eCommerce – A Plan
In 2019 my focus was shifted heavier than ever on a few specific things in the eCommerce industry.
In this video, I break down what I am going to be doing, along with why to try and give you a sense of the reasons behind my decision.
Planning an e-commerce website is like building a house – architecture and budget need to be agreed upon before decorating.
AN AGREED REQUIREMENTS SPECIFICATION MUST BE DRAWN UP AS THE FIRST STAGE BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE IS DONE – ANY OTHER APPROACH WILL ONLY LEAD TO CONFUSION AND WORSE.
Once an AGREED REQUIREMENTS SPECIFICATION has been agreed upon, then solutions need to be evaluated and the cost against that specification are:
– Project management
– Web design and software
– Site marketing
– Project management:
All aspects of the project need to be managed. Decide who will do it and adequately plan the requirements, activities, outcomes, milestones, and timings.
Your choices here are a managed service or your own server. The security and disaster recovery aspect achieved by hosting with a major provider is critical. Only go with your own server if you have the experience and facilities.
Design and Software:
Develop site templates and test them with real people. They have to be easy to use and navigate. Don’t let “design” drive the site; let the ease of use and sales drive the “design.” Think about how the customer thinks.
At least five solutions need to be considered.
– Shopping cart
There are two realistic routes here—either an online or an offline, PC based content management system (CMS). The online CMS can be either an Open Source CMS (Open Source means any application that has been made available, generally free, to developers to view and modify freely. Examples of Open Source applications are MySQL and PHP) or commercial.
There are pros and cons to both routes. An online system is available to anyone with relevant security clearance anywhere. A PC-based system is limited to the PCs running the licenses. An example of a PC-based system is Macromedia Contribute which integrates with Dreamweaver. There is a whole range of online Commercial and Open Source options such as SuiteWise™, Drupal, Joomla, Website Baker, etc. However, even this is complicated because some of the shopping cart solutions also contain CMS that may be sufficient for many companies’ requirements.
Shopping cart and CRM
There are also two realistic routes for the shopping cart – Open Source or commercial.
There are excellent Open Source shopping carts such as OSCommerce and Zen and excellent commercial solutions such as Actinic and Customer Focus Quick Order Portal (which comes with a complete CMS).
There are other factors to consider with the shopping cart:
– Does it have its own, or does it easily integrate with your existing stock control systems?
– Does it integrate easily with accounting systems (e.g., Sage, QuickBooks)?
– Does it have or integrate easily with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that may be proposed in the future?
Many CMS have well-integrated forums, but if they do not, our recommendation would be to use an excellent Open Source package such as PunBB or phpBB. They are free, robust, and easy to integrate and customize into any site.
Most CMS, shopping carts, and forums have email solutions. However, some solutions are very basic. If the chosen shopping cart solution that best meets the ecommerce and other requirements does not have an effective integrated email solution and if the same be true of the CMS and forum solutions then stand alone Open Source applications such as PHPlist are one alternative solution and the other is an online solution such as Constant Contact or many others.
This is arguably the most essential part of the package. If you do not know how visitors to your website and in the shop are behaving, what turns them on, and what turns them off, it is far harder to improve sales and site profitability. Commercial applications such as WebTrends and ClickTracks need to be evaluated for best fit.
There are four major areas to consider here.
– Offline marketing – e.g., in-store. What works most cost-effectively to drive traffic and orders via the web from non-web activities.
– Site optimization – how to make sure technical structure, copy, content, back-links, and a range of other factors are initially and remain optimized so that as many high search engine placements on relevant searches are obtained.
– Pay per click and other online marketing – getting traffic from advertising against keywords and phrases used in search engines and from adverts on other sites.
– Email – how to grow the email list and use it to grow profitable sales.