The online retail industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Every year more and more customers are buying online. Online retailers are doing their best to attract and retain this huge customer base and how they do it mostly depends on the experience of the customer at their online store.
Using technological advances and innovative ideas, the retailers try to differentiate and build brands around their online store. However, most of online stores expect the customer to be tech-savvy and knowledgeable in the features of the product that they want to purchase. Help to online customers is at most relegated to help desks or emails. There is a definite need for retailers to help the customer find products more easily and make informed decisions. This help will not only increase the conversion rate, but can be the branding factor for online retailers.
This paper discusses the concept of enriching the browse and search experience used in most of the online retailing sites by personalizing product selection and comparison for each and every customer who enters the online store. This idea borrowed from the brick and mortar world discusses ways and means of implementing the uncharted boundaries of online retailing to give the best first time experience to the customer. This idea creates an ideal world for the retailer where each and every customer is served by a personal sales associate without the corresponding costs and overheads. This personal sales associate converses with the customer to find their need and accordingly leads them to the right place, either to the right product or to the right information to make informed purchasing decisions.
Online sales sped past the $100-billion-mark in 2003, surpassing all industry expectations. According to The State of Retailing Online 7.0, an annual Shop.org study conducted by Forrester Research of 150 retailers, 2003 online retail sales jumped 51 percent to $114 billion. The study also reported that online sales represent 5.4 percent of all retail sales.
In year 2004, online retail sales are expected to grow 27 percent, to $144 billion. Online sales are expected to reach 6.6 percent of total retail sales in 2004, up from 5.4 percent in 2003.
As the market share of the online sales increase, it becomes extremely critical for online retailers to attract and retain more and more customers to their store.
Online retailers are leveraging technological advances to make online shopping highly interactive. Sites like Lamps Plus, for one, is using rich-media software from Scene7 that allows customers to manipulate high-resolution photos, zooming in to see the texture of fabric, spin products around for a 360-degree view, or sample color swatches. Lamps Plus says the software has helped increase sales on its Web site and from in-store kiosks because customers can get a more realistic idea of a broad range of products.