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Another emotional need that wasn’t addressed well by early e-commerce sites was need for mastery. You see, I’d mastered a large raft of skills to do with shopping offline, in real world, in real shops. In many virtual shops though, I felt de-skilled. Rather than online shopping being as much as possible like offline shopping, many virtual shops were designed on a computer world somewhere beyond Mars it seemed. I wanted to offer some of earliest online shop designers some advice. ‘Keep it simple and, above all, keep it familiar,’ I wanted to say.
Let’s turn now to emotions of shopping itself. Specifically, emotions associated with buying various commodities. In early days of online shopping, I sensed that selection of goods for sale was more to do with what could be sold over Internet very easily, rather than what could be sold over Internet. Boxed software, with little ‘personality’ and shipped simply, was a ubiquitous offering. Very few online shops though offered kind of big, expensive products that often require multi-sensory approaches whilst shopping.
When working in offices, we seek security of manipulating tangible objects like paper invoices and sales reports. Likewise, when shopping, we seek security provided by stroking settees, smelling their leather covers and listening to noises they make as we sink into them. To address esteem needs associated with ‘prestige purchases’ many online shops still have some way to go, even today. Thumbnail colour photographs for such items are insufficient I’m afraid, chaps.
So, what have we learnt from this essay about emotions of online shopping? In my humble opinion, online shopping requires further attention in a number of key areas, if it is to fulfil its potential:
* Journalists and pundits have roles to play in ensuring there is no complacency regarding personal and financial security of online transactions. At same time, e-commerce industry must remain proactive in its pursuit of secure purchases, free from fraud and trickery. * Online shops should implement, where necessary, friendly forums and like, which allow free exchange of concerns and ideas amongst shops and their customers. * Online shops should be designed by people who live in real world. The online shopping experience should mimic as far as possible offline shopping experience that shoppers know and trust. Prototypes of new shops should be tested with potential shoppers from all backgrounds, including age, gender, race, ability, language etc. * Designers must continue to push boundaries of what can be sold over Internet. Some ‘big-ticket’ items will demand innovative use of ‘rich’ media, like video and audio. Sometimes, hybrid applications of media will be necessary requiring despatch of leather swashes say, to meet needs for tactile manipulation.
The ‘shop-less purchasing’ revolution will succeed. To give everyone - including isolated, disabled and housebound - information they need to make satisfying purchases, e-commerce industry needs to manage growth of online shopping proactively and implement new media in innovative ways.
© Steve Hawker 2005. All rights reserved. Steve is a partner at http://www.ehawker.co.uk, the small ads search engine. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org