When is an e-commerce shopping cart more than a shopping cart?
Even without dipping into complex issues like PCI compliance, payment processing, analytics, and reporting, selling online requires a stack of systems that aren’t immediately recognizable to the non-technical business owner.
When you think “we need an online shopping cart”, pause to consider the role of each of these systems in your business:
1. Store UI - The User Interface is the equivalent of the layout of a physical retail store. Place a product in the “back corner” of your website and it won’t sell. The store UI is determined by your information architecture and web design.
2. Marketing – Sales, discount codes, coupons, gift cards, search engine optimization, customer reviews; each of these tactics requires a compatible technical system. Doing this manually would be a nightmare.
3. Merchandizing – This is how you can grow your average sales per transaction; up-selling, cross-selling, product bundles, and so on.
4. Prices – You may want to tier prices or offer product options and add-ons. A one-to-one SKU-to-price might not work for you.
5. Catalog – It needs to be simple to manage a product catalogue if you ever plan to add/remove products or have descriptions, specifications, images, and video.
6. Inventory – Receive an order, manually check your inventory, email a customer who ordered out-of-stock items, and refund their transaction? Sounds like a good way to lose business in this just-in-time world.
7. Customers – Managing your customer relationships is mandatory. Generating repeat business won’t happen if you don’t have a system that learns about your customer over time. There are plenty of opportunities; creating email lists, remembering shipping information, one-click purchasing, sending birthday discount codes, offering add-ons to already-owned products, and so on.
8. Fullfillment – Receiving orders and shipping products can be a hassle if you’re printing out emails. You should be able to check if an order has shipped, cancel orders upon customer request, measure and improve the time fullfillment takes, and so on.
9. Deployment – The website hosting, security considerations, software, and integration with any systems beyond e-commerce.
I think too many non-technical business owners look for web development service based on the ability to create the Store UI, implying the business owner already has a handle on the other eight systems. Caveat emptor.
Diagram and inspiration care of the excellent Get Elastic E-commerce Blog. Check it out.