I cancelled small orders for hooks, feathers, and poly leaders because of this policy. When an item will fit into an envelope, and someone reasonable is willing to ship for the actual cost, why overcharge your over-the-border customers? One seller actually asked for paid travel time to take my package of hooks to the US Post Office. Customer service should be factored into your business costs and covered by your markup. Making a huge profit on shipping isn't good customer service. My opinion, of course. Real life example: two 14' Snowbee poly leaders. Shipping quote from Idaho, $31.00 to B.C. Shipping quote from England, £1.80 (about $3.25) to B.C. I went with the UK seller...
 

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Buying flies online

I bought 40 or so flies from discountflies.comand was really impressed on how good the quality of those flies are.
Better than one of my local fly shops surprisingly.They are very cheap but well tied and good materials.
If shipping was free i would buy a lot more but then again it was like 6,50 for shipping from Ohio(i think)to BC.
Would be better if local shops carried flies that cheap.

NSB
 

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I buy fishing stuff online all the time, not only in the US, but overseas as well. Some things you just can't find here, such as Sawada running line. My orders from Japan only took a week--better than some domestic shippers. Likewise some reels purchased in Sweden. It really is turning into a global marketplace--not always great for traditional retailers, but it makes things available that were never readily available otherwise.

All in all, my experiences online have been trouble free.
 

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A few observations based on on-line purchases (not necessarily fly trying stuff or fishing related)

-Shipping from Canada is expensive usually unless you can fit it into a regular sized envelope. Combined shipping option is decent and represents fair value to the customer.

-Buying from the US into Canada, from some vendors, you might as well be trying to import hash into Iran.

-I bought some feathers from a link someone posted and they sucked balls. What's funny, is they asked for a review as they were convinced their crappy grade 3 feathers were some kind of smoking deal. They weren't worth a dime more than what I paid at the super duper introductory price (bs). First, only and last purchase from me there.

- Being in Canada, some people will have expectations of super fast shipping and anyone from Canada who has ever bought something from the US knows that it is going to take a couple of weeks. My own experience dealing with some people on-line who ordered something and expected to have it within 10 minutes of them ordering ( it was an e-file). This guy didnt understand that I had to have payment confirmation from paypal first before I was even going to process his order. That didn't account for the time it took for me to customise his order either. Yet I couldn't tell him that the world didn't revolve around his suite in his parent basement. Let people know what they are getting into. Don't make promises that you can't deliver on. Be reasonable on shipping costs, but don't pretend to make it free as that simply means the cost is buried elsewhere.

- There is one very well known feather merchant who has the the worst website imaginable. Trying to navigate around in it is akin to giving yourself a lobotomy using a mirror to guide yourself while high on 'shrooms. I usually last about 5 minutes before I call it quits. Its clear he knows nothing about websites and doesn't care that his is one of the worst. Its only because he has probably the best product available that people deal with the painful experience of his website. An easily navigable website is an absolute must. A couple of payment options would be nice. ie something to help get away from paypal like e-transfer(?) Decent packaging is a must.

- have prompt service and respond to people at least in a reasonable time frame. For example; I'm trying to purchase a particular wood working tool right now and so far this small company has taken over a week to reply to 2 questions via email. So I called them up. I have told them I want to purchase their product yet the dime still hasn't dropped. Maybe they don't want to sell me anything because that is how its beginning to feel.

- if you are out of stock, don't make the buyer fill all the account and purchase order forms out etc etc only to find out after 10 minutes of bs that you are out of stock. Say so right there where the product description is. Being able to do that is going to be dependant on you being able to update your website yourself and if the software allows it. Some page templates won't allow it. There is a lot to be said about what kind of software and program you use. Also, having an up to date website is important. Again don't make promises that you can make good on. ie estimated time of availability. It is available when you have it in your hands and not when someone says they will ship it to you by. Be accurate and honest in your product description. Don't call a 2x3" patch of chewed up grade 3 hackles first rate best available blah blah..
 

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I agree with ral on everything said, especially about that particular site (I'm guessing I know the one because I do the same thing). When it comes to feathers and I need quality at a good price in a timely manner I fall back on Ostoj, never had anything but a perfect experience with him. I do a lot of eBay stuff, that is hit or miss and you must be willing to get crap in order to find that occasional steal... I'm just rambling now, ral covered all bases IMO
 

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Flat rate shipping GRRRRRR is right. That's why I like Bear's Den for items I can get from there. Their website isn't the greatest, but shipping is fast and at cost. I've been very happy with them so far.

As far as shipping speed goes, sometimes it's important. One of the larger online tying material business is in my home state. I used to place an order in the morning and, often times, get it the next business day. I did pay a flat $5 for shipping, but it was less than gas would cost if it were possible to drive there and buy direct. Then they started doing weird things with shipping and it takes up to a week to get stuff even though they're only a 90 minute drive. That's very annoying to me and I don't do business there too often anymore.

A good website is really important, especially when I have to buy a lot of small items.
 

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I bought some tying material from a well known guide in southern Oregon this past thanksgiving.........haven't seen hide nor hair of it. I got one email from him five weeks ago saying my order would go out that week.........NOT. Wont even do me the courtesy of returning my emails. Being so blatantly stiffed, especially by such a revered name in the industry is a first for me. Made quite an impression....a bad one.
 

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I live a ways away from a good fly shop, so I tend to buy online from a few places, or members here, and generally the same stores I buy from in person when I am in the area.

I agree with the no flat shipping rate deal.

Reliable inventory is important. I like to know whether you have it or not, not "you can order it still because we can get it". If you don't stock a particular item, mention that it will take extra days to have it shipped out, and make it clear before I place the order. Also, have real pictures of more expensive items, as opposed to cut and paste images from the manufacture website.

Fast shipping is fairly important, and really the norm if you want to be competitive. I would expect to likely pay a little more of course. Having two options for speed with a lesser priced option is nice when you don't need it fast.

Free shipping over a certain amount of purchase is a sneaky move to get people to buy more. Of course, I am not immune to that, so I would say its a good idea.

Its nice to get something free thats useful if you spend a certain amount. This often happens when you go into a shop, so why not online?

The biggest for me is a decent,CLEAN website. So many online fly shops have poor websites, especially in BC. Lots of outdated links, questionable inventory, hard to navigate ect. All the stores I phone in and place my order because I don't like the online portion of their website.

Lots of sites have blogs to go along with them and showcase some of the products, but make sure you either update it somewhat regularly, or just don't have one. Nothing says "don't want to enter credit card number into this site" then a cluttered, outdated website that looks like it has no activity.

Have good companies. Obvious I guess, but I like when its clear that a store takes a bit of pride in carrying quality products, local brands and supports business that care about the environment and the sport.
 

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Brood,

I was going to pass on chiming in but I guess I'm never short on words.

First and foremost there is no such thing as true retail in the fly fishing industry! It's sad that you can go to any shop and pay the same amount for certain items no matter where the shop is located. I have already gone in detail about this on many occasions and have agreed to disagree with most of the brands out there.

I shop almost 100% online. There are very few fly shops out there that separate themselves from another one in the city or even state.

First price very rarely plays any role in my decision to purchase. I have a need and I go to where I know they have the item and make the purchase. Now that being said I do know the value of the items in question and I know when it's overpriced so price accordingly to the item. If it's something hard to find or in limited quantities you price accordingly, if not price fairly.

Web site should be easy to navigate and keep newcomers coming back for more. Fly patterns, interesting articles, pictures, new ideas and new products are some examples of what brings people back for more.

I do not mind paying shipping fees, shipping product is never free so why give that away but charge only what you are charged and keep it on a level playing field. Giving free shipping over certain amount is fine but again I rarely balk at shipping. I'm there because of what you have to offer that is hard to find or just not offered other places. Im there because I know you and have trust in you and your products.

Keep big name stuff out of the equation. I can buy Simms or Patagonia anywhere for the same price and you don't need to get trapped into a purchase agreement with one of these companies.

Separating yourself from others is what will make you successful. Look at other sites find out what they are missing, be different. Offer what you know. Specialize in a certain target group, thinning yourself will be the death of you.

Most importantly use the network. They will tell you what we want, what we can't find and what we are willing to pay a premium for so use this site and other like LinkedIn, Facebook, Gagein, Twitter.

I am no longer in the retail business but that is what I grew up on and I now am a outside sales manager so sales has been in my blood.

The most important piece of advice I can give is listen to your customers, I mean really listen. Very seldom do people really listen anymore, they say they do but only hear a small percentage of what the person really is saying. Your customer will be your marketing department and steer you in directions that will make you unique and eventually successful.

If you would like to talk more in detail please PM me I would be more than happy to share whatever I may offer be it good or not.

KC
 

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The on-line retailers I like best:

1) Offer materials that they have hand selected, processed, or packaged themselves. I can get the national brand name, pre-packaged stuff anywhere, and it's all the same quality - a few good pieces in a package, mostly middling quality, and a few bad pieces. I'm willing to pay considerably more to get 100% high quality stuff that has been selected (or better yet, dyed and packaged) by a person who actually ties, fishes, and knows what a fellow tier and angler would appreciate.

2) Have web sites that are easy to navigate with good pictures of the items I am buying in all the colors they offer. If you offer it in bright red, brick red, fire red, and vermillion, I want to see pictures of the actual fur, feathers, or whatever in those colors.

3) Charge reasonable shipping prices, and/or use shipping as an incentive. I like the idea of charging a nominal flat fee based on order size. One of my favorite suppliers charges $5.00 on orders under $100, $0.00 on order over $100.00. Another place does the same thing, except the threshold is $50.00. That is often enough incentive for me to take my $30.00 order and throw in a few more things to get it to $50.00.

5) E-mail me a UPS or FED Ex tracking number so I can see where my stuff is or track it down if it gets lost en route.

6) Reward me for my loyalty. For every dollar I spend, I get points that I can redeem on merchandise in future orders. In all honesty, it doesn't have to be huge; it's just nice to get that pleasant surprise at check out.
 

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I do most of my online shopping with shops in the PNW that have websites. Most I order from offer free shipping after $25-75 to the US. Free shipping is a huge perk for me and gets my business first. Inventory I can deal with if the backorder isnt a year out. I ordered from a large shop in the midwest and had to pay shipping. On top of that some highly touted items as "the best available" and "double the competitions quantity" ended up being standard stuff I could order just about anywhere. They also were out of stock of an item and without informing me cancelled it. Not until I got the package and checked the packing list did I see this. I also had to request tracking information and status that the item had even shipped! I had a gift card, had I not I probably wouldnt have ordered from them. I never will again. On top of that website navigation was terrible.
 
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