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Aspin Interactive Limited is part of the Aspin Group of companies Š Copyright 2004 Aspin Interactive

AN ECOMMERCE GUIDE FOR

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An eCommerce Guide for Online Retail Business

www.aspininteractive.com

Aspin Interactive Limited is part of the Aspin Group of companies © Copyright 2004 Aspin Interactive

Contents Introduction

2

E-commerce – background A five minute history Whatʼs out there now? How e-commerce has affected the high-street The Impact of e-commerce on consumer spending

3 3 4 4 4

The value of e-commerce to your business Saving you money Making you money Sales Analysis Customer Service E-commerce as a secondary sales channel

5 5 5 6 7 7

Making your business ready to sell online Know your competition Making your products and services ready for the Internet Ensuring that the business can fulfil orders Working out the cost of delivery to both you and your customers Managing your customers Getting the price right Taking credit card sales over the Internet Terms and Conditions Returns Policy The fulfilment process Monitoring the performance of your website E-commerce security and privacy

8 8 8 8 8 8 9 9 9 9 10 10 10

Developing your e-commerce website Interface design Branding DIY Software e-commerce software Accessibility

11 11 11 12 12

Getting visitors to know about your site Search engines Advertising Promotions Link Exchanges Editorial Affiliates

13 13 13 13 13 13 13

Summary

14

Notes

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Introduction This document will provide your business with a starting point to consider using e-commerce. Terms of Use It will explain many issues regarding how to set up an e-commerce website. It will not provide you with a costing for your specific needs. It does not promote our own services over any other

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It does not recommend specific third party products or services. It can be used by your company for reference. It may not be distributed for commercial or marketing purposes by anyone without express written permission by Aspin Interactive Copying by academic institutions is permitted providing the following credit is applied: © Copyright Aspin Interactive Limited all right reserved 2004 We acknowledge the rights of respective copyright holders where applicable.

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E-commerce – background

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“The conducting of business communication and transactions over networks and through computers. As most restrictively defined, electronic commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services, and the transfer of funds, through digital communications. However EC also includes all inter-company and intra-company functions (such as marketing, finance, manufacturing, selling, and negotiation) that enable commerce and use electronic mail, EDI, file transfer, fax, video conferencing, workflow, or interaction with a remote computer. Electronic commerce also includes buying and selling over the World-Wide Web and the Internet, electronic funds transfer, smart cards, digital cash (e.g. Mondex), and all other ways of doing business over digital networks.” Denis Howe FOLDOC - foldoc.doc.ic.ac.uk Many people would state that e-commerce simply relates to selling products and services over the web. However, this definition misses the point and fails to touch upon all the positive effects which an e-commerce website and strategy can have for your business.

E-commerce encompasses every business function, from sales and order fulfilment through to human resources management. Although it should never be viewed as a panacea to all business woes it can work in many areas beyond just buying and selling. Your website could help your business to generate and process sales over a far shorter timescale. It could even be used as an interface for providing real time sales reports and stock details, giving you a clear picture of how your business is performing. Essentially e-commerce technologies can give you the flexibility and versatility to meet the demands of a turbulent marketplace. For any business e-commerce really means: Savings on overheads Expansion into new markets More accurate order taking Faster turnaround of orders Improved cash flow Manage business anywhere online

A five minute history The development of e-commerce can be traced back to the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) systems which were used by larger organisations to place orders and communicate with their suppliers. However, it was not until the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web that e-commerce became a viable channel for small businesses to promote and sell their products and services to consumers. Numerous companies and websites were launched during late nineties in the hope that they would be able to exploit opportunities that e-commerce promised. However, what majority of these start-ups did not realise was how radically Internet had changed the rules.

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The use of the web as an electronic point of sale quickly grew. The potential benefits made companies rush to the Internet to sell. The early days saw e-commerce websites suffer from credit card fraud, poor customer services, and unsound business plans. The dot com was in fashion and millionaires were being made at the click of a button. In 2001, however, the dot com bubble burst leaving a wave of destruction in its wake; the companies that managed to weather the storm were faced by a marketplace which was far leaner and more aggressive, they had learned the tricks from traditional retailing as well as from bitter experience. In order to survive these e-commerce companies had to develop reliable systems, improve customer services and spend much more time identifying online market potential.

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Whatʼs out there now? E-commerce has finally come of age and there is now a broad spectrum of retail and trade websites operated by every company from the largest multinational to the smallest independent retailer. Of course there are monolithic sites such as Amazon, eBay and many others, but at the other end of the scale there are smaller businesses that have been able to carve out a niche and compete effectively in a way that would never have been possible on the traditional high-street.

Online spending for 2005 in the US is predicted to exceed $133 billion Source: eMarketer

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There are still plenty of companies who have yet to get the mix right: products, customer services, payment, deliveries, promotions, pricing, branding and of course the website itself. However as online retail spending continues to grow it has become an issue which even smaller businesses cannot ignore.

How e-commerce has affected the highstreet The growth of e-commerce has not led to the mass high street exodus that many predicted; instead a new retail model has emerged. Whilst internet savvy consumers now make many purchases online, many of them still visit the high street, using retail outlets as showrooms. Once they have seen the product or service they want they go online, compare prices and make their purchase. The problem for retailers is that they must compete in an environment where their customers (and competition) have access to all the price and specification information they need to make an informed decision. This is compounded by the fact that a customer can leave an e-commerce store at the click of button. As a result retailers are faced with fickle consumers who are reluctant to commit to any supplier. But all is not lost rather what is needed is a change of strategic focus. In order to strive in this hyper-competitive environment companies need to be develop strategies which utilise the strengths of e-commerce technologies.

The Impact of e-commerce on consumer spending E-commerce has made shopping easier, quicker and cheaper. Shoppers have become more confident with entering their credit card details into an e-commerce website. However, they have been burnt by poor implementation of credit card payment services, internet scams and simple down right dishonesty on the part of website owners. Consumer confidence is reinforced by seeing familiar retail names online and by shopping with e-commerce websites that provide secure and easy to use shopping systems.

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The value of e-commerce to your business So having identified that there is growth potential in online retailing, how does your business stand to benefit from investing in e-commerce?

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Saving you money An e-commerce website can save your business money both in the long and short-term. For instance, since by its very nature a website is self-service it is not always necessary to offer assistance to the customer at the point of sale. This isnʼt an excuse to save money on customer support, rather an opportunity to use your staff in the most effective way. Not having staff to guide shoppers through the buying process saves time for both parties and so saves money on the cost of sale which can be passed on to the customer. It also makes the customer feel more in control of their purchasing decisions. The hands-off approach of an e-commerce site can sometimes be daunting for customers so offering a live chat system to enable staff to help customers hesitating to make that purchase, or supporting after-sales customer queries gives a higher level of customer service. This also gives them another reason to make a purchase from your website at a relatively small expense. Being open for business on the web provides access to potential revenue that may be lost. The concept ʼ24 X 7 X 365ʼ is a considerable driving factor for shoppers as it costs no more to have your store online while your competitors are closed. Whilst e-Commerce can give you access to the Global Marketplace it can also reap benefits closer to home. Providing your known customer base with a reliable and well stocked e-commerce site saves money on additional marketing communications and also means you have an existing customer base who are ready and willing to buy from your online store. Cost of sale from e-commerce is a key factor in deciding to go online. As with any retail outlet, products that are cheap to source, stock and deliver helps reduce the cost of sale. This enables you to pass savings onto consumers. Without the need for shelf space, savings on costly displays and store overheads are also removed. Shrinkage is one of the biggest problems a retailer can suffer. An e-commerce store needs no CCTV or store detectives and with the implementation of a good card payment and processing systems using AVS and CV2 checking, credit card fraud is virtually ruled out. If your website has some form of content management system then it is possible to keep information up to date in a way thatʼs just not possible with printed promotional materials.

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Making you money Saving money is important but itʼs how your businesses practices e-commerce that matters. Making e-commerce profitable for your business will be dependant on: How well you research your market Look at your competitors; see how they market themselves, how they present their products. Look at the market leader – do they sell online. If not, why not? The products you sell Is there demand to buy your products online? Are your products suitable for packaging and shipping by courier? Will carriage be too expensive? Pricing How much can you charge for the product? Will you be able to pass on all the fulfilment and shipping costs to the customer? How well you market products Is it safe to rely on search engines to attract business? How will your existing marketing and advertising strategies work for your e-commerce site? How effective are your order fulfilment processes? How quickly can you pick, pack and dispatch goods? Do they get delivered on time and in one piece? The quality of your customer services What will happen when customers have a problem? Will you be able to help them online? Are you ready to handle their calls? Do your customer services have the personal touch? How well is your e-commerce website constructed? Can it be easily accessed by everyone? Is it obvious what people can do on your website? Is it secure? Do you provide enough information? Does your website provide a pleasurable shopping experience? Using reporting and analysis of data from the website Do you know which products are top sellers and which are dogs? Why do shoppers leave? What customer segments are you attracting? What is the average spend? Incentives, promotions and deals Provide shoppers with a range of deals. Think about crossselling and up-selling opportunities linking products together. Everyone loves discounts: quantity breaks, seasonal, voucher promotions, giveaways and timed specials. Keep in touch with your customers If theyʼve brought from you once and are satisfied there is a much higher chance of repeat business. If they give you permission, tell them about your promotions and product news and they will come back; especially if they know there is always something happening at your e-commerce website. If you offer a personal touch they will give you their loyalty.

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Sales Analysis Making your business electronic taps into a vital source of sales and marketing data which can be monitored in real time, many ecommerce interfaces include the facility to generate on demand reports on visitors:

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How they found you What they looked at How long they looked at your site What they were going to buy What they decided not to buy When they left These traditional web statistics are useful but donʼt provide important indicators to website sales and customer growth. More importantly you want to know: How they move around your site What products are selling What are they not interested in When do they buy most How responsive were they to your marketing campaigns How much was sold by what customer group How many new customers do you have To get the most from reporting functions, they need to be accessible at any time to provide a snap-shot of the websiteʼs financial and operational performance, and this gives your business the opportunity to be far more responsive. For sales analysis alone, reporting should be able to cover everything from a full breakdown of sales through to a list of customers who currently have items on backorder and be accessible from any internet connection.

European shoppers are spending around £4.3 million online Source: AMR Research

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Customer Service Many companies believe that as far as their customer service goes all they have to do to satisfy the customer is handle their enquiries via e-mail. However, the reason many shoppers choose to make purchases with smaller retailers is because they value a personal touch, something which it is hard to convey via an e-mail.

One successful way of storing large amounts of information on products is in a knowledgebase. This can be anything as simple as clearly navigable web pages and documents to a question/ answer interface to find answers to problems. Discussion forums are also very useful for accessing customer experience on you products and services.

Another problem in dealing with customer enquiries with a straight-forward e-mail is that the customer may not always provide enough information for you to be able to help them. To overcome this problem many websites provide an enquiry form which can prompt the customer for specific information.

Discussion Forums Websites which are aimed at niche market segments or specialist communities often provide online forums where users can discuss product issues and exchange advice. An online community forum for loyal customers is an ideal opportunity to build loyalty but also gives prospective customers the chance to see what your customers think about your business. It can also give customers access to experts and enthusiasts that may use your products and can help less experienced customer with problems. These experts may be in-house company staff or trusted users who have volunteered to maintain the discussion group. It is important to remember that these facilities should be carefully policed and any abuse should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Of course e-mail does have role to play. Many consumers are still wary of shopping online and in order to build both their trust and confidence in a website the majority of e-commerce systems automatically send out e-mails to customers confirming both their order and transaction. But there are a number of features which can be built into a website that can improve the standard of customer service your business provides: Online Chat System Offering a friendly face, voice or even text message to customers on the website will give them confidence to ask you questions and give you an opportunity to lead them to a purchase decision.

Contact Forms Ask the right people the right questions and you should be able to reply quickly. Although time is of the essence you need to remember that the top priority is to to provide the customer with accurate information.

FAQs Frequently Asked Questions – a source of information the customers can refer to. A few pages are normally adequate for dealing with most customer queries.

Customer Surveys Keep finding out what your customers want. Ask them about your products, services and the website. But donʼt forget to reward them for their time.

Knowledgebase Providing customers with up-to-date and accurate product information along with manuals, updates and announcements is extremely helpful for existing customers and people looking to make a purchase. However, it is important to structure it in such a way for it to be intelligible and easily accessible.

Newsletters You can send users targeted e-mail newsletters which offer different promotions depending on the products which they have already brought. Whatʼs more these features are not complex or expensive and are not only the reserve of larger websites. As such they could easily be included in an affordable e-commerce package for a small to medium sized business.

E-commerce as a secondary sales channel There are always going to be some customers who are apprehensive about buying goods and services on the web, so it is crucial that you donʼt alienate them by shifting everything to e-commerce. In making the decision to launch or review an e-commerce website you need to evaluate the services which your business already offers. If you find that there is a particular aspect of your service which works well and that your customers value, then it is foolish to let the website cannibalise it. However, you may think that it is highly inefficient to run an ecommerce website alongside your existing system, there are the obvious problems of duplicated orders and so forth. For more information please call +44 [0]1794 500200

To balance these concerns there are e-commerce systems which can provide both a self-service shop for customers and a sales order processing facility, whereby orders received by fax, phone or post can be entered by the office. Such features help to ensure that the changing to e-commerce does not jeopardise your existing customer base. Roadmap to e-commerce: Business Plan Builder Many businesses believe that putting in place an e-commerce website is all about having a visually attractive site but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Adopting e-commerce will require more than just minor adjustments to your business strategy; it will require a new outlook.

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Making your business ready to sell online Know your competition

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In preparing your business for the move to e-commerce you need to look at what your competitors are doing. Do they have an ecommerce website? Is there a benchmark standard which you would like your website to match? What distribution channels do they use? Does their website get a good position on the major search engines?

You need to determine the best way in which to differentiate your offering from your competitors, whether you do this by using a different parcel carrier, providing different customer service facilities or including more information on your site.

Making your products and services ready for the Internet The Internet offers numerous opportunities for enhancing your products and services. For example, a website which sells books could have an online product catalogue which included sample pages that a customer could view before they made their purchase. It is crucial that you do not approach your website as just an extension of your paper based marketing literature. In building awareness for the new website and your products and services you are going to need to use the correct blend of traditional and internet marketing methods. E-mail cannot stand

alone and unsolicited mass mailing campaigns are unlikely to get the results you want, they may even tarnish your companyʼs reputation. For smaller businesses cost, is always going to be a major constraint, so your options may be limited. Although, one of the key factors of effective marketing is to get your positioning right, so a small targeted mail shot or advert in a specialist publication may be sufficient to generate interest.

Ensuring that the business can fulfil orders This is going to be the core determinant of the success of a website and there are a number of issues which you need consider. Not only do you need to be able to meet customer orders on time, you may also need the flexibility to meet shifting delivery times. Can you deliver if the customer needs the goods by tomorrow morning? In some cases it may be important for a businessʼs goods to be of a consistent level of quality i.e. Are the goods fresh and / or undamaged?

To answer these questions you need to look at both ends of your supply chain. What kind of relationship do you have with your existing suppliers? Are they reliable? Are they flexible? In turn you also need ask the same of your distributors.

Working out the cost of delivery to both you and your customers What can often increase the cost of selling a product online is getting stock to your business and out to the customer By reviewing your picking and packing process, your stock storage and delivery and shipping costs you can make significant savings

on fulfilment. These can be passed on to the consumer to give you a competitive edge. Also streamlining fulfilment means your volume of order processing can increase and be turned around faster, removing any potential for bottlenecks.

Managing your customers The areas which you decide to concentrate on will vary depending the factors which you think your customers value the most and will get you repeat business. Do your customers need to have a fast yet flexible delivery services? Is it hard to predict the quality of the goods which you the customer will receive? Do you handle a high volume of orders? In such circumstances customer feedback

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may help you to achieve a consistently high level of service. You also need to consider how well your staff will manage customer calls and problems? Do your staff need training for dealing with customers?

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Getting the price right The cost of sale from e-commerce is a key factor in deciding to go online. If you products require complicated picking, packing and are expensive to ship this must be factored into the price. Although in many cases pricing on the web leaves little margin for error, there are still some ways in which a business can exercise power over its customers. Providing trade logins for each of your

customers enables you to apply the same price lists and matrices as normal, so when the customer logs in to the website they can build up an order from an online product catalogue which uses their own unique discount structure. You get to differentiate between your customers and your customers can order even faster.

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Taking credit card sales over the Internet The main issue here is deciding which you payment gateway you decide to use for your website. Essentially a payment gateway is a third party which handles all the financial transactions which take place on your website. It ensures that all transactions made are valid, encrypted and secure. It also ensures that everything reaches the correct destination.

AVS – Address Verification System The AVS requires that the house number and the postcode are collected for any ʻcustomer not present transactionsʼ such as paying over the internet. The system verifies that the delivery address matches that of the billing address of the card holder.

However the nature of your business or the needs of your customer may require your e-commerce website to be able to handle a wide variety of payment methods. For instance, some customers may want to download a paper copy of the order form and pay by cheque. Retail customers may be happy to pay using credit card. However, trade customers may need to raise a purchase order and require that you send a copy invoice. If your e-commerce system is to become a valuable asset then it must have the versatility to cater to your entire customer base.

CSC – Credit Card security Code This system again uses a three digit security code which is unique and printed on the actual credit card.

Once you have decided your site will take credit card transactions you need to be aware of the following items: Merchant Account As a business you must have an internet merchant account (IMA.) This is different to a standard merchant account that many retailers use for credit card processing.

Payment Confirmation Process Your payment processing service should provide you and your customers e-mail confirmation that the payment has been processed. Order confirmations Your e-commerce system should always display a confirmation of order screen which customers should be able to print out and an e-mail should always be sent to the customerʼs e-mail address. You should identify all stages where confirmation is necessary, including back orders and stock messages.

Payment Gateway Whether you develop your own e-commerce site or you employ an e-commerce supplier you will need to provide your customers with a simple to use and secure method of payment. There are a number of internet payment processing companies who can provide multi-currency, authorisation and point of sale services.

Terms and Conditions Your terms and conditions of website use and terms of sale should be simple to understand and clearly accessible from every page in your website. You may need to obtain legal advice on what responsibilities you have on the Internet. Make sure that you are trading within the law, by referring to government legislation regarding distance selling.

Worldwide spending predicted to near £3.4 trillion by the end of 2004. Source: IDC

Returns Policy Make sure that customers know where they stand regarding the return of goods that are faulty or damaged. Again see government legislation to check your obligations and your rights when customers want to get their money back or exchange goods. For more information please call +44 [0]1794 500200

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The fulfilment process

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Often overlooked by web designers, your fulfilment process is as critical as the homepage of your e-commerce website. Without a speedy and accurate fulfilment operation customer orders may be left sitting in the warehouse, could be delivered late, damaged or simply lost in transit. Your customers will quickly shop elsewhere.

Key to success is keeping customers up-to-date on order status, capturing accurate picking information and delivering in a timely and efficient manner. You may be able to organise this all yourself or you can arrange partnerships with reliable companies who can manage warehouse and distribution operations on your behalf.

Monitoring the performance of your website How you monitor the performance of your website will depend on the objectives which you set. More than likely the primary reason for implementing a website is going to be to increase sales turnover, however, this may not be the sole indicator of its success. You also need to consider the promotional value of the website to our business, has it brought in sales to other areas of the business? There are a number of performance indicators which you should try to focus on. You need to look at which products or lines are selling and which customers are buying them. If your customers have individual discount structures, you may find that customers ordering a particular item have a high discount and so the margin you make on it may be adversely affected. As a result you may need to examine which products you promote on the website. Many e-commerce systems allow you to rotate

and select products which you want to promote or run a special offer on. You also need to look at statistics which relate directly to the website. What pages are customers looking at? How long are they spending on each page? How much traffic does the website receive and how many of these visits are being converted into sales? A key concern of many businesses that operate e-commerce websites is that whilst a lot of visitors will build up an order in their shopping cart they will often abandon it before they pay. You need to examine the frequency with which this happens; you also need to check whether it is the customer that abandons the cart or if it is problem with the shopping cart program its self.

E-commerce security and privacy Security is a pressing issue both you and your customers. You need to ensure that your website is not compromised. There are a number of specific threats which you should be aware of. E-mail worms are a common problem, as is the threat posed by hackers planting key logging programs to gain credit card details. In terms of the customerʼs privacy you need to be aware of the implications of the Data Protection Act (1998). This will determine what you can do with the details which you collect from customers.

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Another bone of contention amongst many internet users is the use of cookies. A cookie is a tracking device which collects information from a user each time they visit a site, although they often enable greater personalisation of a website many people feel that they are rather intrusive. As such the majority of websites now ask visitors if they want to accept cookies. However, many e-commerce systems are now able to provide the same level of functionality without even using cookies.

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Developing your e-commerce website Interface design The design of a websiteʼs interface needs to be looked at from differently depending on who is going to use it. From the point of view of visitors the site, it needs to be easy to navigate, the shopping cart needs to be easy-to-use and robust and the product catalogue should be comprehensive and provide all the information that they need.

You also need to consider what features you as a business would like. You need to be able to manage the site with ease. Can you access all the order and financial information you need? Are you able to update product information, add new products and edit sections of the website regularly?

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Branding How you approach branding issues will depend on how well your brand is developed, how well your customers know your brand and what message you are trying to project with your branding. You may wish to review your companyʼs identity and conduct research into you are perceived by your customers. Do you create a new online brand dedicated to your e-commerce site or do you just want a good looking website with your company logo on it? Many people think that the branding of the website concerns only the visual design and its ʻlook and feelʼ, other critical issues need to be addressed. The branding of your website and the products you sell on it will also influence where and how you choose to promote it. Your branding is the first point at which a customer will understand who you are and how well you connect with the customer. If your branding and company message appeals to your target market you have a much better chance of making that first sale.

“Your branding is the first point at which a customer will understand who you are”

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DIY e-Commerce software

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There are many low cost e-commerce website building applications, some even work through a web browser. Itʼs possible to spend very little, provide a shopping basket facility and offer a small range of products. However itʼs important to determine whether this option is going to be suitable for your ecommerce venture: Do you have the resources to work on building a site inhouse? Do your staff have the expertise or time to build a site? How good is the competition? Will the software solution provide you with room to expand your product range and services? What is the short and long-term cost of ownership? Can the software be integrated with other business critical systems? What is the likely return on your investment? Employing the services of an e-commerce software and solution provider will be more expensive but if they provide the right range of solutions they should help you get your operation selling and shipping orders over a shorter time-scale. They should be able to: Give you advice on using e-commerce for your business Develop an e-commerce strategy with you Design a professional website interface Implement good website development practices Support your software Link to your other systems Integrate with payment gateways Offer advice on security and privacy Help you streamline and automate areas of business that may be a weak link in your supply chain Help you measure the performance of your site

Your solutions provider will become your partner in developing an e-commerce site. They will learn a lot about your business and should be able to contrast this with previous experience in e-commerce. If you feel that your e-commerce site is going to be complicated then ask for a written specification. This can then be used to double check your intended strategy and help secure funding. But remember that developing a professional e-commerce website can become a considerable investment for small and medium sized businesses, so having a good idea of expected level of sales growth is essential. The DIY software route works well for companies who have a simple product range, but you need to consider the future. If you are not confident in your companyʼs ability to develop an e-commerce website, it may be worth getting professional advice from companies who develop systems for a wide range of clients. Whether you decide to go to a solutions provider or buy the software from a vendor, remember to ask these questions: How expandable is the e-commerce software? How comprehensive is the support? What previous projects have they undertaken? Is there a demonstration website you can trial? Can you have customer references? Finally how will you look after the e-commerce website?

Accessibility Accessibility touches on a number of issues. You need to make sure that the website can be accessed via a variety of different internet connections. Therefore you need to check that your website is fairly fluid even if visitors are accessing it using a 56K modem rather than with a 128 KB ADSL connection. A site which makes heavy use of flash animation may not be the best approach. You also need to assess the accessibility of any potential website design in light of the Disability Discrimination Act Part 3. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that disabled users can have equal access to a website. Many of its recommendations not only ensure greater accessibility, they also promote increased usability which can only be of benefit to both you and your customer. For instance, the DDA states that a website should not have overly complex menu systems, should use clear language so that text readers can easily interpret a site and should refrain from using brash banner advertising which can distract people from the main body of a site.

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Disability Discrimination Act Part 3

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Getting visitors to know about your site Search engines There are many search engine optimisation companies out there who promising to get your website to come up on the first page of listings on each of the major search engines. These claims should be treated as highly suspect. Many of the major search engines state that they do not give special preference to any website.

Some popular Internet search engines

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Advertising Website advertising tends to be the first media used for promoting a website, but itʼs not the only option. Traditional offline advertising and TV media are just as important to consider. For a small business advertising on Google is a very cost effective form of using a search engine combined with banner advertising. Local

TV and radio may also be a more cost effective solution as your local customers should not be ignored. Local media advertising will attract local customers. So itʼs important to refer back to your customer groups looking at locality and how you will target local national and overseas customers.

Promotions A favoured method for boosting site traffic and sales is to run a promotion or special offer on a particular item. Usually a promotion needs to be supported by a mail shot or e-mail campaign to bring people into the site. However, before running a promotion on your website you should think carefully about whether you can handle any unanticipated demand which it might trigger.

The problem is that if too many people visit the website as a result of the promotion then it may liable to crash. Not only do you risk losing sales, there is the danger that anyone who could not take advantage of the promotion will not come back to use the site again.

Link Exchanges As with search engine optimisation companies caution should be exercised. Many companies tend to believe that if they get other websites to link to their own then they have a greater chance of getting a good ranking on search engines. However

many companies have been duped into linking with disreputable websites using underhand tactics to try and work their way up search engine rankings. In many cases the end result has been that the websites have been penalised by the search engines.

Editorial There are a number ways of getting editorial. Firstly, there are traditional methods such as paid placements in trade magazines, whereby you pay the publication to write a promotional article about your company. However, there now a number of websites which allow companies to submit press releases. One of the advantages of this approach is that web press releases can include links to your website. Not only does this increase the

likelihood of people visiting your site it can also help to push your pages up through the search engine listings. There are a few pointers for submitting a good press release. The article must be newsworthy i.e. how the website or the products and services you offer will provide something new to your market? You need to ensure that the copy is succinct yet informative.

Affiliates This is a method favoured by many of the larger e-commerce websites. Typically, affiliate websites will have some kind of relevance to the products or services which a website offers.

For more information please call +44 [0]1794 500200

Having links to reputable affiliated websites not only boosts the credibility of your own site it also provides visitors with useful information.

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An eCommerce Guide for Online Retail Business

www.aspininteractive.com

Aspin Interactive Limited is part of the Aspin Group of companies © Copyright 2004 Aspin Interactive

Summary E-commerce has become a profitable revenue generator for retail business of all sizes. It has the potential to enable the small to compete with the big players online. Internet shoppers are very quick to find a bargain and are equally quick to go to a competitor. But if your site gets the key elements right it can be rewarding for you and your customers.

If you would like to: Discuss your requirements To try a demonstration e-commerce product Get advice on strategy Request more information on products and services Request costing information Please visit aspininteractive.com or contact +44 01794 500 200

Aspin e-commerce solutions We provide flexible e-commerce, eCRM and supply chain management solutions for small, medium and large enterprises. Our solutions cost from: £5,000, $8000 or €7,000 Our bespoke strategy documents cost from: £2,000, $3,000, €2,900 Technical support provides peace of mind for a companyʼs first foray into the management and administration of an e-commerce website. Most companies cannot afford to bring in the necessary skills and experience, and this is what Aspin Interactive can provide.

www.aspininteractive.com

For more information please call +44 [0]1794 500200

14


An eCommerce Guide for Online Retail Business

www.aspininteractive.com

Aspin Interactive Limited is part of the Aspin Group of companies Š Copyright 2004 Aspin Interactive

Notes

For more information please call +44 [0]1794 500200

15


An eCommerce Guide for Online Retail Business

www.aspininteractive.com

Aspin Interactive Limited is part of the Aspin Group of companies Š Copyright 2004 Aspin Interactive

Notes

For more information please call +44 [0]1794 500200

16


www.aspininteractive.com Aspin Interactive Limited is part of the Aspin Group of companies Š Copyright 2004 Aspin Interactive


InterSell guide to retail e-commerce