Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Virtual Shopping Realm - Why it works

By Rita Choi

In the past, the online retail space has brought many concerns revolving around the safety, quality and experience of purchasing items on the Internet. However, with more advanced technology and online activities becoming the norm, online shopping may be just what the doctor ordered in times of a recession. Shoppers can be more meticulous and methodical as to what they are purchasing rather than being impulsive in the store.

In addition, many online fashion shopping websites selling multiple brands are ‘taking a more editorial approach’ by designing their pages to look like magazine spreads. Giving shoppers an enhanced experience and relates back to the many magazines where they saw the styles and clothing in the first place.

Although there are many concerns such as quality, sizing and fit, the online sites are become more user friendly with better technology to enhance the shopping experience. For example, sizing charts allow consumers to see what sizes they will be for each specific clothing item as many brands or even pieces of clothing sizes vary in fit. Moreover, each item of clothing is worn by a model so that shoppers can see how the clothing falls and can zoom in to even see the type of fabric the clothing is made of. This may not be as accurate as holding the product in your hand, however it is a vast improvement on the online capacities of the past.

Speaking to the retail value proposition of online shopping, there are many points to outline. First, the convenience factor is obvious. The information is at your fingertips. Rather than traveling to a physical store, searching through stock and worrying about the other shoppers around you, the online space allows consumers to accomplish the same tasks instantaneously. The online shopping experience acts as a brand or company’s own advertising. Consumers can learn more about the products, browse pictures, find complementary items and rate competitors within seconds Most advertising techniques are removed from the actual point of sale as billboards and commercials require actual travel time to the store. Conversely, online shopping immediate.

The selection online is vast and endless. There are many online shopping retailers to fit anyone’s preferences, whether it be high-end to budget to vintage to a specific company’s online store. Many store websites, such as Victoria Secret, actually contain greater selection than what retailers actually have in their inventory. Therefore, one can argue that the selection in the store is sub-par to that of the online space. In addition, first hand one can see the many price-points of similar items across different vendors. Therefore, consumers have the opportunity to be smarter shoppers. Companies can also foresee shipping and manufacturing quantities through pre-ordering. For example, if a clothing item does not hit the stores for another month, but is available online, the retailer can observe how popular the item is and how much to stock based on sales and store geography. Moreover, companies can learn to leverage the online retail space. For example, when the newest Harry Potter edition was published, consumers could reserve their copy to pick up in stores online prior to the date of release. This gave stores like Chapters an edge up on their other online competitors (Amazon) by giving them the ability to get consumers into the store so they could potentially purchase other goods.

Finally, the experience is much different than in the store. It may be difficult to replace the experience of touching clothing items and trying them on. A suggestion is to have comments as what the clothing feels like, the specific fabric count and where it is made in the description of the clothes so consumers have more information.

Clearly, the online retailer has a strong selection and convenience value proposition. Although, some think it is only a fad as consumers need to be in the store to make shopping decisions and purchasing, the trend for the future shows that consumers are getting used to the idea of online shopping (window or purchase) and enjoy the convenience and selection it provides.


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