1. Introduction

Electronic Business is aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of an organization by deploying innovative information and communications technology. In the past few years, many businesses have faced the challenge of incorporating e-commerce into their repertoire of services in order to serve their customers 24 hours. However, in establishing an online presence next to their existing physical stores, retailers encounter the difficulty of not being able to use the same format for both online and traditional stores. Although online shopping incorporates many of the same characteristics as traditional one, consumers are in a different frame of mind and have different informational needs when shopping on the Internet or the traditional way. Therefore, it is important to first identify the analogies and differences between traditional shopping features and features of online shopping before setting up a format. In addition, retailers have to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of online shopping compared to traditional shopping to understand consumers’ motives to choose one channel over the other (Monsuwe´, 2004).

2. Virtual Retailing

Schneider (1994) forecasted that in virtual retailing, “being a merchandiser will be far more important and far different than it is in the real world” (p.37). Essentially, in virtual retailing the store will be bypassed. The idea is how the virtual retailer and merchandiser will manage to draw customers into the virtual store and provide them with satisfying shopping experience. It is obvious that simply putting pictures of products from a catalog to a TV screen will not be enough. Many consumers visit stores to satisfy, besides product needs, social or entertainment needs. For that reason, retailers develop community atmospheres in their stores in order to satisfy social or entertainment consumer needs. Therefore, virtual retailing would have to provide to consumers “significantly better, faster, less expensive, or more entertaining shopping experiences” (Schneider, 1994; p.38). Early research results indicate that the use of the Internet for retailing purposes is very promising (Choudrie et al., 1998). Internet has a significant advantage over all other interfaces between retailers and customers since it puts greater power and control on the hands of the customers (Field, 1996).

3. Transference between Online and Traditional selling

Internet shopping fulfills several consumer needs more effectively and efficiently than conventional shopping. Lohse and Spiller (1999) set up a table to provide an overview on how the features of a brick-and-mortar store relate to an Internet store. In Table I we have translated these store-features to features relating to online and traditional shopping.

(Table 1: Adapted from Monsuwe´, 2004)

The table shows that all traditional shopping features are also present in online shopping, but in most cases in a somewhat different form and not always on a level satisfactory to consumers. For instance, Internet shoppers are not able to gain the experience they usually get when shopping the traditional way, e.g. interacting with a salesperson, feeling the atmosphere, and touching or trying the merchandise (Li et al., 1999). In cases where these features are specifically important to consumers, they will choose to engage in traditional shopping over online shopping. Nevertheless, Internet shopping fulfills several consumer needs more effectively and efficiently than conventional shopping (Grewal et al., 2002). First, with online shopping, consumers can browse the entire product-assortment with minimal effort, inconvenience and time investment. Second, consumers can efficiently obtain critical knowledge about firms, products and brands, and thereby increase their competency in making sound decisions while shopping. Third, consumers can easily compare product features, availability, and prices more efficiently and effectively than with brick-and-mortar shopping. Fourth, Internet shopping provides a level of anonymity when shopping for certain sensitive products. Fifth, online shopping offers a high level of convenience for those whose time costs are perceived to be too high to invest in conventional shopping (Grewal et al., 2002). In our opinion, online shopping is not just another way of shopping that provides consumers with the same outcome at the end of the process as, for example, with traditional shopping. Indeed, online shopping provides consumers with added value, but can also withhold them from certain sources of value. As an illustration of this concept, we take the example of e-banking: by using online banking for making transactions or checking their account balance, consumers save time because they don’t have to go to the banking office in person during or after working hours. The precious time they save by e-banking provides them with the opportunity to spend this time on other activities like, for example, sports, leisure, and family and thus create added value through online banking. However, this process also withholds them from sources of value they would get when going to the banking office in person, e.g. the social value of personal contact with banking employees and other clients of the bank (Monsuwe´, 2004).

Thus, there are several reasons for consumers to prefer Internet shopping over “real world shopping”. However, even though these advantages may lead some consumers to prefer online shopping, they are not necessarily choosing one shopping channel over another. Instead, consumers are shopping wherever and whenever it is convenient to them, whether by store, catalog, or Internet (Cyr, 2000). Today’s consumers are multi-channel shoppers, and some occasions prefer traditional off-line shopping to shopping on the Internet (Monsuwe´, 2004). At last we can say that as a distribution medium Internet would be more conducive to selling certain types of products.

4. Factors those Caught My Attention Browsing the Given Links (Question-1)

After browsing the given links specially the Levi Strauss and Lands’ End, I found some good services offered to the customers like personalized mode, customized product, different pay options, home delivery service, after sales feedback form, frequently asked question, description of the product, mode of delivery, etc. These sites creates good interface for its customers to increase sells by providing easy to use options to its customers. Moreover, now a days, some websites provide online customer relationship management through effective web tools.

Attractive Features of the Given Sites

  • Product Description: The website contains product description for each kind of products.
  • Gift Service: Some website provides gift service for their customers.
  • Contact Pages: These websites provide contact information for its customers.
  • Customer Feedback Option: The customer feedback option lets the customer to send their feedback with these web pages
  • Search Function:  The easy to use search function provides different search option to the customers, which saves their potential time.
  • Hierarchical Levels: Hierarchical levels give classified view of products.
  • Navigation Buttons: Navigation buttons and bars are easy to understand and use. Throughout the website navigation is consistent.
  • Index or Site Map: A large site has an index or site map. Throughout the web site, buttons and bars provide the visitor with a clue as to where they are, what page of the site they are currently on.
  • Graphics: The buttons are not big and every graphic has a matching text link. These graphics and backgrounds use browser-safe colors. Animated graphics turn off by themselves.
  • General Design: These pages download quickly. Most of the pages and home page fit into 640 x 460 pixel space. All of the other pages have the immediate visual impact within 640 x 460 pixels.
  • Photo, Subheads, Pull Quotes: Good use of graphic elements such as photos, subheads, pull quotes is used there. Every web page in those sites look like it belongs to the same site; there are repetitive elements that carry throughout the pages.
  • Text Format: Background of these websites does not interrupt the text. The text are big enough to read, but not too big. The hierarchy of information is clear. Columns of text are narrower than in a book to make reading easier on the screen
  • Animations:  Animated icons, scrolling text, and other moving elements are all the range. Having some movement on the web page can indeed be an effective way to call attention to certain elements and to simply liven things up a bit.
  • Opening New Windows: When someone navigates to those pages, a second web browser window opens and displays an advertisement or some other information while maintaining page displays in the first browser window.
  • Banners: Here, author is not talking about advertising banners. There are some other banners those are "fancy" text created. Other banners contain photographs or other images. Banner makes the page more attractive part of the page and also serve to provide an identity to the page.
  • Background: Most web pages use a background, which can be a solid color or pictures. Backgrounds improve the appearance of a page and make these sites look more appealing.
  • Links: There are three kinds of links, external, internal, and bookmark. The external links is to a page on a different web site. An internal link is to a page within the site.  This is particularly true since most web page authoring programs provide a way to detect non-functional links. A bookmark link is a link to a location on the same page. When the user clicks such a link (which looks like any other link), the browser scrolls the page to bring the book marked location into view.  As with internal links, there is no excuse for having non-functional bookmark links on a page.
Join now!

(Source: Pgacon, 2009)

  • Images and Download Time: Most of the pages have too many images. There is a small thumbnail and a large full-size image. Each image is linked to the full-size version. Visitors can download and view only those large images they are interested in.
  • Advertisements: Ads are a seemingly unavoidable part of the websites. Banners are displayed on all sorts of web pages. Author has seen pages where you have to scroll past half a dozen ad banners to get to the main information. It's a real turn-off and a bad idea (Pgacon, 2009).
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