As contemporary times has seen a marked trend in Chinese consumers finding less and less time shopping, there has been a tendency in how e-commerce websites have presented their website navigation systems. If one looks at sites like Net-A-Porter, consumers are guided to find products with ease and comfort (see image above). And though this may be extremely convenient for consumers who don’t have time on their hand, there leaves little room for organic exploration and wandering that one finds visiting a shopping mall. That’s the advantage of Taobao, whose web designers have create digital retail spaces and streets to emulate the organic way in which we shop.
Shopping as the Heart of Chinese Leisurely Pastime
Whilst shopping, a consumer can direct his or her avatar to walk along streets, enter shops, view snapshots of products along with respective prices (much like a consumer gathering a snapshot of a store through its window’s display). Taobao currently features 9 different streets complete with its own set of stores and specialties (menswear, shoes, bags etc). Consumers can also interact by messaging each other, another social feature that will allow friends to socialize and shop together digitally! Unlike brick and mortar stores which must emphasize the attractiveness of the store through its window display, current graphics have limited the ability to pique a consumers interest. However, by placing the mouse over the store, key garments with their prices pop up instead.
Though this set up is less instantaneous than other e-commerce websites, what makes it attractive is that it emulates the browsing experience one finds entering into a real store. For many consumers in China, shopping is a pastime that can be enjoyed. And an experience with Taobao fashion week is a way to interact with clients in a more slow-paced and intimate way.
Digitecture (Digital Architecture)
Just as it is easier for consumers to now enter stores at the mere click of a mouse, the dynamics of retail space and location which we currently see in high-rent retail spaces will undoubtedly change. For a start, no longer are retail spaces limited as stores can be made as digitally expansive as they may wish. Adjacency and halo effects become even more complex as it is must easier for high end stores to be shuffled around and moved next to the ‘right’ brands. Moreover, digitecture is no longer bounded by laws of gravity and architecture. In this sense, graphic and video designers will be able to augment both the exterior and interior of their stores with ease. Though currently stores seem to stay within the confinements of realism, luxury brands have the potential to create surreal, fantastical worlds that will help further embody a lifestyle they are trying to represent.
To conclude, although the current retail space and its surroundings is in itself a commendable feat, Taobao should start to build up the brand equity of the current sites. With the right curation and segmentation, they could draw a crowd that may look at these digital locations with reverence as places to find top designer brands etc. In times to come, there will undoubtedly be other creations of retail streets and avenues. But with the right curation, it is not impossible to say that one day a digital street may have the potential to be the next big retail landmark like Paris’s Les Champs-Elysees…
Note: This post is part two of the blog post “Taobao Revolutionizes E-Commerce with Fashion Week”. For part one which focuses on consumer-driven runway shows, please click here.
Image source: Net-a-porter.com, Taobao Fashion week