This research paper will compare and contrast the characteristics of the traditional brick and mortar (B&M) shopper with those of the online shopper. Additionally, research will identify the similarities and differences between the virtual and the real-world customer. Distinguish the difference between the world of e-commerce and the real world in terms of customer communications. Determine which traditional customer communications can and cannot be successfully ported to the world of e-commerce. Assess what new communications techniques are uniquely available in the world of e-commerce. And demonstrate how the use of multimedia technologies creates effective e-commerce websites. Discussion of customer communication strategies and real-world examples will be presented.

Compare and Contrast Models

Brick and mortar shoppers go to a specific building to purchase merchandise. The location has a physical presence which allows for customers to have face to face communication with employees. Online shoppers are able to log on and search for items and make purchases from the comfort of their own home. Online shoppers have some advantages to brick and mortar shoppers for this reason.

Several factors can be used to compare and contrast differences between brick and mortar shoppers and their counterparts. Pricing will have an impact due to unavoidable expenses such as travel. An online store has very little overhead. This allows the cost for retail display space, and storage costs to be minimized. Additionally, online shoppers can do factory direct. This further reduces the warehousing costs. This allows the online shoppers to take advantage of additional savings made possible by avoiding these additional costs. Brick and mortar stores will incur unavoidable costs. A location must be erected involving utility expenses. A brick and mortar store will need to hire employees thus wages would also be involved. Maintaining the location will bring additional costs as well. In addition, theft may also be a factor. These factors may make the cost on a shopper higher than an online shopper.

Selection will vary online as compared to the local needs and demands of brick and mortar stores. Online stores usually specialize in a particular area. Due to this specialization it may be easier for an online shopper to find hard to find items that may or may not be available in a brick and mortar store. Online shoppers may find more items due to the international demand of different items. Both men and women can choose from online items. On the other hand, brick and mortar locations are more dependent on local demand. If the demand in Miami for coats and jackets is minimal as compared to New York, then the brick and mortar shopper in Miami will find fewer choices at higher prices. Additionally, many items in a brick and mortar store may only be offered seasonally. This would have negative results for a shopper looking for items out of season.

Convenience may also be a factor due to live interaction versus the online experience. Brick and mortar shoppers will have the ability of touch and feel. This will give the brick and mortar shopper a stronger connection with purchasing the item or not. The online shopper would not have to drive anywhere, waste gas, dress up, or look for parking. He or she may simply navigate the web site in search of the particular item they may be interested in. State taxes may even be avoided by purchasing items online versus at a brick and mortar store. Delivery charges may be avoided for brick and mortar shoppers. They may simply purchase the item and take the item directly from the store. There may be items that are too big and bulky. Delivery charges will definitely apply in these circumstances. Online shoppers will have to incur delivery charges every time. The delivery charges may be hidden within the price of the item. The online shopper may not realize he or she was charged a delivery fee. This tactic allows online shopping to feel less expensive and more practical.

A warranty may be similar for both shoppers. Online shoppers and brick and mortar shoppers will tend to have the same type of warranty. The warranty will be provided by the manufacturer. Although brick and mortar stores may do the servicing themselves, usually this is handled by the manufacturer. Finally, returns may be handled more conveniently for brick and mortar shoppers. Brick and mortar shoppers will know exactly the procedure they will be involved with when they speak to someone. Although most online stores allow returns the shopper may be dealing with a distant entity. The returned item will incur shipping costs and restocking fees. Dealing with an employee face to face may be much more convenient and practical when involved in any kind of return.

Site Design and Customer Needs

When designing an e-commerce site, the designer needs to consider the similarities and differences between the virtual and traditional real-world customer environments, what forms of communication are uniquely available to the e-commerce customer and what communication forms cannot successfully be ported to the world of e-commerce.

The first area would be that the e-commerce site designer needs to understand both the similarities and differences between the virtual and traditional real-world customer environments as well as to recognize the differences in communication types. Primarily organizations need to realize that managing communications can be more difficult for both the virtual worker and customer because these individuals are not physically present in an office location to have verbal and physical confirmation of a message or order. Some other factors include differences in time zones, local work hours and holidays, fluency with English especially technical language (and organizational acronyms), cultural norms, hierarchical protocols for message dissemination and responsiveness. Sometimes the only common ground between the virtual and real-world customers is the organizational jargon and acronyms.

The second area would be to assess what new communication techniques are uniquely available in the world of e-commerce and to determine what traditional customer communications can and cannot be successfully ported to the world of e-commerce. Three communication choices that are uniquely available to organizations of all sizes in the world of e-commerce are the Internet, Intranet and Extranet. Benefits of using this technology include attracting new customers, creating new business partners, improving communication with customers, employees, shareholders, and stakeholders. Additional benefits of increasing productivity, improving the quality of service, reducing operating costs and providing information quickly and cost effectively can be derived.