When Written: Dec 2009
Around this time of year the media is awash with reports of the increase in on-line shopping and how the traditional high street retail businesses are suffering. This may be true or not but one of the strongholds of traditional shops is when it comes to choosing and buying clothes, the ability to feel and then to try on clothes cannot be duplicated on-line, although the on-line stores are eating into this area with better and better shopping experiences brought about by slick web applications. The majority of web sites that are brought to my attention as good examples of web applications are ones involved in selling in this sector.
On-line shops like www.fiftyplus.com are showing the way to build shopping web applications
A clean modern looking web application is not the only way to sell items like clothes. Major on-line retailers like Play.com and Amazon use a more scatter-gun type of approach with items surrounded by images and links to other items to buy, the ‘other shoppers bought this’ type of thing, but the ability to examine the product is usually limited to an option to view a larger image. This is the on-line equivalent of a shop having its entire product line behind the counter where the customers can see but not examine them. This type of on-line store generally is fine where your customers know what they want like a DVD or CD or need a little description as with books but they fall down with more complex purchases.
An attempt at an on-line 3D virtual shopping mall but one has to ask why?
Another technique of on-line selling is to produce on-line shops to look like 3D virtual representations of bricks and mortar shops and even full implementations of a full 3D shopping mall. Such attempts to produce on-line virtual malls like http://www.skynetvirtualsystems.com.au have met with a fairly luke-warm response. Probably because trying to emulate a real world shopping mall into a virtual world is a bit like teaching a dog to walk on two legs, it’s an interesting experiment but a bit pointless. One reason for this is that emulating the traditional shopping experience of having to move between shops and trying to find things is one experience that most of us would want to remove or reduce. Trying to emulate on-line store techniques in the real world is also not to be recommended. Imagine entering a shop in your high street and then have the shop assistants bring items to you based on what others have bought ? That sounds like a dreadful idea, but this technique not only works well in the on-line world, and most people like it. The shopping experience needs are different between to two worlds and trying to emulate either in the other is a recipe for disaster. That is not to say that either area is perfect and many of the on-line stores certainly need to improve, but improving they are. Many are experimenting with ways to interact with their visitors and build a community. This is something that needs a lot of constant work, just putting the ability for users to post a review or a lame un-boxing video is no longer enough.
Naked Wines combine a community web site with e-commerce to deliver a fuller shopping experience
A very interesting approach to building a community with the aim of selling through it comes from the on-line merchants www.nakedwines.com . This company aims to sell wines with a no fuss attitude hence the ‘naked’ nomenclature. Obviously their aim is to sell you wine, but this seems almost to be a secondary consideration on their web site as they not only work hard at building a community with sponsored vinyards but they also show who is ordering what, in real-time , as well as having videos of their staff, tasting sessions, auctions, recommendations, Bio’s of the growers, the list goes on, the selling is almost incidental, just like any good shop where skilled staff befriend and advise you and before you know you have walked out of the door with twice as much as you went in for. So perhaps it’s about time to think hard about your company’s on-line store. Is it really doing your company justice? Can you improve the shopping experience? Perhaps by building a community you can supply other services to your customers?
Now is the time to plan for next Christmas trading period but don’t kid yourself, building a site like these will cost both in time and money.
If nothing makes your loved one happy, now you can buy it for them
Fed up with Christmas shopping? Now you can go on-line and buy Nothing for all your friends and family – http://www.dothegreenthing.com/buynothing the site has been very well done and is quite a laugh.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton