Visual Merchandising in Online Retailing Based on Physical Retailing Design Principles

Visual Merchandising in Online Retailing Based on Physical Retailing Design Principles

Tony Pittarese (East Tennessee State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-611-7.ch061
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Effective design guidelines aid in the creation of successful online stores. One possible resource to aid in formulating effective online store design guidelines is found in principles and practices of physical retailers. In particular, physical store merchandising techniques provide a significant body of research from which online store guidelines may be constructed. By examining the research literature and common practices of physical retailers, online retailers may glean new and interesting ideas upon which to base guidelines for online store design.
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Study has shown that customer satisfaction in online shopping is based upon the customer’s assessment of various critical factors including site design, convenience (Szymanski & Hise, 2000), and perceptions of usefulness and ease of use (Chen, et al., 2002; Qiu & Li, 2008). One challenge an online store faces is organizing and presenting their products in a way that the customer will find enticing. One potential advantage an online retailer has is its ability to offer customers more products than would be possible in a physical environment, however for this benefit to be fully realized the products must be presented in a manner that enhances the retailer's overall site design and shopper convenience. There is a direct relationship between a customer’s assessment of the aesthetic quality of an online store, and their assessment of the quality and organization of the product information provided on the site (S. Y. Kim & Lim, 2001; Park & Stoel, 2002).

While Kotler coined the term “atmospherics” to describe use of the physical shopping environment to influence customer shopping (Kotler, 1974), Childers originated the term “webmospherics” to describe the same concept in online stores (Childers, et al., 2001) and others have built on that work (Hausman & Siekpe, 2009; Richard, 2005). Presenting large numbers of products tends to create confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed (Huffman & Kahn, 1998). Forcing customers to scroll through long product lists or pages of information is tedious and reflects poor store design (Tilson, Dong, Martin, & Kieke, 1998). The grouping of products into smaller collections and the use of product selection cues such as recommendation systems can reduce confusion and motivate additional product sales (Lee, Kim, & Moon, 2000; Senecal, Kalczynski, & Nantel, 2005). Removing potential confusion and enhancing the enjoyment of shopping is a key element in online retail success (Cai & Xu, 2006; A. D. Cox, Cox, & Anderson, 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Merchandising: activities employed by a retailer to entice consumers to make a purchase

Atmospherics: recognition that the entire physical retail experience influences the purchase process; an attempt to positively control the entire retail environment to motivate purchasing

Visual Merchandising: merchandising activities that particularly focus on the presentation and display of merchandise in a retail setting

Shopping: a shopper’s focused exploration of a retail environment in search of a particular product or type of product; distinct from browsing based on the shopper’s thought process and intent

Webmospherics: application of the concept of atmospherics to web-based shopping; an attempt to control the entire web-shopping experience to motivate online purchasing

Unsought Products: products selected by consumers on the spur of the moment without prior intent and often without full evaluation of the purchase decision; often referred to as impulse purchases

Affinity Positioning: physical placement and combined visual merchandising of products frequently purchased together

Browsing: a shopper’s opportunistic exploration of a retail environment; unfocused navigation and viewing of products

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