Jan 12, 2018 in Business

E-Business

Rhapsody Clothing store is an apparel retailer located in the downtown of Olympic Blvd Los Angeles; CA. Rhapsody Clothing stocks a wide selection of apparel, accessories, and gift items. The store also targets plus-size females through selling apparel, lingerie, shoes, and accessories designed for various lifestyles. Articulating that men and women in the state of Los Angeles have similar fashion preferences, the firm has created a static website to enable its customers to view its product attributes only. 

Business’s Case for Making Changes to the Website

Current Rhapsody Clothing’s store's website is informational only. This means that consumers can view detailed product information but they cannot buy online. Some features of clothes such as prices, size, and rating are clearly better provided by online services. Search and comparison options of clothes are preferred online. The need to expand the customer base and increase customer traffic is one of major reasons for making changes to the website. The store is unable to sell directly to its customers on the Internet, a feature which is inevitable with current market and industry trends.

Rationale to Go Online

Today, Rhapsody Clothing  should change its website to B2C e-business to increase its online presence, improve online shopping experience for customers, boost sales, and reduce costs. Kurtz & Boone (2008) say that through an interactive website, customers can communicate with customer service representatives in real time. Furthermore, more than two customers will be able to shop on the site simultaneously just as if they were shopping together in Rhapsody Clothing physical store. By going online Rhapsody Clothing store will provide online catalog, where visitors click on clothes they want to purchase. Clothes, shoes, and accessories to be purchased are placed in a file called an electronic shopping cart.   

Advantages and Challenges of Going Online

Rhapsody Clothing’s advantage of going online is that the apparel store will increase sales and decrease costs. Going online will enable Rhapsody Clothing stores to reach wide range of customers that are geographically scattered. Proposed changes to the website will increase sales opportunities for Rhapsody Clothing apparel store and at the same time will increase purchasing opportunities for customers. It should be noted that bargaining price and delivery terms are easier online because competitive bids can be easily obtained (Kurtz & Boone, 2008). Groining further will increase speed and accuracy with which Rhapsody Clothing carries out its transactions.

One of the challenges that Rhapsody Clothing apparel stores are likely to face are privacy issues. This is because some consumers are still fearful of sending their credit card numbers over the Internet and dealing with online merchants whom they have never met. The second challenge is that customers may be annoyed by inconveniencies of scheduling deliveries and returning merchandise (Kurtz & Boone, 2008).             

Current Online Competitor Assessment

Apparel market is very competitive. Rhapsody Clothing stores face competition from apparel giants such as Wal-Mart, Gap.Com, Fab.Com, Target Corporation, Tesco, The Dressing Room Online boutique, and Dillard’s Inc. among others. Highly competitive nature of the apparel industry enables giant retailers to gain power over smaller retailers such as Rhapsody Clothing stores. Big retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Fab.com and Dillard’s Inc, offer the same merchandise as Rhapsody Clothing at reduced prices and serve as clearance stores for slow-moving inventory. 

Trends

Current trend in the apparel industry is the just-in-time supply chain concept. It enables apparel suppliers to deliver finished goods that meet demand without carrying upfront supply chain inventory, but in time to meet market demand. To move with current trends, Rhapsody Clothing integrates this concept into its website to reduce costs of business in the supply chain (Kurtz & Boone, 2008).

Top Three Competitor’s Websites Analysis

For e-business to attract customers and keep them, websites must meet buyer’s expectations. On websites of three competitors that include Dillard.com, Fab.com, and Gap.com customers can find items without frustration and get their questions answered. Dillard.com website allows customers to track orders from placement to delivery. The website incorporates a login section for users who have created personal accounts, hence they have detailed directions on how to return merchandise.

Dillard.com has a single sign on with social media sites such as Facebook, Tweeter, and LinkedIn. This enables Dillard’s to broaden its reach and gives website a competitive advantage. Customer relationship capability of Dillards.com enables the company to record customer details so that they conduct them occasionally and make orders. A website gives customers a capability to pay online after selecting items into the shopping cart. Available options include the use of credit cards, Dillard’s card, or debit cards. The website can be accessed from anywhere around the globe. It is easy to use and its design meets global standards.

Fab.com offers a fully functional e-commerce website. Being a major competitor of Rhapsody Clothing stores, the website incorporates social media integration features were users can have a single-sign on to the site. It is important to note that this feature makes the use of a website easier and buyers can initiate discussion forums about certain fashions. The company recently integrated customer relationship management (e-CRM) to its website to store customer data and contact information, which is crucial during shipment. The Fab.com website enables buyers to pay online for products placed in the shopping cart. Options available include the use of credit cards, Platinum card, or debit cards. International presence of the website enables customers to shop from any location on the globe.

Gap.com online store is one of retail store giants that has enjoyed success over the years. Gap.com website serves not only online customers, but also those who come to Gap stores to finalize the selection. E-commerce platform enables customers to pay for products online. Gap’s stores website reflects the latest trends with updates of the latest fashions. Rather than relying completely on its website to attract customers, Gap.com has expanded its reach through advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook, Tweeter, LinkedIn, and Google+.        

Online Marketing Suggestions & Strategies

Customer Base and Demographics

Rhapsody Clothing stores target the age group of 12 to 19 years, who has a tremendous earning power and can purchase apparels on regular basis. This target audience has access to Rhapsody Clothing.com through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They check new fashions of clothes, shoes, accessories, and a wide range of products found on the website.

Another important customer base is the age group from 28 to 44 years. This age group presents potential buyers of Rhapsody Clothing stores because the majority of them are working and have an income of at least $30,000 per year. This age group has access to the website through their technological knowhow. The third category of customers is the age group between 33 to 45, which offers tremendous potential for Fab.com because they are relatively affluent and thus represent a good target for fashions and latest shoes in online store.

Age Group (years)

Visits Rhapsody Clothing Website (%)

6-11

17%

12-19

78%

18-29

40%

30-49

83%

50-64

65%

65+

32%

The table below provides an analysis of the household income compared to the frequency of visits that Rhapsody Clothing store should target. High income implies greater frequency of visits. Rhapsody Clothing stores target audience of varied income levels, who will shop for various products. 

Household Income ($/yr)

Visits Rhapsody Clothing Website (%)

Less than $30,000/yr

55%

$30,000-$49,999

69%

$50,000-$74,999

82%

$75,000+

93%

Competitive Advantages, Target Audience, and Online Branding for Client

Retail store’s strengths are based on superior management talent, alliances with financial institutions, and good distribution skills. Rhapsody Clothing store is a focused differentiator providing apparels that its rivals cannot offer to people. Rhapsody Clothing focuses on product leadership, a strategy where the online store continuously improves performance of its website to gain superior market position. Product leadership for Rhapsody Clothing will be based on firm’s ability to tackle market opportunities and ensure technology integration to ease marketing activities and transactions (Clegg, Carter, & Kornberger, 2011).

Operational excellence is another competitive advantage of Rhapsody Clothing Store. Clegg, Carter, & Kornberger (2011) say that this competitive advantage will provide middle of market apparel products at the best price with the least inconvenience. Through this strategy, Rhapsody Clothing will achieve operational excellence in its core processes of order fulfillment, supply chain management, and transaction processing (Clegg, Carter, & Kornberger, 2011).

Customer experiences in online store will be improved through cultivation of a close customer relationship and delivery of very specific products that exactly match needs of specific customers. The store will develop capabilities to use information technology that will enable it to pursue a focused differentiation strategy but at a much lower cost than luxury fashion houses (Hill & Jones, 2009).

According to Hill & Jones (2009), Rhapsody Clothing will set itself apart from the competitors, such as Gap.com, Fab.com, and Dillard.com among others, through creating innovative information and materials management systems that keep its cost structure low while reducing time to market. By using sophisticated information technology that links Rhapsody Clothing stores to its suppliers and manufacturers, the company will be able to create new collection in only five weeks, and these clothes can be delivered to the store effectively (Hill & Jones, 2009). The short time to market makes Rhapsody Clothing very flexible and allows it to compete effectively in the rapidly changing fashion market where customer tastes evolve quickly.     

Five Online Strategies

Search Engine Considerations & Optimization Strategies

SEO is the process by which Rhapsody Clothing store’s website will be made friendly to search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo so that they are able to crawl the website, index the pages, and add them to their search engine results pages (SERPs). McGaw (2009) says that SEO will enable Rhapsody Clothing stores' pages to appear as close to the top as possible in the results page when customers search terms related to products offered by Rhapsody Clothing stores. Strategies that can be employed to achieve SEO include the use of inbound links, title and meta tags, keywords in URLs and content. 

The developer should choose the right keywords and use them in the right places and balance them in Rhapsody Clothing stores website. The new website should encompass pay-per-click and paid inclusion programs, employ right meta tags in the right places, and create great content about all fashions based on various categories. It is important to add all right links and use behavioral targeting to attract customers from specific segments.

To ensure that Rhapsody Clothing stores are listed on the first or second page when a person conducts a search on Yahoo, Google, and Bing, the site should be optimized with content rich in specific keywords that customers will be searching. This strategy focuses on including keywords directly in text of pages as content. This can also be achieved by increasing the number of inbound links from other reputable sites in order to improve website’s search engine rankings. The goal is to have reputable sites linking to firm’s website. The importance of search engine optimization to customers is that it improves the level in which firm's website is ranked in the results returned when customers search for key words about products. The benefit of this strategy to the company is that it has better return on investment. SEO is proactive, hence the traffic to Rhapsody Clothing stores website is made up of true customers seeking apparel products. 

Social Media Integration

Social media integration connects Rhapsody Clothing stores with suppliers and broad audience of influencers and consumers. Through social media, Rhapsody Clothing will gain traffic, increase the number of followers, and increase brand awareness. Social media integration to Rhapsody Clothing stores website will boost customer traffic. Once the company establishes itself as a community participant that is worth following, customers will be interested in what the store shares and will likely pass relevant posts, videos, and articles to their peers (Weinberg, 2008). Another reason for choosing social media integration strategy is because it helps firms build strong relationships with customers, suppliers, and all value chain members. Social media integration will play an important role in driving conversions. It will also play an important role in triggering conversations as social media users are seeking opinions of their peers concerning the latest fashions in the market. 

Facebook and Twitter are profile-based sites that encourage users with relatively comparable backgrounds to meet and initiate relationships with one another. Weinberg (2008) articulates that Facebook and MySpace do not only connect people based on shared interests, family backgrounds, or political views but it will foster relationships based on sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and racial identities. Rhapsody Clothing stores website should be integrated with Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and Twitter because the four are free to join. The website will feature a single sign on all of the four social networking sites, which will foster information sharing among customers of Rhapsody Clothing apparel products (Weinberg, 2008). Facebook is appropriate for Rhapsody Clothing stores because it has the fastest growing demographic between 18 and 35 years.

For marketing and identity association, users of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter can align themselves with many different brands offered by Rhapsody Clothing by interacting with existing Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter fan pages or by creating one from scratch. Weinberg (2008) says that social media integration strategy appeals to Rhapsody Clothing stores because there is a whole lot of advertising potential on the site. Rhapsody Clothing will benefit from Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace integration because they will provide another way for individuals to align with a cause, product, business, or brand. In addition, the use of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter will enable Rhapsody Clothing to obtain very detailed and up-to-date demographic information. This implies that social media sites can provide powerful platform for advertising (Weinberg, 2008).   

Online Customer Relationship Management

Online customer relationship strategy focuses on using information about customers to create marketing strategies that develop and sustain desirable long-term  relationships with  customers. Pride & Ferrell (2011) claim that online customer relationship management should be integrated into Rhapsody Clothing stores website to fully satisfy ever-increasing needs and expectations of customers. This strategy will provide effective tailor-made services through its website for Rhapsody Clothing stores customers.

According to Pride & Ferrell (2011), the use of online customer relationship management will help Rhapsody Clothing promote marketing campaigns with suitable online business strategies and competitive online services. CRM will incorporate an outbound strategy also known as front office to improve areas where direct customer contact occurs. For example, an in-person from Rhapsody Clothing stores sales department calls customers for delivery details or an e-mail promotion. Outbound strategy within online customer relationship management will lead to better allocation of resources to support selling and future marketing activity.

Online customer relationship management will collect customer information. Online application will analyze customer activities, such as anonymous members, royal members, and special members, and load all customers’ online usage information into the database. This will keep a connection with customers in between each time they make purchases from the website and at the same time connect (outbound) with customers to get them back to the website (Pride & Ferrell, 2011). With CRM the management of Rhapsody Clothing stores will be able to identify specific customer details such as, age, contact information, street and town, and credit card numbers.

Online CRM will integrate online and offline customer data and maximize potential of marketing campaigns. It will also enable the management to capture usage duration of the website, frequency of visits, familiarity, and log-in-date. With a help of CRM online store will be able to analyze purchase data to understand each customer’s interests (Pride & Ferrell, 2011). Act CRM Online is the best suited customer relationship management software for Rhapsody Clothing stores. The software integrates email marketing and list building capability to CRM software in order to fully maximize contact-driven customer support. Online platform fully integrates sales and marketing activities with those of customer service. 

E-Commerce Solutions (Ability to Pay Online)

Rhapsody Clothing stores' website will incorporate a e-commerce payment solution to allow secure trading and credit or payment authorization facility. The e-commerce solution is based on on-line catalogues, which can be customized to suit the needs of the viewing client. The e-commerce solution will allow buyers to conduct all of their search, make orders, monitor, and perform payment activities via the Internet. To sell online, Rhapsody Clothing store's website must have two important elements, which include product catalogue that shows images, features and prices, and a secure way for customers to pay online. A shopping cart module should be embedded into firm’s website to provide users with a tool for their online shopping.     

Rhapsody Clothing stores should use the Drupal shopping cart as the vendor. The vendor is best suited for online apparel store because it offers a whole e-commerce package. It is also a free module and an open source application, which means that Rhapsody Clothing stores can fully customize their site to fit their target market. The shopping cart module has a payment scheme plug-in, which can be activated on administrator's panel. The vendor will obtain 30 cents for each sale. Payment method will employ a wide range of cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Platinum card, and other e-payment technologies.   

International Consideration

For Rhapsody Clothing stores to become a global player, a good website design is essential. In order to make the website internationally friendly, Rhapsody Clothing stores must address areas such as language selection and translation, website name, computing environment, images, symbols, pictures, and color. Jargon, slang, and colloquialisms can be universally confusing and should be eliminated from the original website in the process of internationalization. Rhapsody Clothing stores should make it easy for international users to find localized versions of the website. The website should encompass a splash page, which is a page the user will arrive at before navigating to the home page. On this page, users should be able to select their language and currency to facilitate transaction processing.

The design of website will minimize a certain degree of cultural resistance to shopping online, especially among the cultures that favor price haggling and face-to-face transactions. The management of Rhapsody Clothing stores should consider not only whether international purchases should be permitted, but also how culture-friendly their product information should be. The global nature of the website should let consumers choose between different geographic regions, and product content should be tailored for each region. 

Projected Web Development & Maintenance Cost

The website designer should have the skills necessary to design, create, program, and publish new Rhapsody Clothing stores' website. The website will have a predetermined number of individual web pages that will be created from scratch. The table below provides an overview of the entire website, web pages, and the menu items. The website will focus on the following usability features: clear explanations, consistent navigation, menu system will be visible on each page, moderate animation, subtle coloring, plenty of images and photos, and the language use will be simple and sincere.

ID

Menu (page)

Requirements Description

1

Home

Company overview.

2

New Arrival

Visual graphics and information about the latest fashions.

3

2013 Latest Collection

Visual graphics and information about the 2013 fashions.

4

Women’s Clothing

A page of all women clothing with product pictures, information and prices.

5

Accessories

A page of all women accessories with product pictures, information and prices.

6

Shoes

A page of all shoes with shoes images and pictures, information and prices.

7

Sexy Lingerie

A page of all Sexy Lingerie images and pictures, information and prices.

8

Join/Sign In

A feature that will enable customers to register and sign in to their account afterwards.

9

Shopping Cart Section/Shipping & Delivery

It will enable customers to add/remove items from the shopping basket.

10

Help

Provides users with useful information about ordering, purchasing, payment, and delivery of orders.

The website will incorporate the use of Act CRM Online, which is the best suited customer relationship management software for Rhapsody Clothing stores. The software integrates email marketing and list building capability to the CRM software in order to fully maximize contact-driven customer support. Online platform fully integrates sales and marketing activities with those of customer service. The vendor will integrate CRM into the website to facilitate communication.

The cost of developing the website has numerous components described in the table shown below.

Component

Cost ($)

Description

Layout design

1500

The layout design of the website including positioning of the menus.

Graphic design

5000

Will entail the design of the graphical user interface.

Web site development

25000

Entire website design into full functionality.

Catalog development

10500

Design of product catalog including pricing sections.

Domain

1500

Payment of domain registration and space.

Annual website maintenance

5000

Fundamental changes.

Act CRM + 1 year license

5500

The purchase of online CRM module to be integrated into the website.

Drupal e-commerce module (Premium) - one off payment

1500

Cost of the e-commerce solution to be integrated into the website to facilitate online payments.

Purchase of animation module (Adobe Flash)

7500

Cost of Adobe module required to come up with animation of fashion products.

Total cost

63,000

Conclusion

In conclusion, developing a new website for Rhapsody Clothing will enable the company to gain a competitive edge. It is expected that through social media integration, the website will attract 100,000 users every week, a trend that is expected to double in the next six months. Adopting five strategies explained above will convert more than 50% of visitors into real customers and encourage 25% of the visitors to come back again. The key to success of Rhapsody Clothing stores is to maximize the limited resources to attain the best possible performance within the country and at the global market space.

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