Abstract - The Information Society 13(1)

Electronic commerce in retailing: Differences across retail formats

Jonathan W. Palmer

This research explores the impact of electronic commerce in retailing. Four retail formats are examined: in-store, catalog, cable TV, and the World Wide Web. One hundred and twenty products were "shopped" across the four formats to identify distinctions between them on key product characteristics including price, product description and display, time to locate, and delivery. The study suggests some fundamental differences between the formats in terms of the degree of interactivity, the level of information supplied about the product, the ability to compare products, and the degree of human intermediation. The results show a significant difference in product description, shopping availability, speed of delivery, and time taken to shop between the four formats. Total cost of the product was not significantly different across the four formats. The development of cyber equivalents was also explored. Cyber equivalents involve the use of electronic means to simulate the shopping experience. These include the broadcast selling and product demonstration for cable TV, the development of CD-ROM catalogs to include "personal shoppers" and product demonstrations, and the use of electronic shopping carts, video salespeople, on-line catalogs and product demonstrations for WWW shopping. The study also suggests that there is strong potential for the merging of the three nonstore formats. There is evidence that this has already begun, given the similar need across these formats for telemarketing and distribution support.

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