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John Ryan

Online Should be More Like In Store

It’s fine to shop via the web, but why does it have to be dull and can’t lessons be learnt from the real world?




THE MAN WHO is tired of shopping is tired of life.” Dr. Johnson may not actually have said this, but had he walked along a major European shopping avenue such as Paris’ Champs Elysees or Regent Street in London, he might have thought something of the kind, rather than his much-vaunted praise of the U.K.’s capital city as a whole.

That same could not be said of online shopping. Perhaps in a reverse of what could be expected, it might be said that anyone who spends time browsing merchandise on the web has not much in their life, thanks largely to the endless catalog nature of the medium. It’s shopping, but not as we know it, Jim: a parade of items against a neutral backdrop where choice ultimately baffles mission.

But what could be done to make it all better? We are always being told how physical stores could raise their game if they managed to behave more like their online equivalents or at least incorporated elements of “webworld” into their blueprints. Perhaps, but how about making an online shop more like, well, a shop?

Diesel recently launched a site for retail buyers in which they could enter a virtual mock-up of the Italian jeans brand’s Milan showroom. Having done so, they could then browse the “shop” in the same manner as they would a store, looking at items on the perimeter walls or the mid-shop mannequins as the urge took them. This is certainly a departure from the online norm and brings the virtual world a whole lot closer to the one that we all used to frequent on a regular basis.

It is important to realize that online shopping is as flawed as many would say physical retail is and steps to change this should be welcomed. As an example of what can be done on both sides of the fence, Amazon Go (soon to launch in London) and the Diesel virtual store bring the two elements closer together and enrich retail for all of us.


John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.



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