Online retailers try to making shopping personal, fun

For people who hate the mall, online shopping has been a lifesaver.

It's allowed them to beat the traffic, avoid the crowds and get something they see as a chore done quickly from the convenience of their home or work computer.

But more and more online retailers are realizing that if they're going to continue to grow, they to need to win over a whole different kind of consumer -- the one who thinks shopping at the mall is fun.

"I think that what makes shopping so fun is the people," Charlene Li, a media analyst at Forrester Research, told a gathering of e-commerce executives in the Sonoma Valley Tuesday.

Millions love shopping just for the experience of spending time with friends, trying on clothes and discussing purchases with sales people, Li said.

By contrast, shopping online remains a largely solitary experience.

But more and more retailers are finding ways to reach out to these fun-loving folks and entertain them once they arrive at their virtual stores, Li said.

High-end handbag retailer Marka, for example, has online videos that show the bags being used and worn by salespeople. This helps transport the online shopper into the store in a way that pointing and clicking on a picture simply cannot.

"It's like walking into a store and someone giving you a private product demonstration," Li said of the videos.

Li was one of the keynote speakers at the annual summit for MarketLive, the Petaluma-based e-commerce software maker.

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