Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software
Over the last few months there has been a growing awareness of the impact that online commerce, through the use of Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software, is having on traditional retail businesses.
Of course there have been the rantings of some notable retail luminaries, and some obvious misinformation spread about the impact of online sales and the unfair advantage that offshore businesses have by not charging GST. In reality, the price differential between local retail prices and offshore online prices is far more than the GST difference and shows the cost advantages of online sales in general.
At present, online sales currently comprise between 5% and 7% of all retail sales in Australia (depending on the source for the sales data). That doesn’t seem particularly significant on the face of it, but the more important statistic is that online sales in Australia are predicted to at least double to over $33 billion within the next 4 years, and in fact might well exceed that growth rate if the National Broadband Network gets off the ground and provides a better internet experience for much of the population.
Currently the percentage of sales being made online would not account for the downturn that the Harvey Normans, etc. say they have experienced, and other factors from the high exchange rate, economic uncertainty and even uncompetitive pricing and service have most likely driven most of the downturn.
However, what is clear is that over the next few years if businesses don’t work out how to effectively sell online, as well as through their bricks and mortar premises, then they really will suffer greatly.
At SiteSuite, we have seen significant growth in the ecommerce shopping cart software market, and as a consequence in early 2010 we embarked on a major redevelopment project to provide a complete new version of our ecommerce module. The key driver was to provide ecommerce shopping cart software that was as flexible as possible for businesses developing their online sales, to enable fast implementation or change and to provide the best possible user experience. The result of all this development effort will be a two stage release this year, with the first stage due in mid April and the second stage in Q3. We have also taken the opportunity to upgrade many of the core components of our software and we’ll be releasing more details closer to the release date.
As a consequence of that product development, we have also undertaken considerable research into what makes for an effective ecommerce store. Possibly surprising to many is the fact that service is just as important a component of selling online as it ever was in a retail store, perhaps even more so. One of the constant themes to come out of all the comments about charging GST on offshore sales was that the service received from successful ecommerce stores was always much better and more consistent than local retail stores.
I can relate a personal local service story, late last year I wanted to buy an MP3 player as a gift for someone who was leaving Sydney the next day. I initially went to a Harvey Norman store where it was suggested I check specifications on the web. Disappointed that I probably wouldn’t be able to get a suitable player on time, I decided to contact an online store from whom I had purchased a few items over the years (www.minidisc.com.au). Their online store showed the model I was looking for and some other models that I wasn’t sure about. A quick e-mail to ask advice on the best player for the person was promptly answered with pros and cons of various models and a recommendation for the best player for the purpose, a couple of follow up e-mails were exchanged to arrange courier delivery, and the transaction was done. The next day I received a follow up mail checking on the order and it duly arrived as promised. Now that’s service that you almost never receive from normal retail businesses these days, and in fact there are far more tales of good online service from friends, family and business associates than there are reports of bad service. That’s almost the exact opposite of the stories you hear about bricks and mortar stores and until that changes, online stores will continue to make grab more market share.
Another key point to come out of our research was the importance of the user experience when making online purchases. Ease of use is actually far more important to online shoppers than having all sorts of bells and whistles. Cart abandonment is still very high for many stores, and while there are many reasons why shoppers abandon a purchase part way through the checkout process (a topic for another blog soon), cumulatively, usability issues cause more abandonment than other issues such as high shipping costs, etc. and are often a direct consequence of the choice of ecommerce shopping cart software
So when you are planning or reviewing your online store operation, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Is your category structure too complex, do you require users to register before shopping, are you asking for too much personal information? If you need some feedback on your store, please post a comment with your site details and we’ll be happy to provide a free assessment of your store.
Writing this post, I’ve realised that there’s enough topics about online shopping to fill a year's worth of blogs, and we’ll certainly be spending more time on this subject. But if you’re about to take the plunge in the world of ecommerce, then remember some key points:
- You need to invest time in planning your store
- You need to pay attention to customer service
- You need good ecommerce shopping cart software
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