Many atmospherics principles apply to both store and nonstore retailers. However, there are also some distinctions. Let’s look at the storefront, general interior, store layout, displays, and checkout counter from the vantage point of one type of direct marketer, the Web retailer.
STOREFRONT The storefront for a Web retailer is the home page. Thus, it is important that the home page has certain appealing characteristics (see Figure 18-11):
- Prominently shows the company name and indicates the positioning of the firm
- Be inviting (a “virtual storefront” must encourage customers to enter)
- Makes it easy to go into the store
- Shows the product lines carried
- Uses graphics as display windows and icons as access points
- Have a distinctive look and feel
- Includes the retailer’s E-mail address, mailing address, and phone number
- Indicates that the retailer is involved with social media
- Be listed at various search engines
GENERAL INTERIOR As with store retailers, a Web retailer’s general interior sets a shopping mood. Colors run the gamut from plain white backgrounds to stylish black backgrounds. Some firms use audio to generate shopper interest. “Fixtures” relate to how simple or elaborate the Web site looks. “Width of aisles” means how cluttered the site appears and the size of the text and images. The general interior also involves these elements:
- Instructions about how to use the site
- Information about the company
- Product icons
- News items
- The shopping cart (how orders are placed)
- A product search engine
- Locations of physical stores (for multichannel and omnichannel retailers)
- A shopper login for firms that use loyalty programs and track their customers
STORE LAYOUT A Web retailer’s store layout has two components: the layout of each individual Web page and the links to move from page to page. Web retailers spend a lot of time planning the traffic flow for their stores. Online consumers want to shop efficiently, and they get impatient if the “store” is not laid out properly.
Some online firms use a gridiron approach, whereas others have more free-flowing Web pages and links. Web retailers often have a directory on the home page indicating product categories. Shoppers click on an icon to enter the area of the site housing the category (department) of interest. Many retailers encourage customers to shop for any product from any section of the Web site by having an interactive search engine, whereby a person types in the product name or category and is automatically sent to the relevant Web page. As with physical stores, online retailers allocate more display space to popular products and brands—and give them a better position. On pages that require scrolling down, best-sellers usually appear at the top and slower-sellers at the bottom.
DISPLAYS Web retailers can display full product assortments or let shoppers choose from tailored assortments. This decision affects the open or cluttered appearance of a site, the level of choice,m and possible shopper confusion. Online firms often use special themes, such as Valentine’s Day. It is easy for them to show ensembles—and for shoppers to interactively mix and match to create their own ensembles. Through graphics and photos, a site can give the appearance of cut cases and dump bins for items on sale.
CHECKOUT COUNTER The checkout process at a Web site can be complex: (1) Online shoppers worry more about the security and privacy of purchase transactions than those buying in a store. (2) Online shoppers often work harder to complete transactions. They must carefully enter the model number and quantity, as well as their shipping address, E-mail address, shipping preference, and credit card number. They may also be asked for their phone number, job title, and so on, because some retailers want to build their data bases. (3) Online shoppers may feel surprised by shipping and handling fees, if these fees are not revealed until they go to checkout.
To simplify matters, Amazon.com has a patented checkout process—a major competitive advantage. Amazon.com’s “1-Click” program lets shoppers securely store their shipping address, preferred shipping method, and credit card information. Each purchase requires just one click to set up an order form.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS Let’s examine two other issues: how to set up a proper Web site and the advantages and disadvantages of Web atmospherics versus those of traditional stores.
New online retailers often have little experience with Web design or the fundamentals of store design and layout. These firms typically hire specialists to design their sites. When business grows, they may take Web design in-house. These are a few of the many firms that design online stores for small retailers: Easy Store Creator (www.easystorecreator.com); Volusion (www .volusion.com/ecommerce-web-design); Webfodder (www.webfodder.com); and Wix (www.wix .com/ecommerce/website). Wix design and hosting costs for an E-commerce store (www.wix.com/ upgrade/website) are as low as $17 monthly (if one year is paid in advance).
Compared with physical stores, online stores have several advantages. A Web site:
- Has a huge amount of space (memory) to present product assortments, displays, and information
- Can be tailored to the individual customer
- Can be modified daily (or even hourly) to reflect changes in demand, new offerings from suppliers, and competitors’ actions
- Can promote cross-merchandising and impulse purchases with little shopper effort
- Enables a shopper to enter and exit an online store in a matter of minutes
- Is a good gateway to company-run social media sites
Online stores also have potential disadvantages. A Web site:
- Can be confusing. How many clicks must a shopper make from the time he or she enters a site until a purchase is made?
- Cannot display the three-dimensional aspects of products as well as physical stores.
- Requires constant updating to reflect stockouts, new merchandise, and price changes.
- Is more likely to be exited without a purchase. It is easy to visit another Web site.
- Can be slow for shoppers with poor Internet connections. In this case, the situation worsens as more graphics and video clips are added. [Note: With the widespread use of broadband connections, this is not much of an issue today.]
Source: Barry Berman, Joel R Evans, Patrali Chatterjee (2017), Retail Management: A Strategic Approach, Pearson; 13th edition.