How SMBs Can Increase ECommerce Revenue

eCommerce is the ultimate market-leveling tool for SMBs. Through eCommerce, the location and size of a business no longer matters.

In essence, the Internet has created a jumbo-sized virtual shopping mall in which any and every conceivable retailer can be a tenant.

Yet, cyber mall occupancy alone does not guarantee long-term commercial success. Rather, nextgeneration site functionality and ultra-reliable, highly responsive site performance are essential ingredients for increasing eCommerce revenues. Retailers with the deepest pockets gain a decided market advantage since they have the money both to develop next-generation site functionality, and to build and maintain an eCommerce platform capable of delivering the full impact of this functionality to each and every site visitor.

In reality, options today offer small business more choices that help in leveling the competitive playing field. With today’s web hosting environments — optimized for next-generation eCommerce — platform investments are reduced to a fraction of the cost of individually owning and operating an eCommerce site. With this approach, small retailers gain a significant market equalizer that enables them to compete effectively against their larger rivals.

In this article, we will describe the direction of next-generation eCommerce sites and also highlight how web hosting can dramatically reduce the IT costs necessary to effectively support next-generation eCommerce. As a result, SMBs can increase eCommerce sites and simultaneously decrease their IT costs.

1. Functionality that replicates the in-store shopping experience, and

2. Functionality that creates a distinctive online shopping experience.

o 360° product views – One of the eCommerce drawbacks is the physical separation between shoppers and products. Products such as books and DVDs – for which physical touch is not a decision variable — are two products that have sold well through an eCommerce channel. Other products, such as apparel, do benefit by physical touch. And even though apparel is sold online, the lack of physical touch contributes to instances of shopping online but buying instore.

Next-generation eCommerce sites will do more to transform the online shopping experience into online buying by presenting the product in user-controlled 360° views. In this manner, the shopper gains a richer perspective on the product’s appearance, similar to the instore buyer behavior of holding up and turning the product for closer examination.

o Layered informational mini-screens – In current-generation eCommerce sites, shoppers commonly click through several full screens to gain a deeper knowledge of the product being considered. This site design dictates back and forth navigation by the shopper to re-visit information. Consequently, the full breadth of information sought for a purchase decision seldom resides on a single screen. Next-generation eCommerce sites will offer mini-screens overlaid on the initial product screen, which allows shoppers to zoom in and out of relevant product details and, in the process, never lose connection with the product being evaluated.

o Upfront alerts on product availability – A strong benefit of eCommerce is the capability to present the full range of products and product features. Inventory costs and space limitations of brick and mortar stores are challenged to equal this capability. At the same time, product presentation in an eCommerce site without availability status is frustrating for shoppers, particularly those who have expended time loading their shopping carts only to be informed that availability of one or more products or a specially designed product will be delayed. This scenario is far less common with in-store shopping since the range of inventory is directly visible to the shopper. In next-generation eCommerce sites, product availability status can be offered to the shopper throughout the shopping and selection process. By presenting product alternatives when there are availability delays – which can be built as an option into the site design — allows shoppers to balance their desire for product immediacy and selection range.

o Streaming video – Brick and mortar stores are naturally restrained in the contextual presentation of their products, with actual product benefits limited to a shopper’s understanding of the product and imagination, and perhaps the creativity of in-store displays and external advertising (print, audio, and video). In next-generation eCommerce sites, streaming video propels contextual presentation to an entirely new level, with streaming video mini-clips that spotlight beneficial product features in multiple real-world contexts. Not only will streaming video stimulate a shopper’s imagination and strengthen intent to purchase, it can also be effective in cross-selling other products and optional features, which provide a valuable means to increasing sale size and revenue growth.

o Live chat – An eCommerce site enabled with live chat can address a shopper’s questions or site use issues on the spot. As a result, these sessions contribute to impromptu purchases and a reduction in abandoned shopping carts as well as repeat visits. Live chat offers two specific benefits:

(1) the on-demand availability of sales representatives enables quicker and more efficient customer communications than serving customers in most brick and mortar settings;

and (2) sales reps have fingertip access to a wide range of product information and are typically better product knowledge experts. With the advent of VoIP (Voice over IP) in a nextgeneration eCommerce site, live chat expands from text exchanges to more personal voice conversations. Text and voice communication also can deepen loyalty and spending by premium customers and can transform intermittent customers into regular customers if both text and voice communications are strategically employed and supported.

o Personalized sales assistance – In addition to being product experts, online sales reps can also become dedicated customer aides. Electronically armed with real-time knowledge of customer identity, profile, and past online and in-store purchases, these sales reps can personalize and enhance the customer’s shopping experience. While similar personalization is possible in brick and mortar settings, location and in-person relationships are limiting factors on the number of customers that can receive this personalization. eCommerce does not suffer from these same limitations.

This next-generation eCommerce functionality is not free. Clearly, there are costs to develop, test, and deploy. These costs, we believe, are unavoidable for retailers who are serious about increasing their eCommerce revenues.

Equally important, but not always fully considered, are the costs of an eCommerce platform capable of delivering the full impact of this functionality to each and every site visitor. In our view, scrimping on the platform will have serious eCommerce revenue implications. Among the most notable to avoid is creating a platform that results in an uninspired shopper. For example, if the functionality does not perform to its potential – through slow responsiveness, jerky video, or voice quality inconsistency – the net result is that shoppers leave the eCommerce site and never return.

To avoid this scenario, companies today must have world-class Internet-connected data center and web servers. To attain world-class, multiple components must be in place. Lacking any one of these jeopardizes eCommerce potential.

o Redundant and highly scalable Web servers – Accommodates all instances of peak visitations and minimizes the risk of server downtime.

o Physical and cyber security – Protects the eCommerce platform and customers’ personal information (e.g., credit card numbers) from disruption and theft, respectively.

o Wideband and redundant access between the data center and the Internet – Access congestion directly correlates to slow response times and a poor shopping experience. Furthermore, as richer media is added to the site, higher bandwidth levels are essential.
o Data center utilities – Air conditioning, heating and electrical power are as essential as the web servers themselves. Failures in these systems are catastrophic to the health of any business.

o Around-the-clock administration – Without flawless operations and expert insight, none of the preceding points are meaningful. This flawless execution is the benchmark of nextgeneration eCommerce and anything less will degrade eCommerce potential and waste the investments in next-generation eCommerce functionality.

The good news is that the cost of these platform components does not have to be a barrier to nextgeneration eCommerce and the benefits it can deliver to the retailer: more revenue and improved customer loyalty. From our analysis, SMBs can reduce their IT costs associated with eCommerce by up to 75% by using a high quality Web Hoster versus a do-it-yourself approach of owning and operating these platform components.

eCommerce has proven to be an effective sales and customer relationship channel for many businesses. However, lack of innovation in site functionality and a world-class platform from which to deliver this functionality will return disappointing eCommerce results. For many businesses, the combined price tag for functionality and platform can be overwhelming. To meet the objective of increasing eCommerce

Conclusion

Web Hosting Delivers IT Cost Savings in eCommerce

How SMB’s Can Create a Distinctive Online Shopping Experience

This functionality also reduces the instances of shoppers leaving without a purchase.

How SMB’s Can Replicate the In-store Shopping Experience

The direction of next-generation eCommerce functionality fits into two categories:

Next-generation eCommerce Sites To Increase SMB revenue

Ecommerce Myths Exposed

The internet is full of advice on how to build successful ecommerce websites, some of it bad and some of it useful. Whilst it is easy to disregard the bad advice, unfortunately the sheer amount available only encourages bad practice during ecommerce development. We are going to dispel some of the myths that surround ecommerce to ensure that you or your website developer only build ecommerce websites that are full of the good stuff!

Myth Number 1 – You can never provide too much information

One of the most common ecommerce myths is that you can never provide your buyers with too much information. Buying decisions hinge on information gathering, in theory the more information you provide potential customers the more you enable buying decisions. In reality however too much information is overwhelming and can prevent buying decisions from being made. Filling up your product pages with countless choices and unnecessary information only causes confusion and choice paralysis. Encourage users of your site to become customers by providing them with simple product information, and if you really want to provide technical specifications for your products present them as separate downloadable documents.

Myth Number 2 – Security badges inspire confidence

Make no bones about it, online security is paramount. Thanks to a surge in media interest, the security of online shopping has taken a bashing of late and many would-be customers are still wary of engaging with ecommerce. As an owner of an ecommerce site you need to inspire confidence in your users, but simply adding a McAfee or VeriSign badge to your checkout pages does nothing to allay the fear of internet shopping! You need to convince potential customers that your site is trustworthy and secure through effective written content; a feeble badge just won’t cut it!

Myth Number 3 – Cross-sell at every opportunity

Walk into any supermarket and it’s a guarantee that you will be exposed to cross-selling at every aisle and checkout. Even something as simple as purchasing a newspaper from a supermarket subjects you to a range of other products to purchase…chocolates, magazines and supermarket brand credit cards! Cross-selling works in shops, but it doesn’t translate very well online. In a bid to follow the Amazon template many online retailers attempt to introduce cross-selling at every stage of a user interaction including checkout processes. Some website owners even try to cross-sell products which are completely unrelated. This is just wrong wrong wrong! Online buying processes are user driven and checkout procedures need to be fast, focused and efficient. Bombarding your customers with extra choices and additional products when they are in the process of buying from you is off-putting and will simply encourage them to visit your competitors’ websites. Keep all cross-selling and promotional techniques away from the checkout, don’t give in to temptation!

Myth Number 4 – Successful ecommerce depends solely on the website

Your ecommerce website development agency has probably only concentrated their advice and attention on building you the ecommerce site of your dreams, after all “if we build it, they will come”! That’s a nice sentiment but sadly the success of your ebusiness doesn’t rely on the website alone. The real success of your ebusiness is in the service that you provide to your users and customers. User experience is improved by appealing and well design websites, but there are other important components which make up the full experience such as: open communication channels, returns policies, order fulfilment and dispatch, email notifications and complaints handling. Providing excellent customer service online is as important as providing it offline.

Myth Number 5 – Ecommerce is easy, anyone can do it!

The final ecommerce myth is that setting up and running an ecommerce business is easy. And it’s not just the internet that conveys this message; it’s even on our television screens. Take the current crop of “junior” apprentices vying to be Lord Sugar’s dogsbody for example, at least two of these adolescents claim to be CEOs of ebusinesses. Proof then surely that ecommerce so easy that 16 year old children can do it? Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that! Yes setting up an ecommerce website can be easy, but as we have discovered successful ecommerce relies on so much more. Successful ecommerce is a long term process which incorporates all the elements which are found in bricks and mortar businesses – product, functions, customer service, communication and effective marketing strategies. Now how many 16 year-olds can get their heads round that?!

Why OpenCart Is Ideal For Your Online Ecommerce Business

The themes, plug-ins, extensions, and tools provided by ecommerce platforms make it easier for enterprises to take their businesses online. You have option to choose from several ecommerce platforms according to your precise needs and objectives. Unlike other ecommerce platforms, OpenCart is open source and free. Hence, you can use this online store management system to build and run ecommerce websites without paying any monthly fees. In addition to reducing ecommerce application development cost, OpenCart also comes with features to accelerate custom web store development.

It enables you to build and customize ecommerce applications using popular technologies like HTML, PHP and MySQL. Also, OpenCart makes it easier for you to build, maintain, and upgrade the web store by supporting model-view-controller (MVC) pattern. Also, it helps you to promote and sell products to more customers by supporting multiple languages, currencies, and payment gateways. You can even take advantage of the features provided by OpenCart to create a robust ecommerce website according to your precise needs.

Features that Make OpenCart Compete with Commercial Ecommerce Platforms

Supports MVC Pattern

As mentioned earlier, OpenCart is developed based on MVC pattern. The MVC pattern enables you to accelerate web store development by keeping the user interface and business logic layers separated. The separation further helps you to maintain the ecommerce website quickly and make changes to its source code without any hassle. At the same time, you can customize the open source ecommerce platforms according to your precise needs simply using HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL.

User-Friendly Admin Interface

OpenCart further comes with a simple and user-friendly admin interface. It allows you to manage multiple stores through a single admin interface. You can even use the admin interface to categorize users/user groups, and set precise access and privileges for each user. At the same time, you can use the admin interface to access important information related to customers, sales, and orders. The latest version of OpenCart also comes with an admin interface which is accessible on both computers and mobile devices.

Supports Unlimited Products and Categories

OpenCart makes it easier for you to sell a large number and variety of products by supporting unlimited products. It even allows you to organize and display the products in a structured way by creating multiple categories and subcategories. You have option to create many categories and subcategories, and assign products to individual categories. OpenCart also allows you to sell both physical and digital products. You can even boost online sales by providing the marketing features provided by the open source ecommerce platform.

Helps to Drive Online Sales

In addition to facilitating sale of both physical and digital products, OpenCart further helps you to promote the products and increase online sales. The admin dashboard provided by the ecommerce platform enables you to create and monitor digital marketing campaigns from a centralized location. At the same time, OpenCart also helps you to boost online sales by implementing reward programs and improving customer journey. You can even take advantage of an integrated system provided by OpenCart to promote the products effectively through customer reviews, comments, and ratings.

Supports Multiple Languages, Currencies, Payment Gateways and Shipping Methods

Unlike other commercial ecommerce platforms, OpenCart does not allow you to sell products through various online sales channels. But it helps you to sell products to customers regardless of their current location by supporting multiple language, currencies, and payment gateways. In addition to supporting thirty-five payment methods, OpenCart also allows you to set up recurring payment option for customers and sell product through subscription. At the same time, you also have option to choose from several shipping options according to the shipping address of individual customers. These options help you to sell your products in a flexible way and improve shopping experience of global customers.

Choose from Many Themes and Extensions

OpenCart is developed as a modular ecommerce platform. It allows users to customize and extend its functionality by adding specific modules. You have option to extend the core functionality of the ecommerce platforms by installing extensions for bestsellers, latest, special, manufacturer, and information. Also, you can use the Extension Installer provided by the platform to add modules without writing additional code. Likewise, you can make the web store appealing by downloading a beautiful theme from the OpenCart marketplace. At present, you have option to choose from over 13000 themes and extensions. However, some of these themes and extensions are commercial and paid.

Refines Product Search

Most users nowadays love fast and responsive ecommerce websites. They even expect the website to allow them to find and compare relevant products without any hassle or delay. OpenCart enables customers to gather information about relevant products through refine search. You can crate filters to make it easier for customers to find and buy relevant products. The filters can be created just like categories. But the filters will make it easier for customers to evaluate and compare products based on a number of parameters including price, manufacturer and condition.

Keeps the Ecommerce Website Responsive

A large percentage of customers nowadays access ecommerce websites on their mobile devices. Hence, you need to make the ecommerce website accessible and look good on smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. OpenCart is developed as a responsive ecommerce solution. It makes the web store accessible on a variety of devices by keeping it responsive. You can even enhance the mobile-friendliness of the web store by using responsive themes.

On the whole, you can always consider using OpenCart as an alternative to commercial ecommerce platforms. But you must not forget that OpenCart, like other ecommerce platforms, has its own shortcomings. For instance, OpenCart lacks some of the robust features provided by other ecommerce platforms like caching and hook system. Also, it requires you to use additional plug-ins and extensions to enhance the ecommerce website’s functionality and performance. However, it has been evolving consistently to compete with other commercial ecommerce platforms. You can still consider using OpenCart build a custom ecommerce website developmnet without investing extra time, effort, and money.