To best understand how these factors will influence the success of your online store, it is vital to look at things from a customer’s perspective.
In e-commerce, if customers don’t benefit, then the supplier definitely won’t. But if you make life more convenient or lower cost for your customers, the result will be increased sales or reduced costs.
To tap into this virtuous circle, your goods must be suitable for selling on the net. Since sight and sound are the only mediums available, they must be sufficient to communicate enough information to your prospective customer for them to make a purchase. Products with a short sales cycle are generally better for ecommerce, although repeat purchases of almost anything can work. Specialist, hard to find goods can work well, and if you use mail order already, or people phone up and place orders for your products or services without any pricing discussion, you definitely have the potential to sell online.
Points of Note
So suppose that you could sell online, what benefits can you provide to your customers?
The first possibility is price. Maybe by avoiding the costs of a physical location you can share this saving with your customers. Maybe by taking orders over the net, you can reduce your order processing costs and again share the benefits. However, in our opinion the greatest advantage of net sales lies in convenience. Online, it’s much easier to find rare items typically only available from specialist suppliers. And “plumbing” products which are a necessary part of life but don’t give much joy to most shoppers can also benefit from the “click and I’m outta here” philosophy. Items which fit into this category range from groceries to toner cartridges.
Let’s say that you can benefit your customers by providing an online store, now you have to deliver it to them in an accessible way.
The key is making everything easy to use. Being easy to use can break down into a number of areas such as the speed of the site, making it simple to find things and using terminology that prospects can understand. The download speed of the web site is probably the first place to start. There’s nothing worse than waiting ages for a site to display. There are three aspects that affect site speed - the server, the design and the software.
If your web space is cheap, this may be because your web host is sharing their server across hundreds of other sites, which can slow them down a lot at iComs we use UK based servers with incredibly fast connection speeds, and we don't overload our servers with hundreds of sites. Design is also key. A good clean design is part of being credible, but not if this results in long download delays. Here at iComs we design sites with both the retailer & the customer in mind to give a rich and enjoyable on-line experience. The final point is software. It may be that by buying a well known package you reduce the chances of being caught out by slow software. At iComs we use state of the art e-commerce software which has been designed to be fast and secure.
To have any chance of persuading customers to part with their hard earned cash, you need to be credible. We’ve already mentioned design in this context. Next on the credibility list is providing the fullest possible contact details. This should include full company name, a real human contact with maybe a picture, phone, fax, physical address, and branded email - not Hotmail or Yahoo emails. In fact, most of this information is now required under the EU Distance Selling Directive. The overall objective is to make yourself as real as possible to your prospective buyers. Well crafted case studies or testimonials from customers may also be helpful here.
You need to consider how people will approach your store. Are they searching for a specific item or do they want to browse? The searching and browsing facilities on the site need to be orientated to the customer’s needs. iComs can help with submission of your site to Shopping portals such as Google to get the maximum exposure on the internet.
Like all other aspects of your site, payment is an opportunity to make things easy for your customers.
There’s really only one important thing to say about payment, and that is that you should take credit cards. You may allow payment on account if you’re selling to other businesses, but for selling to consumers it’s the old Visa or MasterCard. You can either get your credit card company to approve you to take internet orders, or you can sign up with a Payment Service Provider. Our software integrates with over 20 of the top payment gateways see below:
- Protx (Sage Pay)
- Optimal Payments
- USA ePay
- Secure Trading
- eProcessing Network
- Secure Hosting
- Authorize.net (AIM & SIM)
- Barclays ePDQ
- Verisign (US)
- Verisign (Australia)
- Banque Populaire
Finally, to implement your plans, technology is needed. The good news is iComs are here to help, with years of experience. We are here to provide an end to end service. So if the business case is sound, given there are plenty of sources of help, now is the time to jump.
It just remains for me to wish you all success in your ventures.