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Archive for the ‘Web Ecommerce Development’ 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.

Choosing the Appropriate E-Commerce System

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

When you decide to open an online store, you have a number of options to choose from. Choosing the appropriate e-commerce system is possibly the first, most important task, and even if you’re not going to do it yourself, you’ll still need enough information to make the right decision. To help you choose we have outlined the many options available, along with their advantages and drawbacks.

When creating your own online store it is possible to customize every feature of the site so as to optimize its performance and combine it with its existing inventory, accounting and other systems. You can customize your store until it’s exactly how you want it to be, and you can quickly extend it to take advantage of new opportunities.

Several sellers offer tools that help you create a custom online store. Companies such as Microsoft and Macromedia offer e-commerce toolkits providing the technology and the development tools for constructing an e-commerce site. These toolkits include the basic software that runs an online store, software “hooks” that can link to databases or other back-end systems, and even their own programming languages.

If you are going to build an online store from the ground up, you have to be prepared to provide some very basic development, using your own source code to connect together the various database, shipping, tax, fulfillment and page-serving modules that will constitute the finished site. These are time-consuming tasks, and your store will take longer to build than some ready-to-use system. To create even a basic on-line store, expect to spend $10,000 at the minimum, and a great deal of stores cost hundreds of thousands to create and keep running. So unless there are some very special reasons for devising and implementing your own system, we’d recommend using an existing e-commerce tool.

Buying an existing e-commerce system

Many sellers produce e-commerce software packages suitable for a wide range of business needs. By matching and mixing features provided by these packages, you can create an advanced e-commerce site in rather a short order.

Basic e-commerce systems commonly offer ready-to-use store templates or “wizards” that guide you through the setup process and help you get your store up and running. They also come with ready-to-use shopping cart soft that keeps customers’ purchases as they select them, calculates prices, collects the information about customers and then submits credit card information to your bank. More sophisticated systems of electronic commerce let you import and publish existing catalogs on the Web and link your online store to a database or other systems.

Of course, if you agree to use an off-the-shelf system, you lose a great deal of flexibility, both now and in the future. Many of these tools strictly limit the way you can customize your shopping cart, catalog and even the way your online shop looks. Even with such limitations, most businesses find e-commerce software that meets their requirements, and the fact that sellers allow for service and support is a great advantage.

Becoming partners with an e-commerce provider

The most rapid and perhaps the easiest way is to sign up with a service that constructs and maintains your storefront for you. You won’t require your own software, hardware or technical expertise, the only thing you’ll need to provide is the name of your company and a list of goods and/or services that you provide. Some storefront providers have a strict per-month fee depending on the quantity of items in your online catalog, while others charge a percentage of the sales. These providers offer e-commerce leases, and they handle all of the transaction processing, web serving, backups, etc. Some providers of e-commerce services can even set up an account for you if there hasn’t already been one.

E-commerce providers are the most inexpensive way to create an online shop, but you’ll have to sacrifice the flexibility. Most of these services provide a very narrow set of options to customize your shop, and it may be that all of the stores on a provider’s site basically have the same design and look very alike.

Finally, although the majority of e-commerce providers are reputable businesses, some can have hidden charges. A small minority can also be insecure, which is why you should always check a provider, and the most valuable thing to do is not make your choice in haste.

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.

Celebrate PHP Software at PHP Expo

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

In-depth PHP shopping cart tutorials, expert case studies, business and technical lectures, and networking events will make up the third anniversary of the PHP conference.  The latest news… Joel Spolsky is to Keynote.

DevZone announced the news earlier this week.  Although Joel Spolsky isn’t a PHP developer, he knows a lot about building good PHP shopping carts and software.

The description of his talk at the PHP conference is as follows:

In many product categories, from software to consumer electronics, the product with the most market share is often more expensive and less functional than the number two product. I will explore why this happens and suggest some ways to design a blue chip product that people will love. After you get great software and products using the usual repertoire of debugging, usability testing, etc., you have to go still further and think about beauty, user happiness, and emotional impact.”

Ecommerce News: Google Trends Launch Hot Trends

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Hot Trends is Google’s new Google Trends feature that will now report the top 100 ‘hottest’ search queries for each day.

For each ‘hot’ search query, you can view a graph that displays the popularity of the query, related searches and the top results from Google News, Blog Search and Web Search. These results should explain to you why the queries are so popular.

How do google define a hot trend?

Google say they use an algorythm to identify a sudden rise in a query phrase, that is not the norm for that query.  The higher the sudden rise, the hotter the topic.

You will also be able to access an archive of ‘hot’ trends - just select a past date and up pop the ‘hottest’ queries for that day!  See the people, the news and the events which defined that day in history!

At the moment Google only shows the “hottest” queries in the US, but it is expected that other countries will follow.

When you click on a search query you can even see how popular that search query is in a certain city or state and compare these stats from city to city.

I expect to see things of this nature a lot more in the future on Google’s various properties, what do you think?

Shopping cart questions from fellow merchants, answered

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

While the Ecommerce Times usually fill their homepage with product reviews, current ecommerce news and shopping cart tutorials, this week they have highlighted some popular disscussions often held by merchants in their forums.

You should find this interesting as it provides an insight into what your fellow merchants are thinking and struggling with.

It addresses using shopping PPC sites as means of advertising your ecommerce shopping carts and a popular thread where by merchants give fellow forum members the invitation to rate their site.  

Internet Shopping Carts Create A Convenient Life, To Say The Least…

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Internet shopping carts have quickly developed (and continue to develop) to make online shopping completely seamless - turning online shopping, for some, the “Ultimate Liberating Experience” - Wayne Miller, E-commerce Times.

This summarises another one of the articles I would like to bring to your attention.  The article, over at Ecommerce Times, describes how and why it is possible for us to “live at a level of comfort and convenience that medieval royalty could never have imagined”.  

Yahoo’s New Shopping Cart Icon Announced

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Following in the footsteps of Google, Yahoo announced yesterday a partnership with ebay in which the sponsored search results will feature a small blue shopping cart icon.  The shopping cart icon is in place to notify shoppers of those merchants that accept PayPal Express Checkout as a form of payment.

“Yahoo’s new search marketing platform delivers consumers more relevant search results, and now, with the shopping cart icon, a clear and simple path to making purchases,” Rich Riley, Sr. vice president, Online Channel & Small Business Services, Yahoo! Inc. said in a written statement.

According to Yahoo, the new shopping cart icon will help extend the company’s new search marketing platform launched Feb. 5 in the US, referred to as Project Panama.

So here’s how the new shopping cart model works; merchants’ search listings on Yahoo will be enhanced with the blue shopping cart icon, pointing consumers to a bright orange button on the merchants’ checkout page, which links the consumer to the path to complete purchases using PayPal Express.

This has come sometime after Google announced the same principal.  The only difference being that Google’s shopping cart icons notify shoppers about merchants that offer the google checkout, not PayPal Express Checkout.

Sitemaps Made Simple

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Google, Ask and Yahoo have together announced the launch of Sitemaps ‘Autodiscovery’.  This enables webmasters to simply specify the location of their sitemap within the robots.txt file and universally submit their content to the search engines.

A sitemap is basically a  one-stop-shop for search engines when it comes to indexing your website.  The new sitemaps model ‘autodiscovery’ is therefore ideal for webmasters, search engines and searchers alike:

  • “Webmasters save time with the ability to universally submit their content to the search engines and benefit from reduced unnecessary traffic by the crawlers.”
  • “The search engines get information with regards to pages to index as well as metadata with clues about which pages are newly updated and which pages are identified as the most important.”
  • “Searchers benefit from improved search experience with better comprehensiveness and freshness.” Says

84% of Online Shoppers Don’t Browse

Monday, April 16th, 2007

According to this article by Anne Holand from Marketing Sherpa, a huge 82% of shoppers will not browse your homepage.  No matter how enticing a website may appear, they will head straight for navigational elements such as nav bars and search boxes.

The article presents the results of this study and depicts the majority of shoppers as “male shoppers in the real world”.

“You know how men are… they treat going to most stores as a Prcurement Expedition .  They enter with their shopping goal firmly in mind, glance about quickly to establish which aisle the item is in march down the aisle looking neither right nor left, grab the item in question and then march firmly to checkout and exit”.

In light of the study’s evidence, the article then goes onto say how webmasters can improve navigation, internal site search and a catagory pages’ conversion capability.

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