Today I spoke with a friend who is an online retailer. She was complaining about the lousy emails she gets from sales reps (shades of 2 sales mistakes: pitching wholesale buyers by email). The pictures included are too small and few emails provide links to better photos (hint). When a sales rep followed up with her, she mentioned the problem. The sales rep waved it off as being unimportant because “she’d see the line when she went to market”. Problem is, my friend isn’t going to market so the only impression she’ll have of the line is via the internet.
This is a multi-faceted problem with technology as a double edged sword. With the help of technology, my friend doesn’t need to go to market as frequently, saving her money on travel costs considering the lower margins in this troubled economy. The roundabout being that hiring a booth at market is of decreasing value to you. It is also tragic that the average sales rep today is so out of touch with the impact of technology that they don’t realize why buyers aren’t going to market and what they should do about it. The obvious first step is that all sales reps should start with getting email addresses since at least half of them don’t have one but in the end, it’s not worth mentioning. Too few of the older reps are willing to change their behaviors so it’s a lost cause and they’ll end up getting pushed out of the industry. Don’t hire a rep who doesn’t understand changing demands of the marketplace.
But I wonder if there are other unintended consequences of online sales. For example, my friend can tell from a photo if she is interested in the product. You’re probably thinking the same thing I was, how can she know? Doesn’t she have to see the garment in real time, feel the fabric etc? But no, she doesn’t. The reason being that her customers will also only see the product via the internet. If the product doesn’t photograph well enough to show the design features, she’s not going to buy it no matter how exquisite it is. What’s worse, one excellent design feature actually looked like a flaw in photos. In the end, one unintended consequence of online sales is that designers may increasingly need to design for the camera.
Another unintended consequence of online sales is consumer expectations for fit, appearance and performance. It is a hassle to return things to say nothing of the cost. After a time of being accustomed to under performing goods, people won’t know any better and/or their perception of value will devolve. Or arguably, they’ll know less than they know now. This could mean that a motivated designer producing goods to stringent fit standards may be wasting much of their time and money on a value proposition that isn’t appreciated or expected by the customer meaning the line loses its unique selling proposition if the majority of the goods are sold strictly online. One can only imagine that the level of merchandise will continue to degrade.
Someone I knew used to say, “it doesn’t matter what is, it only matters what it looks like” and it annoys me every time I find he is right. This person was largely incompetent but his desk was always tidy, he spoke personably and steadily moved up the ranks over co-workers with messy desks but much higher levels of competence. The matter of increasingly needing to design for the camera is yet another example of it and there is little to be done about it but to fall in line. Perhaps that’s why tee shirts sell so well online. You just need a good photo of the graphic to fill the frame.
Thoughts? Ideas? Other unintended consequences of online sales? What say you?