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What Every Ecommerce System Needs To Have To Survive In Todays Online World


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#1 glyn

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 08:54 AM

hi everyone....

I've been looking closely these past months at the state of e-commerce online and exactly what is going to take to survive online in these recession (with no end in hope...) times.

The internet has always been about price, but now it's REALLY about price because lots of people just don't have any money. So, if you've got an ecommerce site that is basically a catalogue with a buy button, you're probably asking yourselves why you ain't selling jack. The answer is probably because someone is undercutting your prices by 70%. One portal I know at 0800 in the morning had 127,000 people connected to its sale. PRICE IS EVERYTHING.

But if you take a look at the off the shelf packages, it seems to me that things are really limited. Does anyone build ecommerce platforms anymore that are competitively priced and with some useful functionality?

I thought I would share this list of e-commerce requirements i consider essential for surviving in the current climate. This isn't some casual off the top off my head list I've compiled here, but the fruits of a research project i've been doing for some time, looking at the leading online businesses in e-commerce, reading best practice and generally cooking my brain on a good criteria sheet..

But it's not complete and i don't claim it to be groundbreaking.

But, it does seem that i can't find an ecommerce with these basic things in it.

Please let me know if you know what ecommerce I should be looking at for something like this....


- apply promotions by product range
- apply promotions by single product
- discount on registration (% or absolute)
- discount message sent on timed release after first order
- promotional discount types, one off, constant, percentage or absolute discount
- creation of campaigns with unique URL with unique discount rates (such as 10% on people that come through a certain link)
- all clients through a certain campaign are automatically tagged with the campaign source, and can be targeted for repeat promotions at campaign groups
- Locking of discount campaigns only when certain payment methods are selected. Example, a 10% discount on accessories only if a paypal method is selected for payment
- timed release campaigns (example promotional campaign automatically expires automtically after x days or starts on day 1 and finished on day 3)
- affiliate network plugins such as CJ,Tradedoubler,Affiliate window - creation of affiliates and management back end.
- newsletter signup integrated
- wishlist and ability to share wishlist with other people via social networks, as a public link.
- customer notified when a category they want to follow is updated
- customer notified when a product out of stock comes back online
- packaging products (example make a package of lots of different products within a store, assign and give a global price for package)
- invite a friend discount scheme, with ability to bulk load email addresses and send from customer back end. Ability to import contacts from hotmail, ymail,libero,gmail addresses.
- Facebook, invite friends from Facebook, post website like to to wall (client gets a discount coupon for doing so)
- order process integrates with Android, so you can check order status.
- online points and incentive scheme, buy product X get 10 points, product y gets you 5 points....
- For every 20 euros spent you are 10 points.
- Ability for a customer to add a review to each product and recognition of ratings system via Google results.
- Global discounts based on customer group - Example, all registrations through a certain campaign link will give customer a global discount of 40%, for ever.
- Ebay and Amazon store connection
- multiple language back and front ends.
- multi currency
- different prices lists based on country.
- mobile versions of the store (IPAD/Android), for example an order tracking module to user C/P.

Sneaky stuff:
- ability to adjust rates of key products automatically on a daily scanning of competitors.

What's to add.

edit: found this comparison chart which could be a good starting point

Does this exist already?

Glyn.

Edited by glyn, 05 September 2011 - 02:35 AM.


#2 EGOL

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 11:00 AM

I can't recommend an ecommerce solution for you but do have a couple of comments....

1) I agree with you that more and more it is "all about price".

2) I agree with you that the ability to "review a product" is very important.

What I would add is that whatever system you use for the "review a product"... it should be a system that can be recognized by google and incorporated into the yellow review stars that now appear in the organic SERPs and in AdWords. These yellow stars are killer for attracting clicks and if you don't have those stars your visibility takes a real hit. It is also possible that these review stars can influence organic SERPs. I don't know that for a fact but I am suspicious.

#3 glyn

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 02:09 AM

EGOL, a great comment that and I agree with you on stars, any compliance you can give Google, particularly whenever they are launching a new service, is going to favour you across their listings. I am going to add your comment to this criteria sheet!

#4 EGOL

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 05:35 AM

That's quite a comparison chart that you linked to. That took a huge amount of work to compile and will take a huge amount of work to maintain.

One problem that I have with my current cart is that it does not work with Google Website Optimizer to do A/B testing.

I think that A/B testing to improve conversion rates is really important.

#5 fisicx

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 05:37 AM

I disagree,

It's more and more about service.

There will be occasions when price is important but I'd much rather pay a little extra and be sure the thing will turn up at a time that suits me.

So this means trust is key, I want to be sure the supplier is looking after me, they they will take notice of my concerns and wishes and will help me out if I have a problem.

I don't want to twitter about things, share with my facebook friends or compare you with an amazon seller. I want be enticed to buy from you - after all that's why I've come to your website.

You may be selling the products at a slightly higher price but if you have taken the time to write good descriptions, have a delivery service and loads of testimonials then I don't mind paying the extra.

Take a look at ableandcole.co.uk, they may be more expensive than the local supermarket but they a selling me the produce not just displaying it. The price is almost irrelevant.

#6 glyn

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 07:50 AM

"is this the right room for an argument?"
"i've told you once"
"no you didn't"
"yes I did"
"no you didn't"
"when?"
"just now!"

Only kidding!


"You may be selling the products at a slightly higher price but if you have taken the time to write good descriptions, have a delivery service and loads of testimonials then I don't mind paying the extra."

The number of people that don't mind paying extra has gone down in my opinion. It has to have because people are poorer. The western world is pretty f***** at the moment. The US is having debt issues, and take a peek at what happened in Greece!

It's always been about diversification of channels and getting your products in as many different channels as possible, search will only ever give you a small part of the market. But now it's really REALLY important. Look at the band of 70% discount stores off that have exploded on the web as an indicator of what people want. Look at Groupon.


If you were just shrink-wrapping a user experience to look like another, then the question that probably should be asked is why did you think that a normal customer experience was going to lead to success. And once you got a customer, if you weren't inspiring them the same would apply.

Incidentally I did find an e-commerce solution that would do all of the above. Their sales guy told me it was 25K for startup and 500 a month maintenance, which was a little bit out of my budget!

#7 DCrx

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 08:07 AM

The number of people that don't mind paying extra has gone down in my opinion. It has to have because people are poorer. The western world is pretty f***** at the moment. The US is having debt issues, and take a peek at what happened in Greece!


Just look at Apple "what recession" computer. They'll be out of business any time ...oh wait, record profits. Gangbuster sales.

The web was built for the commodity zero-sum mindset. You can rack up scads of evidence to back up this world view.

Price is the easiest thing to program. Hence it forces a price based competition as the be-all, end-all of ecommerce.

Currently the trend in getting around this is multiple unit bargains. For example, instead of a $4 item, they offer a mix-and-match - five items for $19.95. And the customers do spend more. In the article I read, customers felt like they got a bargain.

I just saw a great upsell technique, which works, offline at an Omaha Steaks store. Ideal for online use, it will never be put to use. Or even tested online.

You won't find this technique if you think there isn't anything to be done.

When somebody first sets up a store, what do they do? Set themselves apart with product mix ...or feel they need to cram every commodity item everybody else is selling into the store?

The web punishes commodity selling. And the current ecommerce carts are not shopping carts, they are set up like vending machines. No value added shopping behaviors allowed.

Do they use selling copy? No, of course not, they write generic descriptions that could pass for a Wikipedia scrape. Then they complain about it in forums.

The most urgent task nowadays is getting somebody else to fill up the content of the store at zero cost. And the results are just exactly what you would expect.

The only shopping cart comparison I'd make are those wobbly things you see homeless people push around. Because that's about as effectively as they're used online.

This is what happens when you put programmers in charge of your merchandising system. Price is the only thing on display.

Nothing surprising about any of this. It's what the entire ecommerce system was designed to produce. Anybody who couldn't see this comming -- even without a recession as an excuse -- has not been paying attention.

Edited by DCrx, 26 July 2011 - 08:37 AM.


#8 glyn

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 08:34 AM

Nice, you know that's the first post of yours I was able to follow!

#9 DCrx

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 08:52 AM

Galco's Soda Pop Stop gets me.

Online people, ecommerce people ....not so much following me.

This is someone with an interest in soda pop. Not content. Not Googlebot. The overwhelming message you get from most online ecommerce is they are disinterested in what they are trying to sell.

Edited by DCrx, 26 July 2011 - 09:01 AM.


#10 fisicx

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:36 AM

The overwhelming message you get from most online ecommerce is they are disinterested in what they are trying to sell.
That's exactly the point I was trying to make. If you really believe in your product then you can convince people to buy at whatever the price.

#11 iamlost

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:57 AM

And the real message that I wanted to make is also in that video - that attempting to compete on a straight commodity item (man in video uses Pepsi as example story - yes, he tells stories :)) you will emulating Sisyphus because when some competitors can sell for less than you can buy it is a true uphill battle.

{8:41...8:48}
The important thing is to set yourself apart and provide your customers with something that no one else has.

It can be, as with John Nese, specialty variations of a commodity. It can be unique or limited items such as works from artists or artisans. Etc. Yes, you will not likely ever be moving commodity quantities but higher achievable margins combined with web customer reach can be a much less stressful business model. Of course marketing, on and off site, needs to be as compelling. Leave the bland bottom of the market to the behemoths and move up a notch for life's surprises about which stories can be told...then write and tell them.

I have watched that video twice now and noticed new gems each time. Just because one already knows something doesn't mean that a new edge or perspective isn't fascinating and valuable.
Thanks, DCrx.
Almost made me want to get back into retail. But then I woke up and shivered and shrugged the nightmare off. :D

#12 EGOL

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:43 AM

This is someone with an interest in soda pop.

I just watched that video. Really interesting. I emailed a link to it to my kids and my wife. We will probably place an order.

Thanks, DCrx, for sharing the video. :D

#13 AbleReach

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:29 PM

You know the thing that stood out to me? The soda pop guy is an individual. He may be doing a lot of things right that we could put into a checklist, but what makes his business (and that video) rock is his personality and his passion.

Web development conventions can be a melting pot in the worst possible way - not an "add to the flavor" mentality at all.

Have you clicked through to his site? No indication of what is the lowest price, no reviews or reviewer "stars." Do you think he needs them?

In his case, if he has time, I'd want *his* reviews, because he is the guy with the richest experience and he has a straightforward voice. I don't know that I'd be in a rush to put him in a better template, or to make his site searchable by average review.

I might want to see a blog. I'd probably want a blog without comments, for the same reason - I would not want this guy wasting his time with spam moderation, or viewers getting a diluted message from 1,000 similar comments and side conversations. If he has time for that stuff, a forum might be interesting, but forums are time consuming. He might get the most benefit from a single page that takes comments, like a public "requests" list.

He could introduce the story and flavor of each soda in a blog post that could be spread around via Social Media - him speaking directly to us via video would be wonderful. The text of the blog post (and embedded video) could become part of the product page. Duplicate content? Redirect the post to the soda's product page. Not standard, but I think it would work.

The other thing I'd look at is a monothly or quarterly subscription service, like the CSA-style "market basket" you'd get from an farm that sells produce. For personalization's sake, top off the box with a letter describing a recent find or a customer memory. The contents of that same letter could become an email newsletter.

#14 EGOL

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:57 PM

Have you clicked through to his site? No indication of what is the lowest price, no reviews or reviewer "stars." Do you think he needs them?

In his case, if he has time, I'd want *his* reviews, because he is the guy with the richest experience and he has a straightforward voice. I don't know that I'd be in a rush to put him in a better template, or to make his site searchable by average review.

Great points. I have a small retail site that could use some of this.

Thanks!

#15 maleman

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 03:33 PM

Thanks to everyone for some great insights into ecommerce! What I find really interesting is that everyone can
demonstrate "success" from each angle. Not that everyone is successful by being the "cheapest' or "most
knowledgeable", but that it is possible to succeed if done properly. The difficulty comes in defining what it takes to be
successful and what it means to be successful.

This reminds me of the theory of "Triple Constraints". There are three ingredients to obtain "success" - 1 Money, 2
Time, 3 Quality. The theory states something like this, "You can choose any two, but you cannot have all three at
the same time".


Thanks again!

#16 glyn

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 07:11 AM

"The overwhelming message you get from most online ecommerce is they are disinterested in what they are trying to sell."

This is a great statement, and very true of many ecommerce a platforms.

I think Apple is a bit of a weird comparison, because it is so unqiue.

When people feel down there are more peaks and toughs to their spending habits. Aspiring purchases go up. Social media give the opportunity to build out a conversation beyond just the typical ecomerce presentations which are two a penny.

#17 DCrx

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 01:22 AM

I think Apple is a bit of a weird comparison, because it is so unqiue.


People want to make out that Apple is special or even above average.

Untrue.

Apple chooses competitors wisely. They look for competition with a near pathelogical compulsion to see what they can get away with when dealing with customers.

The big magic Apple secret? They cheat at marketing by developing products worth marketing.

Notice I didn't say "insanely great" products. That Apple is to unique is merely a comentary on the truly dismal state of competition today. Corporations will sit on a patent trove and sue rather than build innovative products.

I read an absolutely ludicrous story about Kodak looking at their patent hoard and realizing they had invented the future of digital photography but had no products to market. They could sue. They just couldn't compete.

That is pathetic on a level that makes one ill. And that's the height of the hurdle you have to clear these days, folks. You can clear it in street shoes and a busted kneecap.

Apple looked at the competition for small computers that play MP3 files and developed the first system for managing your music.

Apple looked at a hundred chimera products called "smart phones" and thought wouldn't be great if smart phones were smart about people ...for a change. Until Apple; smart phones were swill buckets for disjointed "convergence technologies."

Want to revolutionize the CMS market? Go build a CMS for a change.

Want to revolutionize the Ecommerce market? Build an ecommerce system for a change.

The list goes on. Stem to stern, every technology industry buzzword is the exact opposite of what it is describing. It has become a cynical joke.

The only reason people don't understand me is they aren't in on the joke.

Edited by DCrx, 30 July 2011 - 01:40 AM.


#18 bwelford

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 10:14 AM

... but what's your (power) point?

No, seriously your cynical joke about Powerpoint had some interesting points (watch out for those bullets, folks), but I did not feel it brought out the essence of your argument.

My own take on all this is back to one of my standard enthusiasms, that's for being customer-centric rather than product-driven. If you just try to be the best you can be but product-driven, you may well end up with patents with nowhere to go. If instead you try to figure out the customer needs and meet them then you have a much better chance of products and services that will grow exponentially as the word spreads.

#19 RisaBB

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 10:35 PM

Very interesting posts and that soda pop video was great!

glyn, I thought of one more to add to your list: mobile friendly design.

I just contacted the programmers of my shopping cart because I'd like a mobile version of my website and I got a quote that starts at $2000.

My e-commerce site is 4 years old. I've made an effort for most of my products to write compelling descriptions. I take a lot of additional photos and I've started videotaping my products. I think a lot of my products have that 'personal touch.' I have a lot of articles on the site and background information on the products in a specific category with the history, meaning, etc.

I think the element I am missing is my ongoing struggle with social media. The soda pop guy's 'social media' is meeting the people and sharing his passion and effortless depth of knowledge of every soda pop he sells. I think social media is the key to making this connection.

I thought it was funny what Iamlost said - "Almost made me want to get back into retail. But then I woke up and shivered and shrugged the nightmare off."

I spend so much time dealing with the retail end of my business - which seems like it takes up at 75% of my time dealing with customers, packing, shipping - I feel like I'm running to stay in place with little time for marketing and social media.

E-commerce is tough. When a friend said, "maybe I should do what you're doing and sell online," I was thinking "you just have no clue how much is involved."

I know this veered a bit off topic. Great posts!

Risa

#20 glyn

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 02:34 AM

Thanks Risa and DCrx for the comments. I'm gonna add that mobile version too! - can't believe I missed that (IPAD and Android).

FYI: The system from Magento will handle ALLOT of the above, I actually fired off a a copy and paste of the above and got a great support request back from them. Probably not the place to discuss the merits of their system here, but if anyone does have any experience with them please drop me a message.

Nice breath of fresh air here.

Glyn.

#21 A.N.Onym

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 03:43 AM

Risa, you don't really need a mobile version as long as you have a responsive HTML/CSS template.

glyn, I'd start with a reliable CMS that I'm most comfortable with. The usual suspects are Zen Cart, Ubercart, Magento (and I plan to use Drupal+Ubercart or its own eCommerce module, as you probably know).

IMHO, what it comes to is not functionality, but how adaptable the system is. How hard is it to add something new to it? How flexible is it in handling your needs? If that's in the suppliers hands, then yes, it means the quality of service. But if you need to hire developers to maintain/improve it, then there may be a few technical peculiarities that might be important.

From what I've heard from people, who have tried a number of carts, Magento is good, as long as you can afford it.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 05 September 2011 - 03:46 AM.


#22 glyn

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:52 AM

Thanks for this Yuri.



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