Ecommerce Myths Exposed

The internet is full of advice on how to build successful ecommerce websites, some of it bad and some of it useful. Whilst it is easy to disregard the bad advice, unfortunately the sheer amount available only encourages bad practice during ecommerce development. We are going to dispel some of the myths that surround ecommerce to ensure that you or your website developer only build ecommerce websites that are full of the good stuff!

Myth Number 1 – You can never provide too much information

One of the most common ecommerce myths is that you can never provide your buyers with too much information. Buying decisions hinge on information gathering, in theory the more information you provide potential customers the more you enable buying decisions. In reality however too much information is overwhelming and can prevent buying decisions from being made. Filling up your product pages with countless choices and unnecessary information only causes confusion and choice paralysis. Encourage users of your site to become customers by providing them with simple product information, and if you really want to provide technical specifications for your products present them as separate downloadable documents.

Myth Number 2 – Security badges inspire confidence

Make no bones about it, online security is paramount. Thanks to a surge in media interest, the security of online shopping has taken a bashing of late and many would-be customers are still wary of engaging with ecommerce. As an owner of an ecommerce site you need to inspire confidence in your users, but simply adding a McAfee or VeriSign badge to your checkout pages does nothing to allay the fear of internet shopping! You need to convince potential customers that your site is trustworthy and secure through effective written content; a feeble badge just won’t cut it!

Myth Number 3 – Cross-sell at every opportunity

Walk into any supermarket and it’s a guarantee that you will be exposed to cross-selling at every aisle and checkout. Even something as simple as purchasing a newspaper from a supermarket subjects you to a range of other products to purchase…chocolates, magazines and supermarket brand credit cards! Cross-selling works in shops, but it doesn’t translate very well online. In a bid to follow the Amazon template many online retailers attempt to introduce cross-selling at every stage of a user interaction including checkout processes. Some website owners even try to cross-sell products which are completely unrelated. This is just wrong wrong wrong! Online buying processes are user driven and checkout procedures need to be fast, focused and efficient. Bombarding your customers with extra choices and additional products when they are in the process of buying from you is off-putting and will simply encourage them to visit your competitors’ websites. Keep all cross-selling and promotional techniques away from the checkout, don’t give in to temptation!

Myth Number 4 – Successful ecommerce depends solely on the website

Your ecommerce website development agency has probably only concentrated their advice and attention on building you the ecommerce site of your dreams, after all “if we build it, they will come”! That’s a nice sentiment but sadly the success of your ebusiness doesn’t rely on the website alone. The real success of your ebusiness is in the service that you provide to your users and customers. User experience is improved by appealing and well design websites, but there are other important components which make up the full experience such as: open communication channels, returns policies, order fulfilment and dispatch, email notifications and complaints handling. Providing excellent customer service online is as important as providing it offline.

Myth Number 5 – Ecommerce is easy, anyone can do it!

The final ecommerce myth is that setting up and running an ecommerce business is easy. And it’s not just the internet that conveys this message; it’s even on our television screens. Take the current crop of “junior” apprentices vying to be Lord Sugar’s dogsbody for example, at least two of these adolescents claim to be CEOs of ebusinesses. Proof then surely that ecommerce so easy that 16 year old children can do it? Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that! Yes setting up an ecommerce website can be easy, but as we have discovered successful ecommerce relies on so much more. Successful ecommerce is a long term process which incorporates all the elements which are found in bricks and mortar businesses – product, functions, customer service, communication and effective marketing strategies. Now how many 16 year-olds can get their heads round that?!

eCommerce Checklist – Are You Ready?

Thinking about selling a product, a product line or a variety of products on your Web site? Here are a few things you will need to think about before and during the process of setting up your eCommerce Web site.

Choose the Right Shopping Cart Software

There are many off the shelf eCommerce solutions. Some are free (open source) and some aren’t. You want to choose a cart that:

1. Has all the features you need now and in the future
2. Is constantly updated, upgraded, patched and improved
3. Is supported by a development team.
4. Is Secure.

There’s nothing worse that purchasing shopping cart software and then being unable to reach the developers or support when you have a problem.

Budget

You must determine what you are willing to spend for the options and functionality you need.

Shopping cart software costs range from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Developing a custom cart from the ground up can cost even more.

The free options may sound good at first until you run into problems or need support that is non-existent. Which leads us to…

Support

Support of a cart is the probably the most important aspect. If you have a problem, (and you will) does the software provider provide live support?

Do they have a phone number on the site for support?

Do they charge for support.

You may be surprised by the number of software providers that do not even provide a phone number.

Cart/Server Setup

The shopping cart should be professionally installed on your server by a qualified server admin or the cart software programmer. There are typically many server/cart configuration options that can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the environment.

A database will also need to be setup and tied into your cart.

Also be sure to choose a cart that is compatible with your server operating system. Typically, Linux servers will run PHP and Perl solutions and Windows servers will use .ASP and .NET applications.

Choose whom you will use to ship your product

Typical Options:
UPS
FedEx
USPS (United States Postal Service)
DHL

Choose how you will calculate shipping cost

Some options would be:

* Live rate lookup
* Weight based table
* Price based table

Live Rate Lookup

Our shopping cart software supports Live shipping rate lookup. This means that it will return a shipping cost to the customer based on the actual product weight plus packaging.

(Setup varies depending on service selected)

We recommend the live lookup option if possible.

You will need to provide the weight for each product. (Including packaging)

Weight Based Table

Alternately, you can use a weight-based table.

Weight based Table Example:

Total Order size (weight) Shipping Price
0 – 29.99 = $9.50
30 – 59.99 = $4.50
60.00 and up Free ($0)

Cost Based Table

If you choose shipping rate by cost of the product, you will need to setup a shipping rate table and associated costs.

Example of a Cost based shipping table.

Total Order size (dollars) Shipping Price
$0-$24.95 = $9.00
$24.96-$49.99 = $5.00
$50.00 and up Free ($0)

Note: The free is just an example of what you can offer. You do not have to offer free shipping.

How will the package arrive at the shipping office?

* Shipper picks up package from you on a regular basis
* You deliver the package to the shipping office

This will impact your shipping cost.

Things to consider:

* Package size can impact cost of shipping
* Handling charge. You have the option to add a handling charge
* What countries will you ship to?

Note: Shipping is a VERY important aspect of setting up your eCommerce shop. Setting shipping rates too high is one of the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment.

Product Categories

You will need to determine how many product categories you are going to need and how many products will be in each category. It’s best to start of small and add products over time.

Product Images

You will need product images.

We recommend a professional photographer. It is essential that your photos be of top quality. In some cases you may be able to get them from the manufacturer.

A poor quality image looks unprofessional and will not help sell your product.

However, if you choose to take the photos yourself, try and follow these guidelines

* Use light backdrops (not white)
* Try and use natural sunlight or studio lights that produce no shadows

You will need a thumbnail image and a larger detailed image. There is a variety of good photo editing software on the market. Paint Shop Pro is a good low cost, multi purpose editor.

Adobe Photoshop is the top of the line software tool for photo editing, retouching and compressing your images. The choice of professionals.

Photo Naming Convention

Be sure and categorize the images and give them descriptive names. If you use numbers, be sure that they correlate with the product description detail “Photo Name” (see below). Typically save in .JPG format.

Delivery Options (if third party is doing the work)

* Burn to a CD or DVD and mail to us
* Zip and email (if less than 5 megs)
* FTP – Publish on your site or specified site

Product Description

For each product, you will need a written description.

You will need a Short description (one sentence) and a Long description (paragraph or more).

You want to attract and intrigue potential shoppers so be sure to use interesting copy that is full of adjectives and possibly a bullet list of features in the long description.

Product Details

Depending on the cart used, you may have to adhere to the following format. Use a Word document or Excel worksheet for each category. Please name the document/worksheet relevant to the category, i.e. name it Widgets, if the category is Widgets.

Category:
Item Name:
Description Short:
Description Long:
Photo Name:
Item or product #:
Sort Code:
Shipping Weight:
Price:
Keywords associated with product:
Options: (color/size/scent/etc.): (If applicable)

Merchant Account/Taking Payments

What is needed to accept credit cards online?

You will need a merchant account and a payment gateway.

Options:

A. If applicable, use your existing merchant account and setup an authorization gateway (authorize.net, Linkpoint, etc.) that will interface with your merchant account through your cart and handle the transactions in real time.

B. Setup a new merchant account and payment gateway. This is the most professional setup and will instill confidence in your customers.

C. Interface with PayPal. (not recommended for serious eCommerce) This is the absolute last choice. This would be considered unprofessional and could cause you to lose business. Consider this only if your are on the lowest budget.

Security

All transactions should be encrypted via SSL (Secure Socket Layer) This requires a security certificate to be installed on the server. There is a variety of SSL vendors such as Verisign, Thawte, GeoTrust and many more. This is an absolutely essential for any site accepting credit card payments online.

Other configurations:

Take you time and go through all the configuration options. Shopping carts are complex programs and there are often 10 or more page of configuration options. Each option should be reviewed to determine if it’s right for your store/product.

Ultimately, setting up an eCommerce solution takes a lot of thought, time and effort. Advanced Web Site Publishing has setup hundreds of eCommerce solutions. We are also experienced in all facets of running an eCommerce site. Let us recommend the correct solution for you.

Developing A Contract For Ecommerce Software – Concluding The Order Form

In the ecommerce regulations, the formation of the contract is one of the top priorities that every online business must pay attention too. The major concerns are how, when and where the contract is formed. In this article we will look over the process to finalize the order form and incorporate the right information into the terms and conditions of your ecommerce solutions.

The order form, or web page which the order form is displayed, is where the customer is taken to conclude the order. The order form has to include the product, a selection for quantities and the customer’s delivery information. In the ecommerce regulations it declares that the customer requires a means to correct any errors on the order form. Most ecommerce software solutions incorporate this condition by adding three buttons to the order form. The buttons are commonly labelled ‘Submit’, ‘Clear’ and ‘Cancel’, these present the customer with options that the regulations expect for an online store such as an eBay store, Facebook store or other ecommerce solutions.

Incorporating the correct information into the terms and conditions of your ecommerce solutions is a critical part of making sure your online business is legal. At the bottom of the terms and conditions page the customer has to be required to ‘tick a box’ to identify that they have understood and accepted before they click on the ‘Submit’ button. The ‘Submit’ button has to be only available when the terms and conditions have been ticked and accepted. The ecommerce software that a company operates has to load the whole web page before the customer is capable to accept the terms and conditions. By the ecommerce solutions doing this, the company is in a position of power in the event that customer claims there was no chance to read the terms and conditions.

Although there is no accountability on the retailer to confirm that the customer has in verity read the terms and conditions, following these behaviours will demonstrate that proper efforts have been made to bring them to the customers notice. The terms and conditions for your eBay store, Facebook store or ecommerce solutions has to be arranged so that the customer can print and save the web page. The correct design has to include no pop-up windows and make sure that they fit inside the width of the page and be presented in a way that they print correctly.

An expression such as ‘By clicking the Accept button you agree to these terms and conditions’. When finishing and submitting the online order form the customer is making a proposal to buy, which, if accepted by the retailer, will result in a binding contract. By integrating the expression ‘accepted by the retailer’ the retailer has guarded themselves according to ecommerce regulations.

This above process is recommended as the ‘best practice’ method for displaying terms and conditions but there is another procedure that ecommerce software can utilize and is more user-friendly. This method is not as legally safe but is approved on a lot of ecommerce websites. This method is to include a link to the terms and conditions on the order form, and make the customer tick a box to confirm they have read and accepted, before they click on the ‘Submit’ button. This method takes away a huge quantity of information from the order page and incorporates a link to another page which displays all the relevant information. An eBay store, Facebook store or regular ecommerce store can utilize this method to improve the customers experience and not to divert the customer from their buying experience.