What are some tips for getting started with eCommerce? How can you just start and get some traction with a digital shopping cart?

This article was part of an interview with Russell Emmerson for News.com.au about Retailers missing out on web hits that was published today. It was based on 6 questions about eCommerce tips.

Getting started with eCommerce

1. What can you do first to cut implementation costs (regardless of how those are measured)?

Simplify your offering and use the 80/20 rule. It will reduce your implementation costs.

Look for the eCommerce package that most suits your needs to minimse any customisation costs.

Where practical, use the Out Of The Box functionality of the eCommerce package rather than customising the solution. This will allow you to use the future upgrades to the product’s functionality.

It’s often cheaper to change your process rather than change the technology.

Consider cloud based models. They quite often have configurations to common 3rd parties, such as banks, inventory systems & logistics providers, which can assist in reducing implementation costs.

2. Is it necessary to get a tailored solution?

Yes… but it’s the level of tailoring that’s important.

Each ecommerce site will need to have its look and feel tailored such as branding, logos and product catalogue. You will also need to implement the shopping cart, inventory management and delivery / order tracking to your selected payment gateway, inventory system and logistics provider.

For smaller / simpler sites, a lot of this can be a configuration of the ecommerce package and is fairly simple to achieve. For larger sites or for high-end brands where you want to define the customer experience, you will need some level of tailoring to fit your existing infrastructure and/or brand experience.

Your ecommerce offering is a digital representation of your product or service. If it’s not easy to use, then this will reflect accordingly on your product or service.

You should also consider having a mobile site as mandatory. Most users now expect that you have a mobile optimised version of your site. If your ecommerce site doesn’t work well on a mobile, then you are missing out on a large proportion of usage.

3. What banking arrangements are necessary?

You will need to setup a merchant account with your bank and/or PayPal account.

The types of features you should consider with your payment gateway are:

1. Fraud detection capabilities

2. Reporting features

3. Integration with your chosen eCommerce platform

4. Integration with the bricks and mortar POS system

Most providers have a test site so that you can test your eCommerce site before going live.

4. How complex or complicated can your product options be?

Clothing & shoes can become very complex quite quickly. Size / colour / style combination will mean there are a lot of SKUs. Other product categories are generally a little simpler in terms of product options but will still need eCommerce features such as product finders, comparison tools and detailed product descriptions.

With large product ranges or inventories, a separate product catalogue and inventory management system can often be required to manage the proliferation of product options and SKUs. This is an important decision where you are extending into eCommerce from a traditional bricks and mortar store so that you have an integrated view of products and inventory.

Imagery and detailed product content are quite often the biggest cost in an ecommerce store. You should consider the number of SKUs that you are likely to have as each will need images and detailed product information.

5. How can you integrate with financial reports, bank receipts and reconciliations, websites, etc?

Most eCommerce packages come with reports that you can use reconcile with bank statements.

In addition, it’s really important to setup website analytics / insight measurement so that you can fine tune the performance of your site.

Getting your eCommerce site live is realistically only Step 1. The site needs to become a living and dynamic representation of your brand. It’s really important to have website analytics / insights measurement so that you can:
a) Review your Search Engine performance and adjust accordingly,

b) See how & what your users are viewing on your site so that you can tune your site design & layout to perform better, and

c) Curate your product catalogue to increase the conversion rate of the site.

6. How can you assess relative security?

Firstly, I’d suggest that you seek advice from a digital / ecommerce / security firm about implementing an eCommerce site. They can assist in setting it up so that it minimises the risk of security & privacy breaches.

Independent of whether you are building an in-house application, buying off-the-shelf or subscribing to a cloud based application service, you should ensure that the minimum security controls expected from today’s ecommerce applications are in place mainly at the application level. Attacks are becoming more sophisticated and targeted toward the application itself.

You should also consider having regular “ethical” hacks and security reviews on your site to check if there are any possible vulnerabilities.

There are also security monitoring solutions available that you can include as part of your ecommerce solution.

When integrating your eCommerce site into a payment gateway you should ensure that this is done in a secure manner and complies with the Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

Finally, The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) www.owasp.org is a good resource for understanding web security and the PCI DSS Security Standards Council site www.pcisecuritystandards.org is a good source of information for payment card data security.

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