Many company’s e-business websites fail completely. Why? Setting up an e-business or e-commerce website involves lots of different processes and several decisions which have to be made. We regularly get enquiries from people who are considering an e-commerce website but who really don’t know where to start from and who can blame them?
There are various important aspects of setting up an e-commerce website which can mean the difference between success and failure for your project.
If your e-commerce website is not successful, you could have one or more of different flaws. Bad site design is a turn-off to even the most un-initiated web consumer. The site is aesthetically unpleasing, too busy, or just plain ugly. Nothing turns off a potential customer quicker. If a customer can’t find what they are looking for quickly, you will lose them in a New York Minute. Including a search feature is a plus, as is having your products divided into categories. Even if the customer already knows what they want, including a minimal amount of product information is important for customer peace of mind. Just a photo and a price are not enough.
Many customers get to the final stage of the purchase and stop, never to return. Why? Either they are confused by bad design, too many fields to fill out on the form, or they don’t see a secure certificate for entering their credit card number.
Once a site is ready to go live, you need to get customers in the door of your new online store. Your first step is a good analytics programme so you can see how many visitors are coming. Your next step is a well-planned marketing strategy with a reasonable budget, so traffic to the site increases enough to make sales.
In order to be successful, you need to ensure that proper attention is given to design, ease of use, interactivity, use of technology, innovation and content.
As well as making your online store user-friendly for your customers, you also need to ensure that it’s simple for you to update products and prices and pick up and manage orders. It is important to have a great back-end system that makes updating and categorising your products easy and works well for your personnel. You also need to have a system in place that alerts you when new orders have been received so as to ensure a seamless and prompt customer service.
It is also good practice to integrate your e-commerce system with your stock system as well as possibly billing and accounting systems. This will not only facilitate and help ensure that your site is up to date, but will also translate into business efficiencies. Having said that, technology integration is one of the biggest headaches of e-commerce. It can account for up to 50 per cent of the overall time and cost of a typical e-commerce implementation and can be a barrier to the adoption of available technologies.
It is important to evaluate the business benefit that would be derived from integrating your e-commerce site with other business systems. Should you decide to go down this route, it is important that this is highlighted and discussed with the development team or service provider to ensure that they can cater to this requirement before you kick off the project. Typically people get tucked into fleshing out the design and structure of the website itself first, the more exciting and fun bit of the project! However this could be a very expensive mistake if once designed and developed, the service providers have either not built the site to be able to integrate with your systems or do not have the technical capabilities in-house to do so.
Plan ahead and consider future possible requirements. Think about your customers as well as the system user. Choose a technical partner that can help simplify the process and that speaks your language. It’s a project that needn’t become a headache but it is important both parties are on the same page.