Planning for e-commerce websites

Putting your business online and taking orders can be relatively straightforward with the right technology solution but if you are to gain the real business benefits that comes from ecommerce then there are business aspects to be considered. The following areas will help you consider some of the factors involved in implementing a successful e-commerce website.

Your objectives

What has made you decide to get an e-commerce website? Perhaps its just a natural progression from your existing site or maybe a trend within your market sector? We would suggest your look at your competitors websites and understand the trends within your industry. Make a note of what you like and what would work for your business. Consider you target market and what information and services you would like to provide them.

Ecommerce provides a real opportunity to jump ahead of the competition but often requires a re-think of how your business will operate in the future.

Customer Service

From our experience and the feed back from our clients providing good customer service for online customers can be demanding. Through conversations with clients we have found that several of them were not prepared for the different approach to customer service and the resources it required. Email and telephone calls can increase considerably and you may need to allow for this in preparation for your e-commerce website. Also packaging and posting of goods will play a major role in the success of your online customer service.

Products

Consider the appropriate detail for the products you are going to sell i.e. various pictures of different views, detailed feature list and product specifications. The more information available to the potential customer about a particular product potentially the better. It allows them to research the product in detail, they are more willing to buy if all their questions have been answered.
Do you have all the images and data needed? Collecting this data can be a large task, so preparation is a great advantage and will stop any delays in the creation of your e-commerce web site.

Market Distribution

How wide is your market? Are you supplying to the UK only or will your customers come from overseas too?
If you are going to be taking orders from overseas you need to consider the following:

Shipping costs - Are you going to calculate it by weight or have a fixed price?

What are the tax implications involved, is your company prepared?

Will customers to be able to track their order online?

Are you going to offer next day or Saturday delivery?

Online Payments

How are you going to handle your online payments? This can vary depending on the business you are in. If you supply products or services to other businesses you may want to simplify your existing processes by getting your existing customers to use your website to place orders. Payment and invoicing can continue through your existing system.

If youre dealing with new customers and the public youll probably wish to take credit card payments. If your business already has merchant status, you can use an online processor to handle your card payments.