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E-commerce: A Platform of Potential
Feature: 30/6/2011

 

Like many business decisions, your choice of e-commerce provider is an important one because both essential expertise and a good personal relationship is crucial to the success of your e-business development. There are various ecommerce platforms from which to choose and some expert tips might just help along the way:

1. What is your potential e-commerce supplier’s proven track record?

Selecting an e-commerce specialist provider means that you can combine experience and expertise with the ability to design and develop an e-commerce solution. There are plenty of agencies offering website development at extremely low prices and whilst these might seem ideal to start with, you may need more experience as your business grows. Williams Commerce for example would regularly advise our customers on issues such as margins, online profitability, innovative sales channels, efficient order fulfilment and how to plan internal resources to support a new website.

2. Personal relationships matter, can you work well with the team at the e-commerce agency?

Most e-commerce developments will be on-going, so you need to be sure that your relationship is mutually beneficial and good communication skills, expert planning and openness are vital.

3. Don’t just think short term – assess the solution you need now and consider what you might need in the medium to long term.

Thinking ahead, perhaps three years to where you anticipate the business will be performing then, will help you to choose the right e-commerce platform from the beginning. Ideally your e-commerce website should payback within a year and should have a lifespan of at least three years (bearing in mind you may need to make some changes and enhancements).

You may find that a really good value e-commerce website is the right deal now, but if its lifespan is only 12 months, it’s not such a great deal longer term. The process of changing a website becomes more complex as your online business develops so it’s not something you want to do too regularly. Factor the future into your decision making.

4. Look for someone who can provide an end to end solution.

Developing a new e-commerce website involves a selection of components; the website itself, the server/host on which the website has to run, ongoing support and development and marketing of the website. An e-commerce provider who can offer a full service is a great advantage, especially if it’s an area in which you don’t have significant expertise yourself. Your e-commerce provider should be able to help you integrate your website with internal stock control and accounting systems, with e-bay and Amazon shops where applicable as well as developing the initial website.

5. Check and agree the small print.

It’s important to be clear on who will actually own your e-commerce website – often clients assume that if they pay for a website it will be theirs, but it is important to be clear who owns the intellectual property for your website. Often the ecommerce provider may provide a license to use their own e-commerce platform and the customer owns any design-related intellectual property. Sometimes the e-commerce provider is using an open source e-commerce solution or a paid for 3rd party solution, in which case IP is not an issue. This is an important point and affects what happens if you fall out with the e-commerce provider and how you actually move on and work with someone else whilst retaining your website. As a minimum, with a bespoke e-commerce solution, we would recommend the customer ensures they have a license to use, change, modify but not resell their e-commerce platform, and own all design-related intellectual property. On completion of the project and at regular intervals ask for a copy of the source code.

6. Look for good experience in the basics.

Ensure that your supplier is experienced in making it simple for the end customer to purchase. E-commerce sites particularly must be user-friendly so that it’s simple to place an order. There is best practice for usability and that means maximizing conversion rates from visitor hits to purchases. Ease of navigation and fast loading speeds for users are extremely important. Whilst a great eye-catching design is essential, that should not be at the expense of a good ‘back end structure,’ e-commerce websites optimized from the outset stand the greatest chance of performing at their best.

7. Looking to the future.

Finally, your e-commerce provider should be your guide to SEO (search engine optimization) and other digital marketing tools to promote your website and your guide to new developments online in this fast moving industry.”

www.williamscommerce.co.uk

 

Author: Catherine Christie
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