Online offers endless space, but is e-commerce filling it effectively? Retailers must apply the same visual pizzazz to online windows as they do offline, or risk losing customers
E-commerce is the fastest-evolving sales medium of our age. Ten years ago many in the retail industry were doubtful that shoppers would engage with the concept of buying fashion online yet today shoes, clothes and accessories are one of the most expansive e-commerce markets, accounting for more than 4m searches per month on eBay alone (source: eBay Shareholder.com: July 2011).
The success of the online platform is considered a major retail innovation but it is important to keep in mind one overriding condition that governs success in sales – conversion rates. Online, a retailer can expect from 2-4 per cent of site visitors to complete a transaction. Liken that figure to the 10-15 per cent that traditional catalogue shopping generates and it starts to look pretty meagre.
In an offline world high-street vendors display their goods according to the principles of visual merchandising, which has itself become a science. They strive to understand consumer habits, how to excite and engage a prospective shopper. Similarly, catalogue retailers appreciate that product positioning and presentation is crucial, involving imaginative photography and innovative design. In both cases, visual merchandising becomes key to communicating brand values.
Effective product imagery is a vital component in an online retailer’s multi-channel approach and must be delivered in a way that compels customer engagement. Effective product presentation needs to be evocative in a fast-moving virtual environment where images are channelled from on-site public domains directly to individuals’ online personas via smartphones, tablets and interactive touch screens.
Why, with a wealth of experience and understanding in offline customer behaviour, would retailers be content to market their products with small, uninspiring images online? In a highly competitive sphere it is not good enough to simply be represented but to utilise thoughtful, powerful and engaging online display.
The few e-retailers who have openly acknowledged the need for innovation are now recognised as market leaders, companies such as Next, Asos and H&M. WMpS is a company that has been working with leading retailers to deliver double-digit online conversions through a unique approach to online visual merchandising. The Rich Collections is an innovative product presentation solution that maximises image assets by placing products in context for shoppers in a way that is both striking and relevant. When complemented with existing strategies Rich Collections can deliver increased RO I and help define online brand identities.
Despite the perpetual advancements of modern technologies, the progression in online merchandising has become conservative. Yet the consumer continues to demand more from retailers. So isn’t it time retailers learnt from the past – diversified and delivered the online experience customers deserve through creative, communicative and engaging visual display? Well, perhaps with a little help from us, they can.
WMpS is a multi-channel solutions provider. For more information on Rich Collections, contact Beth Gray
0845 862 0416