Introduction to eCommerce
E-commerce, eCommerce or Electronic commerce, is the type of industry where the buying and selling of products or services is done online or a network. eCommerce it’s just about making websites; it also makes use of various technologies and platforms such as mobile commerce (or mCommerce), electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, digital marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems and automated data collection systems. Typical eCommerce platforms are developed for the web and link to companies existing IT systems via complex integration technologies and are typically supported by digital and traditional channels like e-mail, mobile devices, social media, call centres and physical retail stores too.
eCommerce isn’t all about sales though. A successful E-Commerce website allows for seamless integration of clients finance and payment systems for transactions and also communicates live with real world stock and fulfilment systems.
How do you build an eCommerce website
Starting the journey to build your online store so you can sell your first item online is a long and technically challenging road. Operationally an online store is very similar to a brick and mortar store – are you ready to run your own shop? Starting with a strong e-commerce plan is as important as your original business plan.
The first step in developing your online store is defining what kind of experience you want your online customers to have. Don’t only think about today, start thinking about 2-5 years down the road and include that in your vision of your customers experience.
Another key item to think about is success. What constitutes as success or failure will be different for different businesses. So what are your KPI’s? Start by setting some goals and defining them. Who is your target customer? What kinds of customers will be using your site? What do they need? What problems are they trying to solve by using your website? Do you want to simply have a catalogue of products for customers to get information, or do you want customers to be able to finish a purchase online? These are key questions that need to be answered and clarified as early in the project as possible. The answers will determine how much time and money you’ll need to develop and maintain an online presence. But remember as you go through the eCommerce development process, you will learn more about the challenges and customers needs which you will need to use to pivot the project direction (and update your original plan) accordingly.
Deciding what products you want to put online sounds trivial, but defining what stock you want to offer online and what to exclude involves lots of complex variables. Some inventory won’t be deliverable, some will be too expensive to deliver, or requires a sales person to determine if the product is correct before sending it to client, or does your brand promise require you to take away the cardboard box after delivery – can you trust your courier to do that. Also plan how you want to position and display your products online. Will you offer both online and offline purchasing? How will you handle shipping and returns? These are key operational business decisions.
Don’t overlook the customer’s need to reach a real human being via email or the telephone. Our experience is that one of the most visited pages on an eCommerce website is the companies contact details. Your phone number should be clearly displayed throughout your website so that your customers know they can call anytime to get their questions answered by a real person.
To sell your products online you’ll need a shopping cart on your website, which also means you will need to handle credit card processing, EFT payments of cash on delivery, and a well oiled fulfilment process.
Once you are can sell online and ship orders you can’t assume people will find you on their own. Developing a strong flow of user traffic to your site is done by planing and maintaining an ongoing and multifaceted promotional strategy that’s carefully targeted to your audience and makes use of your existing owned, earned and bought media.
The State of Online Shopping in South Africa
- 79% say free or minimal delivery charge would improve online shopping
- Factors that most influence consumers when purchasing online
- 90% is convenience of payment
- 90% is secure payment facilities
- 89% is price of the item
- The favourite online store in SA is Kalahari.com
- 42% of online shoppers in South Africa are buying books, CD’s, and DVD’s
- 33% percent value recommendations from social networks when making a purchasing decision
- Of the 93% of South Africans who can access the internet, only 12% make purchases with their phones
How Fontera and eCommerce fit together
We began building e-commerce websites when the industry was still very young. This was a time when buyers searched on the internet for things they couldn’t buy in store, and low-tech environments did little for premium brands. Today, we get excited about pushing the boundaries of the online retail experience and maximising the potential of online and offline integration.