Article: Developing a Winning Ecommerce Strategy

by Lee Traupel


One bright spot on the economic horizons around the world seems to be
continued consumer spending and ecommerce is clearly a part of this,
with sales estimated to be in excess of 9.9 Billion in the next
three months according to ACNielsen. But, there is a dark cloud
hovering over this sunny ecommerce landscape called poor web site
design. Let's explore some of the reasons why consumers are not
reaching for their credit cards after perusing an ecommerce web site.

There is a huge knowledge gap about how the web is really driving
online and offline commerce. A recent eCommercePulse survey of more
than 33,000 surfers conducted by Nielsen/Net ratings and Harris
Interactive indicates ecommerce sites are driving more purchases
offline (phone, catalogue, retail store sales) than online. Many
consumers are using the web to effortlessly compare features and
pricing then, calling the company or visiting their local
retail
store to make a purchase. Clearly many companies need to factor this
information in when analyzing their online and offline marketing
expenditures and related ROI.

According to a recent Zona Research and Keynote Systems Report
released earlier this summer over 25 Billion (USD) was lost in
ecommerce due to users abandoning the web site prior to a purchase
being made or during the process. The users just gave up because the
load times (the amount of time it takes a page to be displayed in a
browser) were painfully slow. Today's online shoppers aren't
a real
patient group, they want information presented in 1218 seconds, or
they are off to another site that works

Unfortunately many firms have allocated a disproportionate amount of
resources for advertising and not enough on good web site design and
back end infrastructure. It's critical to make the market aware
of a
site, but if the potential customers are not presented with the right
navigation and menus (read information architecture) they will not
buy. Case in point, according to recent Dataquest surveys (and
others) between 2040 of most users don't purchase because they
can't figure out how to easily move around the web site.

Many firms fail to properly integrate their ecommerce components with
the overall site design. The inhouse developers or outside design
firm concentrate on the sexy parts of the web site design process
(the graphics, branding, look and feel) and only focus on the
ecommerce process after the primary web site design is completed

making ecommerce an afterthought.

A large number of ecommerce web sites don't even list a phone
number,
arbitrarily forcing people to contact the company electronically

this is a real problem, as many people don't want to use email
or
forms as their primary means of communicating, they want the
immediacy of the telephone.

It's very surprising, but approx 30 of ecommerce sites don't
have a
search capability that actually works in many cases it just
returns
gobblygook. This is a real irritant for many online shoppers who want
to find goods and services quickly and efficiently the need for
speed should be the ecommerce merchants marketing mantra and a good
search capability gives users a way to quickly find products.

One of the most important parts of any web site is the home or index
page, as it aggregates the design elements and information
architecture. So many index page are cluttered and poorly designed,
loaded with poor graphics, bad menu structures, oddball words or my
absolute least favorite, 3060 second Flash animation sequences which
force the user to sit and stare at a blank screen while the animation
loads.

Privacy statements are about as exciting as filing taxes (unless you
know your getting a refund) they are out of necessity filled
with
legal terminology that needs to be addressed succinctly and in a way
that makes a consumer feel comfortable about doing business with an
ecommerce web site. Unfortunately, many ecommerce web site privacy
statements look like an afterthought, or, are so "attorney
driven"
(three pages who has time to read this?) people are turned off
by
them. It's very important that a privacy statement be a
compromise
doc brokered between legal and marketing.

We are a full service ad agency so I don't mind shooting arrows
in
the direction of my peers too much attention is being placed on
web
site advertising metrics (clickthrough rates, certified traffic to
substantiate ad rates, etc.) and not enough on how people find and
use an ecommerce web site. The industry standard web site analysis
tool is Web Trends, but one of the least understood aspects of this
product is tracking how people find and move around a web site via
reports which can be pulled from the server log files; i.e. where did
the visitors come from, what pages do they visit, how long do they
stay, what are their traffic patterns, etc.? Ecommerce companies
should be analyzing these "digital customer tracks" to better
understand how to improve their front end marketing processes and
back end web site design.




About the Author


Lee Traupel has 20 plus years of marketing experience He is the co
founder of a Northern California and Brussels Belgium based,
privately held, Marketing Services and Software Company, Intelective
Communications, Inc. http://www.intelective.com Intelective focuses
exclusively on providing services to small to medium sized companies
that need strategic and tactical marketing services. He can be
reached at Lee@intelective.com


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