In recent years, the ever-growing popularity of eCommerce has continued to soar. As a result, both emerging businesses and older enterprises (that have traditionally stayed away from online sales channels) are finding themselves exploring this new avenue for growth. Around the clock availability, speed of access, wider selection of goods and services, accessibility, and ultimately convenience are benefits of eCommerce that many consumers expect or demand.
eCommerce is not ready to completely replace its bricks and mortar counterpart, as salesperson interaction is still important to many consumers; however, it is important to at least provide the option of an online sales channel to consumers and ensure your website is able to compete with highly-rated online shopping experiences. Large marketplaces such as Amazon provide easy access to products and quick delivery. The UX (User Experience) is simple and has customers coming back with the click of a button. But, the back end is not so simple. In order to keep track of all the orders, deliveries, returns etc., Amazon's front end must be integrated to a powerful back end business management software.
If your business already does online sales (or you're looking to get started), here are 4 factors necessary to run an effective eCommerce website:
- Pricing and Quality of Products
- Appearance and User Experience
- Strong Back End eCommerce Integration
The Front End
Pricing and Quality of Products
In order to be successful in any business the price point of the products and services offered must match both demand and quality. With a seemingly endless list of online retailers, online shoppers have access to hundreds of different options on various web stores.
Savvy consumers will compare your offering to similar products in the market in order to determine the best possible option to fulfill their needs. Therefore, it is very important to have a pricing structure that is consistent with the quality and brand, and the ability to respond quickly to supplier and competitor pricing.
In order to act swiftly to industry changes, a strong back end software system is crucial; one that ensures any internal changes made to pricing are reflected automatically on your website with proper eCommerce integration.
Appearance and User Experience
The appearance of your eCommerce site can act as an indicator of the quality of your products and overall brand. But above all else it provides a certain level of comfort and safety to the user. With an abundance of online retailers available there has never been a larger emphasis on the ‘user-experience’ as a means of differentiating oneself from the competition.
Having a web store that is easily navigable, provides quick access to your products and shipping information, and offers the ability to read reviews and provide feedback will improve the overall user experience. A poor user experience, both functionally and aesthetically, can contribute negatively to brand image, thwarting the chance of any repeat business.
The Back End
Strong Back End eCommerce Integration
Unfortunately, it’s not all about the looks. An attractive and well-designed front end is nothing without an equally powerful back-end software system to ensure orders are recorded and fulfilled in a timely and effective manner.
Having the ability to facilitate two-way eCommerce integration between your back-end software and your desired eCommerce platform, whether that is Magento, Shopify, or one of the many others, will conveniently allow for live up-to-the-minute updates of inventory levels, orders, shipments, payments, product descriptions and other valuable information. Information only needs to be entered once into the back-end system, where it then gets pushed online, simplifying the process.
In addition, many B2B wholesalers have taken advantage of software vendors that provide an online ordering portal, restricted by a login, for customers that facilitates the same two-way eCommerce integration. These types of online order portals are customizable in order to include company graphics and logos as well as provide B2B customers their own unique user I.D so they can log on and view inventory levels, specific pricing, and place orders directly. Whether you integrate with your existing eCommerce platform or develop an order portal, having a back end accounting and inventory management system to compliment the front end can help streamline the order process and encourage customers to return.
A major deterrent for consumers who have little experience making online purchases is their concern for the safety of their credit card and personal information. Prominent cyber theft events captured in main-stream media paint online shopping in a negative light, ultimately discouraging many consumers from using online channels. To combat negative perceptions, businesses must ensure they are PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant in order to protect card holder data.
Respectable back-end accounting and inventory management software with eCommerce integration capabilities has the ability to securely manage credit card information, and is the first step in becoming fully compliant. Some systems take this notion one step further and also include a data storage vault that offers a secure method of storing credit card information. This can be a tedious process to manage manually; however, by letting your back-end software do the brunt of the work you will not burden your B2B customers by making them re-enter credit card information every time they want to make a purchase.
It is important that you keep these four factors in mind when adding online sales channels into your business model. The pricing, front end appearance, back end system, and security processes all make up the user’s overall experience and determine whether or not they decide to purchase from you and consider returning in the future.