Retailers need to be careful what they wish for when it comes to appearing on online platforms. They run the risk of disappearing in the morass.
Popular opinion has it that being online is a vision of plenty. Everything the shopper could possibly want is available with a few keystrokes and the only thing that might be problematic is making a choice.
However, if you are a consumer faced with seemingly endless options or variations on more or less the same thing, you might actually be tempted not to bother. Endless choice becomes choice overload.
“Shoppers in shops want clarity, the ability to make choices from a limited number of options. This does not mean endless products and is, largely, what ‘shopping’ is about”
Burberry has just announced its tie-up with online luxury platform Farfetch that will see its products being available to consumers in 150 countries.
This is fine as, at any one time, the Burberry range is manageable from a shopper perspective.
The problem is that hundreds of brands and retailers’ products are available on Farfetch, and inevitably the shopper will probably feel obliged to look at the outpourings of several names, at which point the problem of too much choice asserts itself.
Shoppers in shops want clarity, the ability to make choices from a limited number of options. This does not mean endless products and is, largely, what ‘shopping’ is about.
Step forward digital curation
The best online retailers will understand that the digital revolution is about making shopping easier and faster. Part of that process must surely be not just about availability, but also about making choice more straightforward.
On this reckoning, online distribution must be approached as carefully as it is in a physical store, and where this is not the case, expecting shoppers to be thankful may prove optimistic.
Burberry will certainly benefit from gaining access to new markets via Farfetch, but what about digital curation?
“The possibility of being seen by hundreds of millions of shoppers is the apple that is dangled by online platforms. Whether this is in fact the case depends on a combination of filters”
On the Farfetch homepage, long before the shopper gets to look at a particular category it is likely that a significant number of filters will have been applied.
The question of whether it’s Balmain or Burberry that appears first will be a matter of how the selection criteria have been applied by the shopper.
Things at this point will have been removed from the hands of the brand or retailer that has sought representation via a merchandise platform.
The possibility of being seen by hundreds of millions of shoppers is the apple that is dangled by online platforms. Whether this is in fact the case depends on a combination of the filters that are offered to the consumer and how they are used.
For brands and retailers, it’s a matter of being careful what you wish for. The online platform danger is that you may disappear in a sea of choice.