- March 28th, 2012
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Ecommerce Critique – Extended Blog
What is eCommence?
Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, ecommerce, eCommerce or e-comm, refers to the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks.
However, the term may refer to more than just buying and selling products online. It also includes the entire online process of developing, marketing, selling, delivering, servicing and paying for products and services.
eCommerce is growing
More than 80% of the entire online population has used the Internet to purchase something
50% of the online population has shopped online more than once
Ecommerce sales are growing by more than 15% every year and will almost be $1.4 trillion by the year 2015
Who uses ecommerce?
34%, the highest user rate, of online purchasers are in the EU
India is the highest growth region
The highest percentage of shoppers (68%) are between age groups 55-65 and 31-44
In 2011 mobile users (e.g smart phone owners) spent 1.4 billion US dollars via shopping online
Where are we spending our money in the UK?
1. Amazon UK – www.amazon.co.uk
2: Argos – www.argos.co.uk
3: Play.com – www.play.com
4: Apple – www.apple.com
5: Amazon.com – www.amazon.com
6: Tesco – www.tesco.com
7: Marks & Spencer – www.marksandspencer.com
8: John Lewis – www.johnlewis.com
9: Next – www.next.co.uk
10: Easyjet – www.easyjet.co.uk
What does this mean to the UK?
Broken down this figures show that the UK mostly like to spend their money online for purchases under the following headings:
6 out of the top ten sites have shops everywhere. 4 of these sites generate their revenue purely online .
This means less overheads on property rental and staff. If you have a hosting domain and a Content Management system with goods marked up to sell you can start business.
Unlike traditional shopping eCommerce relies on browsers being able to find exactly what they want with a speedy turnaround. Sometimes they might not even know what they want and therefore it is important, more so than in shops, to catch their attention fast and keep their attention by providing options they might not even have thought off. Most important is speed of transaction. I know I have been close to purchase goods but have been put off by having to fill form after form or have have a poor navigation process that even though I DID want to buy that product I simply didn’t have the patience to follow the transaction through
There is a reason why Amazon is the top of the list for the UK and for staying on top of the market is that you really can purchase a product in a couple of minutes
So what do Shoppers want?
Although shoppers want a variety of products and can now go online to hire a helicopter or sell a present from an ex-boyfriend (it really exists, http://www.exboyfriendjewelry.com/) there is a commonality in how they want to shop:
Sites must support all four types of use:
- known-item purchases – when you go directly into a site and just know you aren’t going to leave without that on trend lamp.
- category research – where users identify and buy products that best match their needs – when you know you want a lamp but you’re just not sure what kind and you need category called “lighting”.
- bargain-hunting – when you’ll buy anything if it’s a good enough price.
- browsing for inspiration – this could be when you need a gift or something for the house but want to presented with ideas.
“If the customer cannot find the product they cannot purchase the product”
What should these sites provide?
- Accessible – the browser should be able to clearly read and use the website in a straightforward manner.
- Clean – features should not be cluttered or overpowering.
- User friendly – browsers should be able to use the site without a manual. It should be helpful for all users without a manual.
- Navigable – the User journey to the product should be clear, this should be done through a variety of navigation styles, such as the wide menu drop down with groups of headings, expandable categories, filters (www.ASOS.com do this well and they top of the fashion retail eCommerce field), Search and breadcrumb trails.
- Well designed – it is true that you can’t read a book by it’s cover but in web design if a home page or site is not designed well it can put users off spending money within the site due to any suspicions it may be unreliable.
- Simple steps for purchase – this process should not be drawn out , it should not tick boxes for extra money by default (hello Ryanair!). It should be a 1 or 2 step process which is Open and Transparent.
- Secure and Trusted – unlike walking into a store where they have a shop front and a til with actual people processing your details you are simply putting your hard earned cash into cyberspace. From this angle you really want some assurance that the site is secure and a trusted site. User Testimonials and official Visa signs, the Security Verification tick can help with this.
All of the top ten sites have these elements. Additionally Tesco, Next and Argos amongst others British High Street brands and therefore have a large element of trust before the user buys. If you are a start up company you must work harder to ensure you make your site meet these requirements.
What is extraordinary about Amazon is that is started online in the early days of eCommerce and has grown into a giant without that high street presence through good service , word of mouth and a trust in the brand.
What is extraordinary about Amazon is that is started online in the early days of eCommerce and has grown into a giant without that high street presence mostly through good service , word of mouth and a trust in the brand
There are multiple ways to find your product even if you don’t know what it is!
It provides linking to reviews, User Generated content – what other customers say and ideas for the buyer to pull them into more purchases by advising if they like this item they might like. It now offers market places where users can set up their own sales and wants area to generate their own revenue with Amazon, as the host, taking a slice.
Their member log In which remembers details of address and debit/credit card to make those steps even easier – no frustration and opportunity to stop the transaction and therefore spending money!
I think I am an ideal customer as I bought a CD whilst doing research, it really is that easy (or perhaps I should impulse buying!).
I do think Amazon is great but I think they could do with a design refresh. I first used the site in 2003 and the interface and design hasn’t change much. I did raise this in my presentation and James raised a valid point, perhaps they are scared if they do they may lose customers? I think yes, this is possible but perhaps they could gain more if they freshened up also? Maybe they could do a beta of a new design, do a A/B test where certain Users are directed to the new design – a smaller percentage and the majority of the Users go to the original site. Bounce rates, visitors and most importantly purchases which follow through to the end could be monitored and they could find out in a relatively low risk way. Or perhaps they just think, if it aint broke!
My second criticism is that the Calls to Action buttons could be much bigger and clearer – small and often tucked at the far right – new Users could miss these.
Amazon is an example of a giant with their own eCommerce built into their site but there are other ways smaller companies can implement their own eCommerce websites relatively cheaply or free.
Content Management Systems + Plug Ins
There are CMS systems which you can purchase for your business which is recommended for business for high sales.
There are other systems such as Magento or Shopify which are subscription based dependent on sales which are relatively easy to set up and which can be pretty much used out of the box and which are quite a powerful tool. These systems can host all of your content rather than having seperate shop front with a back end ecommerce section. http://www.magentocommerce.com/ http://www.shopify.com/
Additionally there are free plugins you can use with free CMS’ such as WordPress. One I was impressed with was shopplugin.net – https://shopplugin.net/
In a recent edition of .Net Magazine (January 2012) there was a new website in the CMS showcase section. It is a small New York based fashion website, New Gotham Designs, http://newgothamnyc.com/. It uses Wordpress and shopplugin.net as the eCommerce element.
One of the things which puts me off some websites is that they look great and then when you click to purchase it turns ugly. Ok it will still be functional but as you are directed into the purchase section there is often little customisation and there are table like lists of URLs and categories which not only lose the branding of the site but also raise a bit of untrust as you think, hmm is this maybe some spyware or weird redirect, oh the URL is different too. With the shopplugin this doesn’t happen. It has been integrated, from what I can see, seamlessly into the site.
The screenshots below show the user journey:
That was nice! And you get the option to sign up for emails and bargains. This way the customer is kept up-to-date and they may also return.
Overall I think the site was:
- Clear, fresh and up-to-date design
- Clear navigation
- Free text search
- Clear call to action button
- 4 clicks and the purchase is complete
- Opportunity to sign-up to newsletter
- Meets 4 principles of eCommerce function
However, I really think they need to add some further information such as the secure mark and visa details to give the customer that bit more piece of mind. Add to this some user testimonials and more merchandise and I think they are on track to ecommerce success.
The small print
A necessity for all successful ecommerce sites is to include the small print, make sure the site is clear about the returns policy, delivery dates, additional charges, registration of company. These are not just for the customers benefit but they also protect the business owner too.
And now for the bad…
I leave this blog post with a gem of bad (or simply mad) eCommerce. Meet Ling, formerly a contestant on the Dragon’s Den and the host of this car hire site. What can I say!