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Essential Components Of A Good Ecommerce Website - E-Procurement Advantages

Standard websites exist to promote products and services and to capture leads. They do not take orders from customers and they do not fulfil a customer service role. E-commerce sites have this additional functionality and this makes them more complex to develop and to manage.

Successful e-commerce sites depend on an unusual combination of technical knowledge, direct or catalogue marketing expertise and commercial instinct. For this reason, there are very few really good sources of expert help. You can go it alone, but if you are looking for an advisor, choose one with care.

Faced with the choice, how do you decide whether to trade online or not? Well, in some markets, the decision almost makes itself. For example if you sell books, CDs or software, a high percentage of sales are conducted online. If you do not have a sales presence on the web, you severely limit your market reach. The internet can increase the number and types of customers that you can target in any market, and sales on the web are growing. In the UK this year, internet sales are forecast to be 32 billion (GfK) and they are growing at the rate of 50% per annum. The investment in an e-commerce site is higher than a traditional site and so needs to be made with care. The components for and E-commerce site are:

1 E-commerce software. In simple terms, this software will present your products to your customers and it will process their orders. There are many commercially available packages, and prices have come down a lot in the past few years. If you are new to e-commerce, it can be useful to find a software that will do all of the business functions. As well as taking orders, it will do inventory management, order tracking, and provide you with reports to help you manage your business.

2 A Merchant Account This is an account with a financial institution, such as a bank, that will allow you take credit card orders. This can be costly and difficult to set up, particularly if you are a new business. There are set-up costs, monthly costs and you also pay a percentage of your sales to the account provider. You should research the market well to keep costs as low as possible. There are specific rules about how to process orders when the cardholder is not present, and you should pay attention to the procedure that you are asked to follow. This will limit any losses that you might incur from fraud.Some websites begin trading with Paypal, which offers a simple way to accept credit card payments from your customers.

3 Web Traffic E-commerce sites cost more to build and run, so they need good volumes of visitors quickly. There are a number of ways to grow your visitor numbers, including:- Good search engine positioning. A specialist can help you to optimise your site. Most buyers will use a search engine to find suppliers, so this is a good source of visitors. - Email. You can buy a list of potential customers and email them some special offers. If you don't target buyers well, you risk alienating them with spam. Also, you have legal obligations that you should research before starting any campaign.- PPC advertising. You can pay to advertise your site on search engines on those pages that are relevant to the products that you sell. you only pay when someone clicks on a link and visits your site.- Listing on shopping comparison sites. There are many sites that take data from many e-commerce sites and they display the prices for shoppers to compare. Some are part of a search engine, like Froogle. Others areindependent web business like Pricegrabber.

4 Web Analytics Software When you begin to operate you find that a significant number of people leave your site without buying anything. This is inevitable, but your success depends on converting as many visitors as possible into customers. A web analytics package will allow you to see where your visitors have come from, and it will track what they do on the site. You can see what paths they follow from your home page and you can study where they were when they decided to leave your site. This is invaluable information for you to look for elements of you website that turn visitors off and to eliminate anything which is blocking people from buying. You cannot run a good ecommerce site without a good analytics package.

5 Security And Backup As in any other part of business, there are people on the internet always looking for illegal opportunities to make money. You need to protect your site with a good security package. There are many commercially available. You will also need to backup your site data. It is easier that you think to loose a lot of work, and for no good reason. Make sure to backup both your web pages and the database behind them. A good place to start on both issues is to talk to your hosting service. They may already offer services that you could use. You should make yourself familiar with how they operate and you should schedule regular backups.

6 Fulfilment Systems When you have put all these elements of your ecommerce site together, you will need some method of physically picking, packing and delivering your orders. When order volumes are low, this is not much of a problem, but at higher volumes, fulfilment requires great discipline and automation. If business does take off, you will damage your business if you cannot fulfil orders rapidly. Expectations in B2B are now that 48 hour delivery is just acceptable and 24 hours is standard in many sectors. You need to plan how you will fulfil higher volumes of orders. You can invest in systems and processes yourself, or you can outsource fulfilment to a specialist company. They will usually charge a setup fee and then a cost per order processed and item stocked. This may seem like a far away issue right now, but I have seen too many businesses rushing to put something in place after things have gone wrong.

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