Mini Case Study 103

E-malls

Electronic malls (e-malls) follow the format of fixed-location malls in the physical world, grouping together an assortment of retailers in one virtual destination on the Internet. However, unlike their real-world counterpart, this conventional approach to developing an online mall has had limited success as it offered few advantages to potential customers who could view the product assortment of retailers located anywhere in the world from their workstations and laptops without the need to travel, and so the advantages for the consumer of retailers being grouped together in one destination were lost. Additionally, control of the e-retailers by the management of the virtual mall is rather more complicated than in the physical world mall. The online landlord has to build trusting relationships with the e-tenants and they in return must provide reliable services (Dennis et al., 2004), a trust which is sometimes difficult to establish as individual retailers were not willing to participate in an online mall that facilitated comparison shopping.

In Europe, Blackwell's Bookshop and Victoria Wine were among the first retailers to give consumers the opportunity to buy online via the Internet. Both of these companies were the original core tenants in one of the first e-malls to serve UK online customers Barclay's electronic mall, called 'BarclaySquare,' was not particularly successful as the virtual landlord offered limited advantages to its core tenants over operating their own destination web sites. However, there are many creative ways that e-retailers are coming together in a virtual world.

Portals

These are a gateway to many web sites. There are many examples of portal sites on the web which adopt web-based solutions to the 'mall' concept and in doing so serve an array of different purposes:

• Froogle.co.uk - directs online customers to product information in two ways. First, it uses product information submitted electronically by merchants who take advantage of this free service. Second, as Google's spidering software crawls the Internet, Froogle automatically identifies web pages that offer products for sale. Froogle's search results are automatically generated by ranking software. Google does not accept payment for inclusion of products in these search results. Nor do they offer to place a merchant site higher in the results if they are an advertiser or offer to pay for that placement (http://froogle.google.co.uk/froogle/intl/en uk/about.html#how).

• EBay.co.uk - auction site which brings together individuals around the globe who wish to trade with one another. Although not a conventional e-retailer eBay's success in the second-hand goods and collectors' markets cannot be ignored as more and more shoppers buy from within the eBay trading environment.

• Amazon.co.uk - a multiple category retailer which is not strictly a portal or a mall but the company has brought together, through its affiliate scheme, the product portfolios of thousands of companies in order to create a virtual shopping destination (Dennis et al., 2004), which serves the needs of millions of online shoppers.

• Kelkoo.com - a shopping search engine which helps online cutomers to find products and services online. A search will produce a results page which facilitates price comparison and purchasing.

• Mysimon.com - a comparison shopping service on the Internet for products and services. The site searches thousands of online merchants and millions of products to provide online customers with lists so they can compare selections before making a purchase.

Shopping bots

Software programs that can help online shoppers search for and compare specific products across multiple web sites; also called bots or intelligent agents.

E-malls have been a means to enable retailers to explore the potential of the web in a ready-made electronic trading environment. However, the key advantages of the real world shopping mall do not easily translate to the Internet and as a result e-malls tend to serve highly specialised markets. Notwithstanding this the core concept of a mall, bringing together goods and services from many suppliers to facilitate customer convenience, has been used creatively by some of the world's leading online companies.

Core tenants

A shopping centre or maLL is usually a centrally owned managed facility. In the physical world, the management wiLL aim to incLude in the maLL stores that seLL a different but compLementary range of merchandise and incLude a variety of smaLLer and Larger stores. The core tenants or 'anchor stores', as they are often caLLed, are the dominant Large-scaLe store operators that are expected to draw customers to the centre.

Retail channel

RetaiLers' use of the Internet as both a communication and a transactionaL channeL concurrentLy in business-to-consumer markets.

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