One key challenge for any business which will offer and sell its products online is the choice of website. The advance in website development means there are a choice of E-commerce applications and pre-packaged solutions ready to implement at a fairly “low cost”. Alternatively, a customised solution will be a design which fits your business model and the needs of your customers.
The question is which one should you go for? Cost is a factor. But so is getting it right. Here a few guidelines to check when making your decision.
These are the basic features any E-commerce site needs.
1. Product catalogue.
You need to display your products by: image; price; description (usually a summary and detail). Be able to update easily, and identify inventory availability
2. Tax calculator
Sales Tax or VAT should be integrated so each product is properly priced. The tax rates for state and/or country of origin are essential.
3. Order and pay
You site will need to process orders and have payment capability through a recognised and secure card integrator.
4. User registration
Any user buying on the site will be required to register their personal details, primarily for order confirmation and invoicing.
Your order process will need an edit option as customers normally make mistakes and need to re-do certain elements.
6. Shopping cart (or basket)
As products are ordered, the user must see what is there to keep a tally of their purchases, quantities ordered, and total spend.
Delivery charges, if applied, will at base level be standardised and need to appear on the shopping cart and completed order.
8. Payment integrator
Every E-commerce website needs to integrate with a payment processor. PayPal, World Pay are the most common. At a basic level this assumes you do not hold any debit or credit card details.
9. Order acknowledged
When you receive the completed order you must have an auto-responder which confirms the order to the user. This is a courtesy. Also, it is a security check which helps prevent any misuse or fraudulent use of a card or identity.
10. Purchase history
A history of purchases made is a very useful facility for users of your site, especially if they can download a report.
11. Backend admininstration
You as the business owner need to have control of what is happening. So downloadable reports on orders received and order status are essential for you to manage the business.
12. Secure hosting
You must have a secure environment for any E-commerce activity, especially as you are taking personal customer details. The level of security varies as published prices from host companies indicate. But if you take card details then you need high level security.
Other aspects to consider
These are higher level considerations which a serious e-tailer needs to be aware of. The type of requirement outlined here would often need a higher level package, or a customised website to suit your business type.
1. Up-Sell and Cross-Sell
If you want to get more out of a site visitor then you need these capabilities. They are familiar to most users of sites especially those offering clothing or jewelry.
2 Multiple orders
If your business offers products for distribution then your order process needs to be capable of delivering to different locations.
3.Choice of payment
People appreciate the choice of cash or card. Additionally you may offer payment on terms of credit (pay in 30 days) for bigger clients or more frequent purchasers
4. Pay deposits
Your business may require taking a deposit on larger orders. The value has to be calculated and stored so the final payment taken is net of the discount.
5. Promotion certificates
Gift certificates or vouchers will need a feature to issue and redeem.
In deciding the right E-commerce vehicle for your business then think carefully on the key areas:
1. How many search queries will you have to accommodate? Think of a site offering vacation destinations and the options available and then combinations of “queries”. So the database which holds the information has to be both large and flexible to deal with your product catalogue and all the data options.
2. E-commerce is about the ability to take payments. If you need automated interaction between your website (the “front-end”) and the inventory/ordering/delivering system (the “back-end”) then this is the world of E-business.
3. If you want to deal in high volumes, or nationally and internationally, then language, multiple tax rates, currencies and other critical points stated above will dictate your choice.