Driving Factors behind Retailers and E-tailers

Any brand’s personality is the combination of the way a brand speaks to its audience and reaches out to them, and how it represents itself. So, how are the mass retailer and the e-tailer different? What characteristic behavior patterns of the two are the drivers of their businesses? We look at these two channels and compare the reasons behind their successes and study their behaviors based our group's proprietary models of the Trust and Attractiveness quotient of any brand or category.

The brand personality of Retailers and e-tailers that make up the Buying Propensity of each follows:
Brand Personality
Brand Trust
Commanding Respect
Commanding Respect
Outward Appearance
Non-Threatening Ambience
Shared Interest
Guiding and Helping
Brand Attractiveness
Conscious Effort
Social Maturity

There are two common brand behaviors that traverse both the Retailer and e-tailer categories –Commanding Respect and Oration. These two are the basic prerequisites for any brand to be successful in either of the two categories, and the former precedes the latter in this. To elaborate, Respect is a responsive feeling that brings attention, deference, valuing, and acknowledgement. Commanding Respect is much more though – it is generated when the brand evokes this feeling from a significant number of followers. Oration, the ability of a brand to communicate well, is intrinsic to the Communications Appeal of a brand, and the more natural, unpretentious it is, the greater the effect on Buying Propensity. Sought after Retailers and e-tailers have these two essential elements.

On Gaining the Consumer’s Attention

There are several unique differentiators between the two formats, though. For a Retailer, what stands out is Outward Appearance, by its sheer ability to have a physical presence – the shop down the road or the outlet in the mall that one can visit and physically experience is more real than the flat structure of an online shopping portal.
In contrast, the e-tailer relies on its Non-Threatening Ambience, where the consumer is able to approach the brand without being self-conscious or feel in any way intimidated. The e-tailer’s ability to be accessible anywhere, everywhere goes a long way towards building this essential element of Trust. Despite having a flat non-physical interface, the e-tailer uses the advantage of being incognito to attain the otherwise reluctant-to-shop consumer’s attention.

On Educating the Consumer

We intrinsically understand the Trust in a Retailer to be higher than that in an e-tailer. Though we may understand this innately, the articulation requires us to bring in the theory of Trust. The Retailer, by virtue of its very format, has the ability to encourage the consumer to experience the product before it is bought – thereby fulfilling the Shared Interest of the consumer to experience the product through tactile means. This display of understanding lends to a higher transactional predictability and better outcome expectations, thus reinforcing the Trust environment.
Although there is no such teasing of the senses involved in online shopping, the e-tailer compensates by undertaking the role of a guide. Online shopping websites are replete with all the possible product-related information at the consumer’s fingertips. In most cases, the consumer can even use the online information available to compare products and make the best possible purchase decision for her/himself, thereby highlighting the e-tailer’s Guiding and Helping approach, making it more amenable to the consumer’s trust.

On The Nature of Business

One unique concept, that of Self-Control, a part of Aspirational Appeal in creating Attraction, goes in the favor of Retailers. The Retailer has enormous limitations in terms of what to display, how much to display, pricing, and so on since the costs of space and logistics are more or less fixed. Hence, Self-Control is a characteristic imbibed in the retailer’s business ethic.
On the other hand, for an e-tailer, the high intensity of Conscious Effort, a part of Rational Appeal (which contributes to Brand Attraction), that is required by virtue of operating in a highly competitive space with low differentiators, to stay on top of the consumer’s mind makes the category’s Buying Propensity high.

On Engaging with the Consumer

Retailers show high energy, enthusiasm, full concentration, and alertness to material situations – traits of Positivity, an aspect that is crucial to engage its audience. The manner in which a store attendant greets you with a warm smile, the suggestions and advice that he imparts while you walk around at your own pace, the new products that he tells you about before requesting to talk to you – these experiences can occur only in physical spaces.
E-tailers, in comparison, have inadvertently set themselves up to building and preserving a new culture of sit-at-home (or office) shoppers. The idea of shopping is no longer uncomfortable. E-tailers showcase the traits of Social Maturity – humility, community participation, and socialization, which appeal to a new set of shoppers.