How Customers Can Help Improve Your Ecommerce Site

Getting people to visit your ecommerce website is always good; but translating these clicks into sales is even better. When it comes to promoting your ecommerce site, creating traffic is always important. Even if you have a good ecommerce web hosting plan for your site, if you are not significantly turning these clicks to sales, then it could be a huge problem for your online business. In this case, you need to improve your ecommerce site. Other than a reliable ecommerce web hosting plan, you can improve your site’s usability by knowing exactly what your customers want. You may not know it, but other than the right ecommerce web hosting plan, your customers just may be the very people who can help make your ecommerce site achieve its goals.

For one, customers want you to be specific. For instance, if you offer free shipping for orders, then your customers expect that their purchases will be shipped to them for free wherever they may be located. Unless your free shipping features are limited to selected locations, you need to be specific about it otherwise your customers will feel that you are ripping them off. Point out whether you offer free shipping for selected location or free shipping to anywhere and be clear about it. Customers always want to get what they expect from your ecommerce site. If you fail to give them what they want, then they will definitely leave.

Also, keep in mind that a customer’s time is precious, so you don’t want to waste his/her time taking interest in your product that is not available. When a customer sees a product on your ecommerce site, then s/he expects that it is available. Nothing can be frustrating or disappointing than for a customer to be informed that the item is not available just when it has already been dropped into his/her shopping cart. Always inform your customer beforehand that the product is unavailable. You would not want to waste your customer’s time, much less, confidence in your service.

To give your customers a better shopping experience at your ecommerce site, you may want to allow them to back-order a product once it is available. Several ecommerce web hosting packages come with a back-order feature so you might want to take advantage of that. If, however, you are unable to provide this feature, then get your customer’s contact info, at the very least. This way, you can make for a potential sale in future time.

Customers also do not like too many distractions especially when shopping online. You may offer cross-selling to your customers in your ecommerce site, in which you give recommendations or suggestions on related products. However, cross-sell items that are only related to what your customers pick. Suggesting items off their choices is not only an improper selling technique but can be very annoying for your customers as well.

Cross-selling should also stop once your customer checks out products from the shopping cart. The next thing that your customer wants is to close the sale, so avoid directing them to unrelated links. These unwanted links are not only unhelpful but they may change your customer’s mind about purchasing the item/s in his/her shopping cart. You would not want this to happen if you aim to make your e-commerce site profitable. This should also apply to window-shoppers on your ecommerce website. Avoid unnecessary pop-ups or advertisements as much as possible. The right ecommerce web hosting plan can help you avoid this from happening.

A customer’s attention span tends to be shorter especially when shopping online. Even in just a split second, they decide whether or not your ecommerce site can give them what they are looking for.

Moreover, you want to convince your customers that shopping in your ecommerce site is just a click away. If they have to click through your site so many times just to get to what they are really looking for, then they are more likely to abandon your ecommerce site. Customers also get annoyed with broken links and pages that load too slow as well, so avoid them as much as possible. To avoid this, get an ecommerce web hosting plan that allows superior usability.

Your ecommerce site should also pay a premium on customer’s privacy and do all means to protect it. Ask information that is only needed to close the sale. Asking too many questions may only draw suspicion among your customers. Your ecommerce site should provide your customers a safe and secure environment for giving out sensitive information.

You might want to get live chat software for your ecommerce site to better promote your products and provide maximum customer support. Although this may apply to bigger ecommerce sites, it can significantly boost sales. Many ecommerce web hosting providers offer this feature in their packages.

Web 2.0 in eCommerce

There has never been a better time to start an online business! According to Jupiter Research, a market research firm, online retail spending in the United States will increase to a whopping $95 billion in 2006. In Europe things are getting even better! In next five years the number of online shoppers will increase 75 percent and per person average spending will increase 50 percent. This will push European eCommerce to $335 billion by 2011.

If you are planning to start a new online business or upgrade your existing eCommerce site, you should consider using some of the innovative ideas related to Web 2.0 concept. Three years ago if you would have searched the phrase “Web 2.0”, you probably would not have found any mention of this term on the Internet. Now, at the last count, Google showed close to 60 million results relevant to this search. Amazing! First time this term was coined by O’Reilly Media to vaguely define a concept of second generation websites which were emerging after the dot com crush. Since their first use of this phrase to promote conferences organized by O’Reilly Media and MediaLive International, the idea of Web 2.0 has become immensely popular in web development sector.

So, what is this Web 2.0 concept any way? There is no exact definition of Web 2.0 available today. If you run a search for a definition of this phrase the only quotation you will receive is from Wikipedia, which says, “Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users. Ultimately Web 2.0 services are expected to replace desktop computing applications for many purposes.” Tell me if I am wrong, this definition does not give a slightest clue about what really is Web 2.0.

Tim O’Reilly himself explained the Web 2.0 phenomena in five pages of examples, abstract terminologies, sketches and jargon in a great article. Unfortunately, if you are not a very Internet-savvy person, you will have hard time understanding the concept clearly from this article. To make things worse if you read other articles on this subject you will be even more confused! The reason is simple! Being a new concept many ideas related to Web 2.0 are abstract and still forming. However, there are some fundamental principles and indicators of Web 2.0 ideology which are true for any Web 2.0 based sites even if it is an eCommerce one.

The problem with eCommerce is, although in last five years many changes, some are drastic, have taken place in philosophy, ideology and technology related to the Web, very few things have changed in eCommerce sites. Now, it all started to change! Even successful eCommerce sites are experimenting with new ideas born from Web 2.0 concept. The result is visible! A recent survey shows adoption of new interactive functionalities, innovative product catalog and better communication with users have increased online sales for 83 percent of respondents.

Earlier online merchants were not very keen to have customer interaction elements like product review and rating, online surveys, customer blogs, etc. fearing flames from unsatisfied customers. But a recent poll shows that this fear is unfounded. It seems that 9 percent shoppers polled wrote a product review on a store site about a product they liked against 4 percent who posted a review about a product they did not like. Same goes for surveys! There are 2.5 percent more chances that a satisfied customer will participate in a survey than an unsatisfied one.

Many eCommerce sites lose a large number of their prospective customers due to inadequate product information required to take an affirmative buying decision. Customer reviews and ratings can help merchants in this. More over a positive review works like a call for action for the people reading it.

Most professional classification systems used in eBusiness are pretty complicated for daily use. A good way to give users a better method of finding product is to incorporate user added keywords or “tags”. If a user likes a product and may buy it now, or may keep a reference of it for future use, she can add one or several informal keywords as tags and save. These tags are visible to others and can be displayed two ways: in tag clouds, where the most popular tags have bigger fonts and most recent tags, a list of newly added tags. The popularity of tags in numerous Web 2.0 sites proves viability of this device in eCommerce sites as well.

Elements like ability to do side-by-side comparison of several products, ability to customize products according to buyer’s need, and the ability to filter and search products without constant page reloading can increase conversion rate dramatically.

Many eCommerce sites have the functionality of sending email notification of new listings of products that a user is looking for. A good idea is to add RSS notification ability to enhance product information request service also.

A staggering 60 percent of online shoppers abandon their carts at some point in the buying process. The following site functionalities will help businesses to retain these shoppers:

o Shoppers should have the ability to see thumbnail pictures of the products inside the shopping cart.

o Editing and adding products to the shopping cart should be done automatically without reloading.

o Shoppers should be able to save shopping cart anytime and it should be saved automatically if connection fails.

o Shoppers should be able to drag and drop products to the cart and all calculation should be done automatically.

Many of the functionalities mentioned in this article were available long before Web 2.0 concept emerged and these are only a minuscule number of examples of abilities you can actually add to your Web 2.0 based eCommerce site, however, if you fail to notice the progress and take necessary actions, you maybe losing a great opportunity. Transformation in eCommerce sites is slow, but one thing is for sure, in coming years these sites will be noticeably different from what we have now.

Ecommerce For Sap Business – One

The Problem

The time has come to focus on “Solutions” versus “Tools”. SAP does not offer an eCommerce solution as part of their SAP Business ONE portfolio. It is therefore crucial to review the market situation and provide information and resources about the current offerings related to eCommerce. During conversations with partners, customers and an online discussion, we compiled and organized the “Success Factors” for the perfect SAP Business ONE eCommerce solution. When deciding for an eCommerce Solution that works with SAP Business ONE you can measure the available features against those success factors. In order to do this in a structured manner we will complete the following path:

First we look at the solution scenarios based on SAP Business ONE. This is followed by a brief evaluation of the target market and its constraints. We then define the “criteria” that can be used to evaluate features. In essence, this criteria is designed to measure a solution’s capability to “Capture the Business Momentum”. There are many features and functionalities. We listed the “key eCommerce features” that should be present in a solution in order to enable “End-to-End” processes. The final step is to put the key eCommerce features to the test with the potential target user base in mind. We attempt to measure the overall solution with the innovative “Simple Yet Powerful Test – SYPT”. This visual representation is based on the Newton Cradle concept and showcases a solution’s potential to “Capture the Business Momentum”.

The Solution

The need for web technology is omnipresent and the ROI for web implementations is “undisputed”. Using the method shown in this white paper you can “dispute” and better decide for the “right” solution. We will focus on products that are highly integrated with SAP Business ONE. Therefore eCommerce solutions that are not integrated with SAP Business ONE by design are disregarded. Any solution can be integrated and it is not our goal to provide an integration guide in this document. We focus on solutions that are utilizing the DI-API or similar means to “extend” SAP processes to the web. Any “manual” integration will not be part of this white paper. The goal of this document is to highlight the need for end-to-end solutions that seamlessly integrate.

Most emerging companies need a solution that is simple to use, easy to implement and can help them “manage growth”. Growth is one thing, but “managing” growth is key. We will later see how the established “Success Factors” can help you identify how this “Management of Growth” can be handled with your preferred solution. In the next section we will identify and define the target market for the SAP Business ONE eCommerce solutions.

The Market – Focus on Emerging Companies

What’s a small company? If you ask consultants and customers there are many categorizations and criteria, which is causing some confusion. The definitions actually are different by country and industry. It points to the fact that the categorization is based on the perspective. For example, a company may be large from a SAP Business ONE perspective. However it may be small for SAP mySAP. Please find the complete SAP Business ONE categorization below:

• Emerging (1-10 Employees)

• Small (<50)

• Mid (>50)

• Enterprise (>500)

The eCommerce solutions discussed in this document are targeting the Emerging, Small and Mid-Sized companies. This customer segment is characterized by limited financial resources, limited IT management resources, niche market focus and success based approval processes. Therefore the potential solutions have to deliver an easy to manage solution that has the capabilities to be adjusted to detailed “niche” market needs.

The Criteria – Establishing “Business Momentum”

The quality of a product is determined by the criteria we use to evaluate it. During an online discussion on the LinkedIn SAP Business ONE forum participants were asked to contribute their perspective on the “Key Success Factors for eCommerce” as related to SAP Business ONE. The discussion further underlined the need to organize the success factors and structure them. For example some participants had general complaints about the available solutions while others requested specific features. It clearly showed that there are a variety concerns and requirements floating around. In order to help consultants and customers evaluate their potential eCommerce solution for SAP Business ONE our team organized the success factors as follows:

–Real-Time Integration as the basis to preserve the “Business Momentum”

A key selling point for SAP Business ONE is “Real-Time” information. It is therefore important to evaluate the level of integration for potential eCommerce solutions. Is the solution “Real-Time” integrated or is “Synchronization” required to keep the data updated in SAP Business ONE? There may be reasons to choose one method of integration over the other. However we advise that with respect to the SAP Business ONE designated target market “Real-Time” integration is preferred as it minimizes the requirement for additional consulting hours and/or manual synchronization. We are suggesting this, because a solution that is not integrated in Real-Time may require repetitive manual steps to get the data in sync. In a business management world there are some red flags when we hear “repetitive manual steps” and data that is not in “sync”. In addition the value of “Real-Time” integration is that the “Business Momentum” is preserved. The Newton Cradle nicely demonstrates the momentum when different components are connected in real-time. In this white paper we will identify the “Key Features for eCommerce”. Those will represent the components that have to be connected in “Real-Time” and preserve the “Business Momentum” in SAP Business ONE.

–Custom Component / Standard Component

Every eCommerce implementation is unique as customers have very specific requirements. At the same time each eCommerce implementation has to meet industry requirements and standards to comply. It becomes clear that a solid eCommerce solution for SAP Business ONE has to deliver the flexibility to meet customer specific requirements while also complying with new industry standards.

When evaluating an eCommerce solution we therefore identify the capability to “customize” the functionality for customers. In addition we list the “standard technologies” that are available. Therefore the “custom/standard” criteria must be evaluated as one. For example customers generally want to implement their custom design. However a modern eCommerce design has standard features that are often integrated with the design. Such standards are “Google Ads, Chat, Web Analytics”. As it may turn out most custom features should be based on a standard functionality in the eCommerce solution. This way you avoid programming and make sure the solution can be maintained.

When standard features are not available, eCommerce solutions are “customized” via programming. We highly discourage any programming for customer projects as it defeats the purpose of an out-of-the box solution. We advise customers to approach any programming additions with caution.

Having said that it must be noted that most eCommerce projects have some requirements that cannot be easily implemented in a standard format. That’s when your solution selection is crucial. How can a specific requirement be implemented? For example many customer scenarios already have an existing web and eCommerce solution. It was potentially developed as an expensive custom development. You need to treat such a system like any other “Island of Operation” and evaluate the potential for replacement or integration. Your eCommerce solution should provide options for both scenarios. For example an existing eCommerce website should be easily integrated with the SAP eCommerce checkout process. Therefore an eCommerce solution can serve as a “real-time” connected solution that integrates an existing website with SAP Business ONE.

–Completeness

Are any additional Add-Ons required to achieve “End-to-End” process integration? For example does your eCommerce solution require additional add-ons for Credit Card Processing, Shipping Rate integration, Newsletter Integration or any other essential functionality? This is a crucial aspect, because for any SAP Business ONE implementation you should limit the number of Add-Ons used.

–Proven Track Record / Certification

In order to prove the track record of a solution often the number of customers is utilized. However it is not a sufficient criteria when evaluating solutions. Therefore the following additional criteria should be considered:

– Is the solution “State-of-the-Art”? Often established solutions are outdated or based on old technology. You have to make sure that the solution has a long-term perspective looking forward and not only backward.

– Is there a significant number of customers who purchased the solution, but never used it or otherwise never went “Live”. This could point to a discrepancy between “Sales Skills” and “Solution Potential” of a vendor.

– Review industry independent reviews. Is the solution positioned in competitive portfolios?

– Is the solution certified by SAP? This will be a good indication for the vendor’s dedication to this product.

– Are there any “Live” stores that you can evaluate. This should be the best indication, because you can see “live” what you may get. Did the “live” stores require programming?

– Are there any implementations in your specific industry?

– Is a clear benefit analysis with before and after scenario available? This points to the fact that the solution provider has a structured approach.

–Regional Coverage

It is interesting to note that it is often overlooked to consider language specific requirements for localized implementations. The ideal eCommerce solution would make it simple to adjust to regional requirements. Therefore the regional coverage has a “functional” aspect. Considering the very nature of eCommerce with a potential worldwide audience this aspect could play an important role when eCommerce solutions reach a mature level where overlooked features like this become an essential factor. The future eCommerce system would not only allow you to publish stores easily and present relevant content dynamically for users, but also would identify the location of a current site visitor and determine the geographic and cultural framework including products, currency, warehouse locations, and availability. These “regional” aspects are clearly functional and can contribute to an efficient integrated eCommerce solution.

An important non-functional aspect is “support”. Basically you need to determine if your preferred eCommerce vendor has support capacities at your geographic location.

–eCommerce Key Feature ROI

Features are important. However features can add complexity. The main requirements should be matched with the core feature set available in the evaluated solution. We would like to highlight that this criteria is crucial. Providing the “right” features helps customers understand the potential of their solution. It is better to provide features that inspire customers based on a standard solution rather than offering them to implement “based on their requirements”. Don’t misunderstand this as disregarding the detailed customer requirements. A solution provider should address the most common requirements and then also “connect the dots” to release synergy effects. For example integrating Newsletter functionality is not an immediate obvious function. However with integration this functionality can leverage your real-time data to the next level.

It is also important to note that it does not make sense to go “feature hunting”. The less and more precise features the better. Therefore in this white paper we evaluate what we call the eCommerce essentials. We don’t advocate adding new features, but rather keep it simple and add features only if their integration adds significant synergy. The following features are the essentials we identified when analyzing eCommerce functional completeness:

– eCommerce End-to-End Process

– Multi-Store Capability

– Online Catalog

– Web Dashboard

– Service Integration

– Newsletter Automation

We gave each of the above key features a neutral ROI weight. You can change this based on your specific requirements. Each key feature is evaluated against the success factors. Using this concept you can assess eCommerce offerings and position them against your requirements.

The success factors for each criteria are:

– Real-Time

– Custom/Standard

– Completeness

– Track Record

– Regional Coverage

Vendor Evaluation

When evaluating vendors and their eCommerce solutions use the following criteria to evaluate:

– Does the vendor have a solution or a “programming toolset”? The approach “We can do anything you like” does not suffice. Based on our analysis a standard functionality must be available for customers.

– What is the history of the solution? How many owners and developer hands did the solution go through? Changing code and software with a history of more than one owner is not easy. Customers for such solutions will end up getting marketing updates with marginal value.

– Is the solution designed for SAP Business ONE or did the vendor “modify” an existing implementation that was designed for another platform?

– Be careful of vendors promising that their solution helps you “Keep your Data Synchronized”. You should have your data in Real-Time, which does not require synchronization.

– Does the solution provide real-time information and preserve the “Business Momentum”?

Vendor Score Chart based on Key Criteria

The following chart is a sample visual representation that shows how different eCommerce solutions for SAP Business ONE measure up against the identified success factors. Each key feature is evaluated against the success factors. As you can see the N2ONE Portal shows high ratings for each key feature. Each component from Multi-Store, eCommerce, Online Catalog, Web Dashboard, Service, Newsletter Automation is integrated in Real-Time and designed for end to end processes that preserve the “Business Momentum”. In addition no Add-Ons are required to implement the functionality. All other eCommerce solutions even require Add-Ons for basic checkout functionality.

SYPT – Simple Yet Powerful Test

What is SYPT?

The Newton Cradle nicely shows the power of kinetics. It also shows the importance of integrated processes that transfer data seamlessly in Real-Time. But what if there is a dis-connect? It’s easy to see that the cycle is broken and the process does not work anymore. Therefore we would like to utilize the Newton Cradle as a tool to evaluate that the key process components are in place and comply with SYPT critertia namely “Feature Completeness” and “Ease of Use”. For example if the following criteria are met the SYPT will get high scores:

– No programming required to customize

– Little consulting help needed

– End-to-End Automation without additional Add-Ons

The “Simple Yet Powerful Test – SYPT” ultimately puts the solution to the test and qualifies if it delivers a good combination of features, ease-of-use and the capability to “manage growth”. Matching the customer resources with the final solution with respect to usability and manageability is important. SAP Business ONE customers can range from 1-2 employee companies with an eCommerce solution that may grow to 80 employees with various locations and warehouses. Matching the requirements with minimal or without programming is key. If programming is required, it must be ensured that it does not affect the “supportability”.

The “Simple Yet Powerful – SYPT” test evaluates each “eCommerce Key Feature” using the “Success Factors” criteria. In addition, each eCommerce key feature is judged based on its “ease-of-use” and usability considering the potential target audience of SAP Business ONE customers. Using this method, we can make sure that a feature can deliver business benefits for customers without the costly need for continued consulting help. Real-Time integration of all the key features and ease of use will guarantee success. In order to visually represent these requirements, we have color coded each key feature. We then utilize the Newton Cradle concept to evaluate if a solution is capable of “preserving the business momentum”. For example if a key feature is not implemented then the “end-to-end” process is broken. Essentially this would result in the fact that the momentum is not preserved.

Other SAP eCommerce solution (vendor undisclosed)

There are disconnected key components. The momentum is lost.

N2ONE Portal designed for SAP Business ONE

The solution preserves the business momentum. All key features are integrates in real-time.

NIEFERT recommendation “Don’t be the boiling Frog”

When throwing a frog into boiling water it will jump out immediately. However if you heat the water gradually it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog )

How does this apply to eCommerce for SAP Business ONE?

Expanding your business using web technologies and tools is a common goal for most businesses today. With new web related technologies emerging frequently, those “tools” often lead to operational “Islands”. The absence of a solution for common challenges leads to “creative solutions”. Over time businesses get tangled up with complex technologies and consulting. That’s where the “Boiling Frog” comes into play. If you don’t pay close attention your business solution becomes a jungle of applications that require “synchronization” and other unnecessary clutter. We are suggesting that businesses re-evaluate their solutions based on the success factors in this white paper.

What’s Next: Watch Stores Live and compare