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.