ViArt - PHP Shopping Cart

Archive for the ‘Online Shopping’ Category

Setting Up Your Online Store

Monday, March 17th, 2008

One of the most important factors when planning your e-business strategy is the company or product you choose to help you.. No matter what you sell, however, an e-commerce site must provide the same basic services your customers would expect.

Once you’ve decided what kind of online business you want to start, it’s time to register your domain name, and design a website that will firstly attract customers and also encourage a trustworthy relationship.. If you’re a programmer or website designer you could build the site yourself. Alternatively, you could use a HTML editing program to help you build it. There are many designs to choose from out there, and templates can easily be edited in Dreamweaver or Frontpage.

Every online store should be set up for many payment providers, including Paypal. If you decide to buy a shopping cart program, it is worth comparing prices, features, and customer service. If you have friends who engage in ecommerce, you might also get some advice from them.. Some pieces of shopping cart software might seem affordable at first, but you need to be aware that many companies charge extra if you want certain customisations or plug-ins. Here are some tips on how to make your online store attractive to potential customers.

Organize your store properly. You should make it easy for customers to find what they need.

Would you feel satisfied shopping at a store where the products were arranged at random, with no guide as to how you can find the product/ service you are looking for? Of course not, you would leave the store at once without buying a thing.. Yet it is surprising to see a great number of online stores that are not well-structured; that make it nearly impossible for customers to find what they need.
When you decide to set up your store you must have a clear idea about how to arrange your products so as to provide the most seamless shopping experience. Offer customers more than one way to find what they’re looking for, provide intuitive links to different product categories and a search function where customers can enter a product name. “Breadcrumb trails” that allow customers to retrace their steps on your website are also effective in helping users to identify where they are located on a website.

Don’t frustrate customers with long waiting.

After a customer has selected their product and hit the Buy button , they do not expect to wait for a response — or even worse, get an error message. Order confirmation should be instant. If it is not, your customer will be left feeling frustrated and anxious about the status of their order. Repeat custom is doubtful. The solution to this problem is simple; make sure your software and servers are capable of handling whatever your customers throw at them. If you’re using a third-party service, you need to be sure they are using first-rate technology. If you’re building your own site from scratch, it means investing in the best possible software and hardware.

Ensure your store has an easy payment system.

Online stores can accept different types of payment: credit cards, electronic cash, purchase orders, or cash and cheques sent via mail. Keep in mind that different types of businesses will need to accept different payment types. The paying system you choose must be easy for every customer, so ensure your e-commerce provider can handle the ones your customers are likely to use.

One more question that still worries customers is security. Even if customers realise that sending a credit card number over the Internet is extremely safe, they can still worry. Online payment systems send sensitive information like credit card numbers via encrypted connections. If your system does this, assure customers that their information is absolutely secure.

Building an online store is an intricate process and every stage, from your choice of ecommerce provider to the initial design process, is of the utmost importance.

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Top 10 E-Commerce Mistakes

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Nowadays, shopping online is not a rarity; it has fast become the norm due to increased confidence, immediacy and the convenience factor. With this in mind, and your competitor’s being just a mouse-click away, having the very best site has become a must.

So, what can you do? Lets look at 10 mistakes you try not to make:

  1. Is your product right for selling online? Common sense and a small bit of research will come in handy to answer this question. If you are going to sell inexpensive goods that can easily be bought in a next-door supermarket - you really should think twice about taking this avenue. On the other hand, if you find a niche where the industry has little competition online, this would be an obvious avenue to take.
    Research into how your competitors behave and what tactics they use to convert a visitor into a buyer.
  2. Poor website design. Fool’s haste is no speed. It applies to e-commerce business as well. You were so dying to launch your web-store that paid a would-be web designer for a would-be website.
    “First impressions count” and this saying applies to ecommerce more than anything else. This is because it is so simply to click the ‘back’ button straight back to the search engine results.
    When a user arrives at your site they will begin to make immediate decisions about every aspect of your business, therefore usable landing pages are especially important.
    If any question is left unanswered, such as “Does this website provide the service I am looking for?”, “Is this company trustworthy to do business with?”, the user can easily leave in favour of a competing website.
    Another point to think about is download time. Despite the fact that not many users are using 56 kbps modem these days, fans of flash animation and excessive graphics are not welcome.
  3. Not properly tested website. Getting a 404 error is not what one expects when submitting his credit card details. Thus, testing every page of your web-store is extremely important. Broken links, missing descriptions or pictures, script malfunction - these are things that should not occur on a properly tested website.
  4. An Unusable checkout. Once a visitor decides to become a customer, nothing should mislead him. The whole checkout procedure should be as clear and as seamless as possible. Try to think of any questions that might arise and put answers beforehand. Have you heard of ‘user-friendliness’? This is the right place and right time to prove you know what it is.
  5. Not having a private policy. Not many users will need it. But it’s not an excuse for not having it. A clearly stated private policy will make your web-store look professional and most importantly reliable.
  6. Lack of marketing. Now, when you have your website ready-to-go and a warehouse stuffed with products, you need to shout about it - especially if you have a lot of competition.
  7. Poor delivery service. Do you know that one negative feedback spreads faster than ten positive ones? Thus, before you start selling online, ensure you have a trusted delivery service which is able to fulfil your customers’ orders in a timely fashion.
  8. Poor customer service. Don’t be surprised if you find this very part to be the most important one in the whole e-commerce business. Satisfied customers will come back to your store again and again whether it’s online or not. Moreover, they will bring their friends as well! So, find some time to respond to your customers, interact with them, make them feel important to you.
  9. Being out-of-date. New items, new content, new offers. These are essentials. Otherwise, your competitors will have an upper hand. A web-site that has nothing new for a few weeks or month is a dead web-site. No one would like to deal with those who are not alive, right? Keep your site up-to-date, expand your product range, post news, maybe even set up a blog or forum.
  10. Losing your goal. Find your niche and stay within it. Sure, expand your range, but don’t lose your niche.

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UK Christmas Spend Online To Be Up 42% on Last Christmas

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Christmas is going to be bigger than ever this year with over £13.8 billion to be spent by the UK’s 27 million e-shoppers, According to Forester Resesearch*. This prediction is up 42% on last Christmas, compared to IMRG’s 2006 data.

Why is Online Spending Continuing to Rise?

61% of homes are now connected to the Internet and 84% of online households in the UK now use a broadband connection. But more than that, confidence in website security is rising; in fact it’s where many people feel most comfortable. According to the latest IMRG Customer Service Index by eDigitalResearch and ipoints, confidence in website security rose two percentage points in the past quarter to 75.6%. Similar causes were accounted for when UK online shopping sales rose 80% in the summer.

Jo Evans, IMRG’s Managing Director commented: “Like a lot of people, I have already begun my Christmas shopping without having to battle with traffic and crowds, by buying online. I have thousands of shops available to me, and if they are displaying the ISIS / IDIS logos, I know they are trustworthy and reliable, and I can shop safely and securely receiving my purchases at home in good time for giving to my family and friends.”

The demographic profile of the web is also changing. At one time the young, male demographic dominated online sales, but in recent times this has migrated. Now every age group, across both sexes is well represented in the share of Internet retailing spend.

Commenting on this, Simon Pitts, Managing Director of GlobalPositioningSystems.co.uk says: “We have certainly witnessed sales growth amongst a wider age group and across both sexes. This is especially true for the older generation. It seems the older generation are beginning to embrace technology; they are embracing the convenience of the Internet and also the benefits of consumer electronics.”

Hitwise research backs this, confirming: “In the UK internet users aged 55+, the ’silver surfers’, are the 2nd largest demographic group online”.

Are Christmas sales online heading for another record amount?

More and more people are connecting to the Internet and people are continuing to use the Internet to compare prices.

“At Christmas time, when budgets are tight, shoppers are especially interested in finding the best value for money.” Says Simon Pitts.

Where better to do this than on the Internet?

Shoppers can browse and compare every shop from the comfort of their own home without having to battle with the crowds, and more choice and availability is a desirable choice. Shoppers can even track their order right to their door, and select a delivery option to suit them.”

In essence, the Internet has become a more convenient way to shop. Roll on the Christmas Season.

Source: * Source: “Europe’s 2007 Christmas: An Online Retail Wonderland”, Forrester Research, October 2007 IMRG.Org

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Online UK Shopping Sales Up 80% on Last Year

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Online shopping saw a massive spike in online sales last month, up 80% compared to July 2006.
Online sales were actually a huge £1.86 billion higher than they were in July 2006.

Other facts that may be of interest to all you shopping cart owners:

  • The IMRG Index exceeded 4000 for the first time, suggesting that UK e-retail sales had exceeded £4 billion in a month for the first time (£4.2bn).
  • In the high street, the average value of weekly sales in July was £5 billion, 3.3% higher than July 2006.
  • The highest sales growth was in electrical goods, according to National Statistics Online
  • Clothing sales were also strong online: the IMRG Clothing / Footwear / Accessories Index was 56% higher than a year earlier
  • Annual growth for: Jan = 16.5%; Feb = 34.7%, Mar = 40.9%, Apr = 54.4%; May = 48.0%; Jun = 55.1%.

Why such a huge annual growth?

  • Very wet weather - The rubbish UK summer has encouraged people to travel abroad - encouraging many people to shop last minute online.  It’s also forced many people into replacing water-damaged goods.
  • More competitive online prices
  • Detailed product information available
  • Ease of the buying process
  • New customers as a result of strong uptake on domestic broadband
  • Increased confidence encouraging repeat online buying.

Source: TheRetailBulletin.com

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Google Rolls Out Custom Search Business

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Google’s Custom Search Business Edition enables shopping cart and website owners, particularly small-to-medium sized enterprizes, to utilise google’s search technology.

The custom search engine will let visitors access search results from any website or websites that you, the Webmaster, chooses.

Starting at around $100/year, you can add Google search to index and search up to 5,000 pages on your website; $500 gets you up to 50,000.

Google’s Business Edition also gives you the ability to remove Google AdWords advertisements and change the colors of the results pages so it matches your shopping cart. You can also choose to feature specific content in your search results or display particular promotions or events above the search results.

Find out more at Google - Custom Seach Business

Source: BeWebDriven.com

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Shopping Carts: 5 Usability Problems

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

The process leading up to a transaction online is possibly the most critical to a shopping cart’s success.  If the buying process causes frustration, confusion or insecurity, the user is likely to abandon the shopping cart, never to return again.

The usability of a shopping cart refers to the efficiency with which a user can achieve their goals on a website.  Many of the larger online shopping carts, like Play.com and Amazon.com, are continuously striving to make their buying process as fluent and as effortless as possible.  Knowing you can buy a book or film in just 3 or 4 clicks encourages you to return to the same, reliable website.

Having read numerous articles and white papers dedicated to best practice shopping cart design and usability; below I have highlighted five potential design problems in shopping carts that I’m sure many users have encountered. 

1. Shopping carts that ask a user to register before knowing if the product is available or not.

It could be quite irritating for a user if they have spent 10 minutes entering their credit card details, home address, telephone number etc etc. only to find out during the checkout process that the product they want to buy is out of stock.

Many shopping carts enable you to present users with live stock availability before the user places their product in the shopping cart. 

2. Suggesting the user buys similar products before adding the main product to the shopping cart.
 
It’s often helpful when a website recommends additional products you may want or need after adding your main product to your shopping cart. 

However, I think you’ll agree that it could be slightly confusing if these additional products were offered to you before even adding the main product to your shopping cart?  You press “Add to Cart” and suddenly you’re offered batteries, or insoles or travel cases.  Many users would be left feeling confused, wondering if their product had been added or not, or if they’d pressed the wrong button.

Best practice guidelines would indicate offering your user the extra products after the user has finished shopping and they’re entering the checkout process. 

3.  Shopping carts that ask a user to register before they have even added a product to their shopping cart.

Asking for a user’s personal information before they have even added a product to their shopping cart is not a good move. 

Customer registration can offer some big advantages to you as a merchant including recovery for abandoned shopping carts, customer loyalty and email contact.  However, many users may be browsing a number of websites, adding products to numerous shopping carts for the main purpose of comparing prices and features.  If a user has to register personal details before using the shopping carts, a large percentage are likely to abandon the website.

4.  Requiring a user to delete and add the same product to shopping carts just so they can change its colour, size or variation.

Editing a shopping cart should be as simple as possible and shouldn’t require the user to delete anything from the shopping cart.

If a product comes in different colours and different sizes don’t make them delete it from their shopping cart if they want it in a different variation.  Users should be able to select from within their shopping carts the different options.

5.  Websites that do not clearly show the user the contents of the shopping carts.

Have you ever been on a website and added the same product to your shopping cart 3 or 4 times because you’re not sure if it worked the first time? 

Many users that can’t see the contents of their shopping cart in the same browser as the one they are shopping on can often feel confused about whether or not their item has been added successfully.

As a merchant it is understandable that you don’t want to take your user away from the page they are shopping on every time they add something to their shopping cart.  Best practice guidelines therefore indicate displaying the contents of a users shopping cart in the same browser, in the right hand corner for example. 

To summarise, the design of the entire shopping experience is of utmost importance. These 5 potential design problems highlighted are five of many common problems found on shopping carts.

Which one is most likely to make you abandon your shopping cart? 

Tell us about additional usability problems you have encountered! 

Which, out of those above, do you think is the most irritating and the most likely to cause shopping abandonment?

Viart Shop (http://www.viart.com/) offer scalable and flexible ecommerce shopping cart solutions.  To evaluate the Viart shop, the company are currently providing a fully hosted 30-day trial of their PHP shopping carts

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Shopping Carts Get More Traffic from Social Network Sites

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

The latest statistics from Hitwise has revealed that the arrival of MySpace has had a significant impact on shopping carts.  Shopping carts now receive 3.15% from MySpace - up 86.1% in the past year

LeeAnn Prescott from Hitwise notes that the increase from MySpace to ecommerce shopping sites could have several explanations: more advertising presence on the site, a general increase in traffic to the website or Google search on the site.

So, despite scepticism about the advent of social marketing, it seems it might be starting to take hold.  TopShop for example got 5% of its shopping traffic from MySpace.

It will be interesting to see what the traffic stats are from social network sites next year.  My prediction:  Facebook will be up there with MySpace and there presence for ecommerce sites will continue to grow! 
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