There are more than 4 billion Internet users in the world today. If you are going into any kind of business, a web presence is no longer optional. The absence of geographical barriers (with the exception of the Great Firewall of China) means once you have an ecommerce site, you have the world at your fingertips. That said, success isn’t automatic.
Not just any ecommerce store will do. Many online businesses fail because they fail to integrate all the required features of a successful internet company. The following are the must have attributes of an ecommerce website.
1. Shopping Cart
Other than the products you are selling, the shopping cart is arguably the most important element of an online store. This is where your site’s users will place their chosen product before they proceed to the checkout process.
A cart should be flexible enough to allow both registered users and guest users to complete a transaction. While registration would be great, maximizing sales is the ultimate goal of an ecommerce store.
2. Diverse Payment Options
The more payment options your website has, the better. Within reason of course since you don’t want your checkout page filled with payment options that are hardly used. At the minimum, your ecommerce store should allow payment via credit card, debit card, wire transfer and PayPal. Additional means of payment should depend on who your target market is.
For example, mobile money services are near ubiquitous in certain parts of the world. If such countries are where you expect your product to primarily sell, adding a mobile money option would be necessary.
When someone buys from your site, they inadvertently share sensitive personal information. This includes their address, bank account information and passwords. You must reassure your customers that any communication they have with your site is safe.
The best way to do this is to protect every page with SSL. This ensures all content is encrypted and would remain unreadable even if it were intercepted during a man-in-the-middle attack.
4. Scalable Infrastructure
The infrastructure your ecommerce site runs on should be scalable to accommodate growing or surging traffic. For example, web hosts will usually cap your site’s bandwidth when you sign up for a standard account. Your site would become inaccessible to users once you exceed this limit.
However, for an additional fee, many hosting service providers will allow your website to exceed its allotted bandwidth during a sudden surge in traffic. This ensures that you do not lose valuable business simply because the current terms of your hosting account are not flexible enough to conform with sudden changes in traffic.
5. Mobile Compatibility
The future of the Internet is mobile. Already, there are more Internet users accessing the web through mobile than those doing so through laptops and desktop computers. It’s therefore imperative that your ecommerce site is mobile friendly.
Your website should be navigable and readable just as easily on smartphones and tablets as it is on laptops and desktop computers. You should also make a mobile app available as this gives you more control in shaping the user experience.
You cannot manage that which you cannot measure. Without regularly looking at metrics and performance reports, your ecommerce site will be flying blind. The reports should provide as much granular detail as possible and should cover product performance, customer information, order processing and revenue growth.
Integrate the website with incisive marketing tools like Google Analytics. Don’t forget to look at the backend data as well such as tail syslog. The more information you have, the better informed your decisions will be.
There’s no guarantee that an ecommerce site will be a resounding success. However, by incorporating these elements, you’ll have laid the right foundation.