Byline: Michael Hickins

NEW YORK — Bloomingdale’s thinks it may have found a way to prune the thorny issue of color on the Web.
The upscale department store is implementing color technology on its Web site this week in hopes of reassuring consumers that the colors they see on products depicted on the Web site accurately reflect the colors of the actual products.
Store officials also hope the technology increases conversion rates (the rate at which site visitors convert to online shoppers) and reduces returns.
For many retailers, their online fashion images are not accurate depictions of what’s on the racks. That’s been a barrier to converting savvy shoppers into buyers, and a major reason for returns by dissatisfied customers. Most apparel sites have between 2 percent and 5 percent conversion rates.
Tatiana Rosak, director of Internet strategy for, said that dealing with color reliability online hasn’t been a cakewalk. “Color has been an issue for retailers since the advent of the catalog age.”
The Web presents a new set of technical challenges. For one, while the quality of printed catalogs can be controlled, retailers cannot anticipate the quality or color settings of their shoppers’ monitors. “Things you can do on catalog pages you can’t do on the Web,” said Elaine Chen, an apparel industry analyst with Xceed Intelligence, also here.
While Rosak said Bloomingdale’s has not established specific financial targets to gauge its online return on investment, she did say that improving conversions and reducing returns are important goals.
According to a recent study by New York-based CyberDialog Research, 60 percent of Internet shoppers do not trust color on the Internet, and 30 percent have decided not to make an online purchase because of color concerns.
The study also showed that 15 percent of returns to e-commerce retailers were due to color concerns.
According to Adam Beckerman, project leader of the site for New York consulting firm Knowledge Strategies, color reliability should have a significant impact on returns, too. “Resolving the color issue should help diminish returns,” he said.
The new technology, from San Francisco-based E-color, will allow users to easily calibrate their monitors, much in the way they align their printer cartridges. In order to inform consumers of this feature, sites that have adopted the technology can display the vendor’s True Internet Color icon anywhere on their sites.
Rosak said that will display the icon on its product pages to instill color confidence among online shoppers. “We’re making sure they see the logo at the point of purchase, where it’s most important,” she said. “So they understand that the color they see is the color they get.”
Implementing the logo is one thing; having customers understand what it means is another. According to Chen, shoppers will have to be taught what the icon represents to understand its benefit. “Educating consumers about the new technology is critical if it’s going to have any tangible effect,” she said.
With that very purpose in mind, Rosak said, the retailer will raise color awareness issues with shoppers on its fashion content pages, insuring that it gets credit for adopting an Internet confidence-builder.

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