How Companies are Losing Money on the Internet

Retail web sites for the shoe and clothing industries often suffer from a class of problems that cause the vendors to lose money and customers. The problems go undiagnosed and are hurting the online retailing industry.

I have been reviewing retail web sites in the shoe and clothing industries and have discovered several problems that commonly occur. These problems are causing online retailers to lose money and customers. These online retailers are not aware of the problems or their losses. Brick and mortar business do not suffer the same consequences, which is part of the reason that existing businesses that migrate to online retailing do not anticipate these problems. I presented a paper on this subject at the 23rd Internationalization and Unicode Conference in Prague in March 2003. (I will be presenting an updated version at 24th Internationalization and Unicode Conference in Atlanta in September 2003.) The paper was intriguingly titled:


My "Shoe Size Web Page" Fetish or How Companies are Losing Money on the Internet

The paper is an Acrobat pdf file, and is available for the asking. Send an e-mail requesting "How companies are losing money on the internet" and the presentation will be e-mailed to you.

International size conversion tables were created as a result of this study

The tables are online at: International Shoe Size Conversion Charts and Clothing Size Conversion Table.

The abstract for this paper is:

Here is a lighthearted look at a serious problem on the world wide web - the failure to review and QA data made available to customers on the web that is critical to business operations. A methodology that worked well when customers came in to stores to physically try on shoes does not work well over the web. Companies are losing money and customers. Does anyone care?

The outline of this presentation is:

  • Objectives
  • Agenda
  • Shaggy dog story
  • Shoe conversion problems
  • Typical shoe chart
  • Conversions of U.S. Menís size 8
  • What is going on?
  • Are the variations by shoe type?
  • Another example-Pennies on the $
  • History of shoe sizing
  • What is the basis of these values?
  • Other systems: European, French
  • Other systems: Mondopoint, inches
  • Other countries
  • Analyzing the problem
  • Guiding web customers is difficult
  • Web versus brick and mortar
  • Poor user interface as well
  • Solutions
  • Why should we care?
  • Recommendations
  • Warning! Donít try this at home!
  • Questions

Reader Nigel Kelly wrote me about the presentation:

"An interesting (and accurate) write up of an exact situation I faced while looking for shoe sizing information. My mother is in China, wants to bring some shoes home for the kids and needed to know sizes...

I am in software sales operating in the global arena (based in New Zealand but 60% of my business is in Europe and 25% in the US). Your presentation, while not about my business sector, has certainly given me something to think about in terms of standing in the customer's shoes researching what they want to buy."