Article: Successful Planning & Deployment of an Ecommerce Portal

by Mitchell Dubin


Many retailers think they have Ecommerce on their website and are not happy with its performance, yet all they have is a basic shopping cart, and, although most web sites with just a catalogue/shopping cart are good enough to ensure a satisfactory experience for consumers at the point of purchase, few of the companies behind those sites can execute the rest of the transaction with the same degree of efficiency.

After all, a shopping cart is just a payment mechanism, similar in function to the point of sale in a retail store.

A customer has selected an articles/s from the store and now wishes to purchase and leave with their selection. Ecommerce is all about acquiring and retaining customers online and means providing complete satisfaction from initial promise to delivery at their door while making a profit.

Poorly managed inventory, costly deliveries and a high number of product returns can quickly turn profits into losses, yet so many companies focus on their direct sales to the virtual exclusion of fulfillment and channel connections.

Every online ecommerce website, large or small, faces seven main challenges; it presupposes you have successfully marketed your products directly, via channel resellers and your website; a planned merchandising program is in place; the online store has a high degree of sophistication; controlling your customer data; integrating your on and offline orders; plus a successful backoffice fulfillment method delivering the goods costeffectively and handling returns, or you will pay the price in lost customers and sales.

Online fulfillment forces you to do far more than enter orders, pick the stock, package and ship it. Etailers must also answer the queries of your customers quickly and accurately (while learning their buying habits and preferences) and make good use of the data generated during transactions. Moreover, etailers must integrate their online orders and returns with offline ones, and do so in a way that makes household delivery of small orders economically viable.

At present, every single transaction challenges etailers to deliver the goods quickly, cheaply, and conveniently. Making contact with the recipient is another problem and one that must be resolved if the full potential of eimpulse orders is to be realized, for an impulse purchase loses its power to gratify if the product or service takes too long to appear. Most etailers ship orders within 48 hours, and they are also making greater and greater use of twoday shipping services via direct connections with shipping companies and/or fulfillment houses.

In theory, ecommerce is simple: a customer selects the product from a catalogue, buys it through a shopping cart and the etailer delivers the product when, where, and how the customer wants it delivered. Making this happen, of course, is not simple. Therein is the difference between just a shopping cart and true ecommerce.

The top five Canadian online retailers all quoted growth projections for 2003 of 25 40. The unique selling propositions of retailers are what are behind this growth. Sears Canada has 2,500 catalog depots for shoppers to pickup items. Canadian Tire offers and extended assortment of electronics and sporting goods online. HBC.com sell low price and discounted goods not sold in stores. Seventy percent of HBC shoppers buy these items online and have them shipped to stores.

OnX has a strong of understanding of what allows ecommerce solutions to succeed. We plan on leveraging that understanding to help our customers meet their goals.

Amazon.ca and eBay.ca have made a solid commitment to the Canadian ecommerce market over the last 12 18 months. Canada has become eBays fourth largest market with more than two million registered users. Amazon recently added software and video game stores for a total of seven Amazon.ca tabs.

Forecasts have shown that Canadian online spending will grow from 2.8 billion in 2003 to 12.2 billion in 2008, or 4 of total Canadian retail sales. Heres whats driving this growth.

Canadians will get hooked on online shopping. The catalog industry is tiny, and the majority of the population is concentrated in metro areas most Canadians live 15 minutes from a Canadian Tire store, for example. But Canadians are incorporating the Web into their daily lives, 46 of households have broadband, and users are getting hooked on the Webs instant access to unique products. 55 of Canadian shoppers say they buy online because they can shop during off hours, and 45 buy online to find products they cant find offline.

Expanded product assortments will spur soft goods sales. Soft goods sales of home products will grow to 1.7 billion by 2008. This category first lagged behind other purchases online because retailers had not yet made investments in online shopping experiences needed to push consumers to buy. But as Canadian merchants begin to see their initial site investments pay off, they will invest in better ecommerce initiatives. With sites and sales up and running, retailers must focus on making the site profitable as well as functional. 26 of US retailers with more than 10 million in online revenue have positive operating margins, their conversion rates average 4.6, and their orders per customer average 1.6.

The Challenge
The 5 key challenges of ecommerce always remain the same. The key elements of any successful ecommerce endeavor are:

Reaching new customers

How do people not only find your site but are encouraged to use it?

How to turn a browser into a buyer?

Increasing customer loyalty

What makes your offering (products and procurement process) the best?

Do you reward loyalty? If so, how?

Does your customer have great experience visiting your ecommerce site?

Do they feel they have a sense of community with you and with their colleagues?

Do you communicate with your customers on their terms? When they want, how they want and on topics that interest them?

Increasing revenue per customer

Did your customer find what they were looking for?

Did you take advantage of opportunities to upsell or crosssell?

What are your capabilities for special promotions and offers?

Did you have them recommend the item to others?

Will they purchase more now, later, both?

Was the purchasing experience simple and easy?

Did they shop or did they just procure?

Does your system encourage shopping behaviour?

Does your marketing campaigns target intelligently?

Are you using the information you collect to its best marketing value?

Improve Service

What happens when a customer cant find the item theyre looking for?

Do you have flexible processes that can deal with cancellations, changes easily and effectively?

Does your customer feel alone on the site or that youre really trying to help them?

Do you offer enough flexibility in payment options?

Do you align with cultural and language requirements and contexts?

Improve Customer Communication

Does your customer communicate with you? Can they?

Is your communication personal, targeted, relevant and timely?

Does your customer communicate with other customers?

Do they share successes, ideas and comments?

When your customer needs to know, do you tell them right then?

Is your customer mobile and can you get them information where they are?

How OnX Responds to These Challenges
Successful ecommerce is more than technology. It is about knowing how to apply the best practices, learnings and technologies to achieve optimal long term revenue and great customer satisfaction.

How OnX can help you reach new customers
We know the impact of best practice ecommerce and how you can leverage them. Did you know that a new visitor may only spend 13 seconds on your site if they dont see something they are captivated by after the first click? When a system presents information in context of what the user is interested in the level of visitor interaction goes up exponentially. When these facilities are used, first time visitor timeonpage numbers jump from an average of 13 seconds to 13 minutes. We can help you modify key pages and use these methods to keep more users on your site and buying.

We can help you define the best policies for advertising and search compliance. We have intimate knowledge of the intricacies and benefits of partnering with search providers like MSN.ca. We can help you drive new customers to your site, cost effectively.

We know the best design practices that help turn browsers into buyers.

How OnX can help you increase customer loyalty
Very simply, you need excellence in your ecommerce systems and processes to differentiate yourself. You can differentiate by offering:

Personalization
Community Features
A highly interactive site
Tools that help your customers/agents both buy and sell

Reward loyalty by first understanding your customers. Who are loyal and why are they loyal and how do you extend and replicate that to others. This is only achievable with strong business intelligence built into your system.Use Online Analytical Processing in the selling and closing process to build in customer loyalty features that can do items such as:
Discounts on volume
Loyalty rewards and incentives Perhaps a Special members area will drive sales volume by creating special relationships with your top agents.We can show you how your customers can have a great experience when they visit your ecommerce site. The key elements of this include:An awesome , professional design
A site that is easy, simple, extremely intuitive and FUN
A site that always works the way you expect it to
A site that is always available
A site that is always Fresh, NEW and exciting

We can show you how good content management facilities and processes can deliver this. To increase loyalty, one the best ways to do this is to create a sense of community with you and with their colleagues.

We can show you how to build vibrant communities of sales agents and special interest groups to dramatically increase customer loyalty.




About the Author


Director of Microsoft Solutions for
OnX Enterprise Solutions


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