Technical and Hedonistic Variables of Online Visual Merchandising: Do They Influence Apparel Website Popularity and Attractiveness?

Technical and Hedonistic Variables of Online Visual Merchandising: Do They Influence Apparel Website Popularity and Attractiveness?

Alessandro Bigi (Verona University, Italy), Michelle Bonera (Università degli studi di Brescia, Italy) and Elisabetta Corvi (Università degli studi di Brescia, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1412-2.ch017

Abstract

This study looks for a correlation between visual hedonistic and technical variables and site success, simultaneously establishing whether there are any recorded evolutionary aspects of technical variables. A mixed method approach was adopted and the analysis was divided into the following phases: content analysis on technical and hedonistic characteristics; traffic analysis, analysis of the position of websites in relation to data traffic using a size reduction technique; cross-analysis of results obtained in the two previous phases to observe the cluster structure from a point of view of data traffic. The results state that there is no clear correlation between technical and hedonistic qualities of an e-commerce site in the apparel industry and the popularity and attractiveness of their site, and therefore, the authors cannot confirm the four proposed hypotheses.
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Introduction

There are certain fundamental factors in the retail mix, including; assortment, price, communication, and location. In particular, for in-store communication, visual merchandising plays a fundamental role. However, there has been a recent shift towards an omnichannel approach due to the need for retailers for greater integration between company areas, such as marketing, innovations, and customer services. Consequently, an important question is, ‘are the same factors involved in the success of both online and offline stores? More specifically, ‘is it possible to state that the role of visual online sales is the same as an offline sales point? Here, the authors looked for a correlation between visual hedonistic and technical variables and site success, simultaneous establishing whether there are any recorded evolutionary aspects of technical variables.

Recently, research has analyzed different variables that can affect the propensity of consumers to buy clothing online (Choi, 2016; Cho and Workman, 2015; Merle et al., 2012; Hagberg et al., 2016; Melis, et al., 2015; Sundström et al., 2019). According to Shala and Balay (2016), the success of online channels depends on their quality of service. The main factor that influences these authors is the perceived risk of consumers of the lack of “materiality” of stores. This, in turn, induces customers to buy online only based on knowledge of the product’s brand. The term “quality of service” refers to the value gap between consumers' expectations regarding service and the actual perception of this service after the purchase experience (Parasuraman et al., 1985).

To measure the quality of electronic services, defined in the eTail Quality study, the following aspects were taken into consideration (Shala and Balay 2016):

  • Satisfaction/reliability, the visualization, and accurate description of the product reassuring consumers to order what they want (Wolfinbarger and Gilly 2003).

  • Website design, all relevant elements for a positive virtual experience, such as smooth navigation, information search, order processing, the possibility of personalization, and selection of products.

  • Customer service, the care that online sellers show in offering consumers immediate solutions to problems that the customer may encounter while browsing (Wolfinbarger and Gilly 2003).

  • Security/privacy, the security level of credit card payments, and consumer data protection.

Cho and Workman (2011) analyzed on the other hand, how consumers prefer to buy items of clothing in physical stores or online in relation to the need to touch products (need for touch), the aesthetic centrality of the product and genre. According to these authors, consumers who have a great need to have a tactile examination of the product will go exclusively to physical stores and will never be an online target.

From their study, it also emerged that:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Omnichannel Approach: The synergetic management of the numerous available channels and customer touchpoints.

Atmospheric Characteristics: Are used to create differences in retail environments to maintain a competitive advantage, they refer to the online store environment that influences consumers’ emotional and cognitive states.

High Task-Relevant Cues: Include the web features, such as verbal and pictorial information, that facilitate and enable the consumer's shopping goal accomplishment.

Cluster Analysis: The classification of similar objects (people, companies, etc.) into groups.

Content Analysis: A research technique for the systematic examination of communicative material.

Low Task-Relevant Cues: Such as colors, borders and background patterns, fonts, animation, music, icons, pictures for decorative purpose, have a high impact on the overall image and atmosphere of the website but are not strongly connected with the purchasing goal.

Online Visual Merchandising: The strategic staging of a company and its products to interest consumers and facilitate purchasing.

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