Atmosphere in Web Retailing

Atmosphere in Web Retailing

What you’ll learn to do: Use nonstore-retailing atmospheric principles to analyze current web retailers

Consider Macy’s, Kohl’s, and JC Penney. They are three huge names in retail. Two of the three of them are over a hundred years old. They’ve withstood the test of time by changing when they needed to, adapting to customers’ needs and behaviors. And yet, for two of the three, their sales are declining year over year:

a graph showing a decline in sales, on the other hand, is enjoying a little bit of prosperity…

a graph showing a gradual increase in sales

Some industry experts predict that brick-and-mortar retail is going to disappear as customers take more and more of their business online. In reality, it’s not likely that brick-and-mortar will disappear. But it’s sure going to change.’s market capitalization is at $400 billion, nearly twice that of its closest competitor, Wal-mart. More than half of shoppers making retail purchases are doing so online, and a good many of them on their smartphones. A 2016 survey indicated that 96% of Americans are shopping online and they allocate 36% of their shopping budget to ecommerce platforms.[1] Ecommerce is not a trend that’s going away.

Owners of brick-and-mortar stores are considering ecommerce to support their current business, to attract that elusive customer too busy to come into the store. Other retailers, like JC Penney, Lowe’s and Home Depot, are adding buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) options to appeal to the shopper that has immediate needs and very little time. And of course, some businesses are just ecommerce platforms, completing transactions in cyberspace and shipping purchases from warehouses.

Regardless of the approach, an ecommerce platform has to be built with customer behaviors in mind. Just like a brick-and-mortar store, a website must provide an engaging and convenient shopping experience in order to be successful.

In this section, we’re going to take a look at how websites employ some of those visual-merchandising type techniques to draw in customers.


  • List the characteristics of an appealing retailer website
  • Describe how web retailers use design features to craft an online store
  • Define UX and the role of user experience in web retailing
  • Examine the advantages and disadvantages of running an online store

Characteristics of Retailing Websites

When a shopper enters a brick-and-mortar store, she reacts to the environment, the layout of the store and the product display to make her buying decision. If she’s online and lands on a website, she’s looking for a list of functions and qualities that are not unlike those we’ve already talked about . . . they’re built into the ecommerce platform to help the shoppers understand the type of product they’re going to get at this site, find what she’s looking for (and a whole lot more), and see examples of how she can use the products you offer.

An appealing retail website isn’t about looks, it’s about shoppability. Here are some of the qualities that make an ecommerce site shoppable.

  • Ease of Use. This is the number one thing shoppers are looking for in an ecommerce site: they want it to be easy to use.
  • Hi-res photos. Shoppers are looking for multiple views of an item in hi-res, so they can see every detail. And we should mention that those hi-res pictures should not take a long time to load. Adobe reports that 39% of consumers will drop off if the photos take too long to load.[2]
  • Mobile-formatted site. An ecommerce site is more successful if it’s friendly to the mobile device user. In fact, Google lowered the boom on sites that aren’t mobile friendly in 2017, and they don’t get the same SEO (search engine optimization) considerations that mobile friendly sites do. That means that your site won’t come up near the top in a Google search.
  • Free shipping. Is it worth it? Customers love free shipping so much that they’ll spend 30% more on average if free shipping is offered.
  • User reviews. When shoppers buy a product they haven’t been able to touch and engage with, they want to hear how other users like it. Encouraging users to give reviews and featuring them prominently is important.
  • Secure payment options. Not only should there be secure payment options, there should be cutting edge payment options. PayPal is passé . . . perhaps ACH, WePay and Skrill are options you want to offer. Customers are always looking for ways to keep their money and identity safe.

Yes, it should be eye-catching and visually attractive, too. Take a look at these two websites:

Which one makes you want to click and see more?

These features above are the “store layout” of the ecommerce platform. Without good ones, your customer won’t stay and shop.