A fully functional and profit-driven product website is supported by an easy-to-use online store and shopping cart. But the form and function of an online store varies based on the size of your company and the type of products you offer. By comparing in-store and online shopping for a multi-category business such as Target, we can analyze which aspects of e-commerce would benefit your brand and website.
So let’s say I’m shopping for a new camera. Under the “electronics” tab on the landing page, I click on “cameras & camcorders” and see multiple camera types. I’ll select the Point & Shoot; it’s small, practical, and easy to manage. Then I’ll narrow options to brand type (I’m partial to Canon). From there I can organize my viewing options based on these options: price, average ratings, best seller, or newest.
Price is an obvious sorting method. When I was buying a laptop for college a couple years back, the store employees continually reminded me, “You get what you pay for.” True in certain situations, but a product in great demand can also warrant a higher sticker price, not necessarily a guarantee of improved functionality, value, or ease of use. The point is that price doesn’t guarantee anything; it only differentiates camera features that you may or may not find useful.
So how do I know which features are most important? If I reorganize by best seller, I can take into account other users’ opinions. Each camera lists reviews, a product demo describing its unique features, and a side panel listing, “guests who viewed this item ultimately bought….” I can also select three cameras to view a side-by-side comparison of features.
All this information, and I’m still unsure which model I want. Target.com has a phone number and email address to contact customer service, but that can defeat the purpose of convenient online shopping. This is where in-store shopping has the advantage. The reliability and expertise of an in-store employee isn’t guaranteed. Yet when we’re faced with as many options as a big-name store like Target offers, having an employee sort out our brand and model preferences can be a relief.
In-store shopping has its drawbacks, too. First off, there’s the difficulty of navigating your way to the camera aisle (conveniently at the back of the store) without getting distracted by the clothing, music, and electronics that would make ideal holiday gifts. Then after explaining what you’re looking for, an employee may try to upsell or confuse you with features you don’t care much about but are persuaded to think you should. I went in searching for the same reasonably-priced Canon point-and-shoot I’d considered online. The employee narrowed down my options, but then he threw me for a loop when he suggested yet another model I hadn’t even considered. I left with no camera in hand, more confused than when I’d arrived.
In regards to in-store and online shopping comparisons, there is no perfect setup. Online shopping is an essential element to turning a profit for your online business, but how you set it up depends on your brand image and offered goods. While Target’s product offerings can be a bit overwhelming, your online business can create a clean, manageable presentation from a smaller store selection.
In sum, a helpful online store should provide category views with narrowing options, customer reviews, photos accompanied by detailed feature descriptions, product comparisons, and obvious promotional deals to incentivize shoppers to buy. Making the buying experience informative, simple, and easy to use will turn browsers into buyers.