Retailing online or in-store?

Marketers need to stick to basics either way

Date published: 2008-02-25 1:17:19 PM

This Christmas, experts predict, a record 42 per cent of all Canadians will do their shopping online. Yet, even with these encouraging statistics, Canadian businesses continue to shy away from cyberspace.

While many fear embracing e-commerce will mean learning new advertising skills and strategies, researcher Jean-Charles Chebat from the École des hautes études commerciales de Montréal, says marketing principles remain the same, whether you’re selling online or in a bricks-and-mortar store.

First of all, he says, marketing messages and product information must be consistent from one medium to the next.

“For a big purchase like a car, that has a huge impact on a person’s life, shoppers want detailed and precise information. And it really doesn’t matter if that information is on a Web site or in a sales brochure,” says Chebat.

His research also demonstrates that, whether online or in a store, music and colour influence consumer behaviour the same way. Music with a slow tempo, for example, helps people wait patiently for a page to download, just as it eases tension in long lineups at the cash register.

As for colours, Chebat found that, on a business’s home page, yellow and red attract attention, but on pages that present actual products, they are simply distractions. Just like in a store.

“In store windows, vibrant colours attract shoppers by creating a sense of excitement,” explains Chebat. “But, in the aisles, cool colours speed up decision-making.”

The Internet isn’t a separate world after all, and consumer behaviour seems to remain the same.

“A shopper stays a shopper, no matter how or where they do their shopping,” confirms Chebat.

Without a doubt, merchants will be happy to learn that going online doesn’t mean they will have to start from scratch with a brand new marketing strategy. And having a strong Web presence means more profits during Christmas and all through the year.

Jean-Charles Chebat’s research on online marketing and sales is supported by SSHRC’s Standard Research Grants program.