Complete E-Commerce Book

The Essentials for an Successful Web-Based Business

Research your niche market - understand the niche to understand the customer behaviours that drive it. Every e-commerce operator should assume that his or her customers are sophisticated shoppers who demand prompt delivery of a product that is exactly as portrayed on their website.

Track the status of every purchase. customer service and product fulfillment is the immediate priority to building a relationship with your customer.

Use your website to provide not only useful and interesting information about your products/services, but also about your entire niche market. The group that makes up a niche market always yearns for more information. They will return time and again to your website if they are appealed to on the basis of their special interests — detailed articles and content-rich advertising specifically targeted to them.

Start with your home page; think of it like the cover of a book.

The design of your website and the content within will influence your customer’s perception of your business and in turn their purchasing decision.

 

When designing your site, there are certain categories of rules or guidelines that you should follow. The acronym SPEC can be used to help you to remember the key categories:
  • Stickiness and traffic generation - ContentSearch engines
  • Performance - Speedy downloads Tables
  • Ease of use - Site Navigation
  • Content visibility - Viewable Site Frames Java Plug-ins

Use logging to enhance your site. Log analysis is useful for finding problems with your site. For example you can track “error messages” that cause people to leave a site, if you see many of them in a day’s report, you know you have a problem. You might see an error message and realize that the message only occurs with a certain browser version.

 

Logging also provides stats on the types and versions of browsers used to view your site; as well as devices employed.

How do customers find your site? Your top referrers should be Google or Yahoo. The second top source of traffic is linked sites.

Quality Assurance Plan

Developing and maintaining a quality assurance plan ensures your site stays easy to use.

This plan allows you to develop and implement testing protocols to improve production specifications, visual and HTML style guidelines, and process flow.

Suggested tools for testing your site:

 

Watchfire’s WebQA 2.0 Web Content Quality Testing tool (www.tetranetsoftware.com/products) helps put you in control of your website by supplying intelligence on simulated visitor interactions with site content and website transactions. Reporting, analysis, and measurement solutions provide you with a real-time view of your website. This vendor also offers, WebXACT, a free online service that lets you test single pages of web content for quality, accessibility, and privacy issues. You can access WebXACT at http://webxact.watchfire.com.

Webtrend’s Enterprise Suite (www.webtrends.com) assists you in improving the quality, performance, and integrity of your website. It can illustrate broken links, chart biggest and slowest pages, document the loading time of connections, check the syntax of various HTML components, find the availability of external servers linked to your web server, and more, even crawling your website as a user would.

Segue’s Silk Product family (www.segue.com) lets you test the performance of your website rigorously using as many simulated concurrent users as your site and network will support. Its ability to stress test web applications under heavy loads and simulate bursts of activity make it ideal for use by virtually any web-based business. In addition, its reporting features enable you to chart and to correlate response time results with server statistics to identify bottlenecks and problems quickly.

Site Mapper (http://trellian.com/mapper/) is perhaps the best of the lot. This product will analyze the content of your website and create a detailed map of all resources with an indexed listing by page and category. It also validates all links, so that visitors need never come across a “File not found” error. Some of the quality assurance features Site Mapper offers include: spellcheck of documents as they are mapped, built-in document preview functionality, the ability to integrate with your favorite document editor, it can map javascript files, stylesheets, and media files, and it can list and map external links and broken links.

SEO

 

So even though search engines vary on how they rank websites, every web page should include:

  • Pagetag.
  • Keyword meta tag which is more than one word.
  • Description meta tag.
  • <!— comments tags —>.
  • First 25 words (or 255 characters) of text.
  • NO FRAMES tag.
  • Hidden FORM tag
  • .HTML tags.
  • tags.

 

Keywords: There are two ways to approach keywords: A blanket strategy and a targeted strategy. When you use a large list of keywords, your pages will be found by a variety of surfers using a extensive range of search strings, but your web pages will not, in all probability, be among the top ranking pages — this is the blanket strategy. When you use a limited number of keywords, the density of these few keywords increase and therefore put them higher up the list — the targeted strategy.

Keyword Mix: Pay attention to your keyword mix. Keyword density (the ratio of a keyword or keyphrase to the total words [depth] on a page) is the factor that search engines most consider when assigning relevancy ratings to web pages. 

Link popularity. This refers both to the number of similar websites you’ve placed links to within your web pages and the number of websites that have links that point back to your e-commerce site. Your links to other websites must be on relevant pages — that is pages that have as much to do with the common theme of your website as possible, and that are not just a page full of links. Search engines view a website with a large number of incoming links (i.e. other websites that have links to your website) as an important or popular website. Thus, according to search engines, a website with lots of links leading to it generally implies that the website is a valued one and the search engine’s database would not be complete without it. Link popularity is vital if your site is to achieve a high search engine placement ranking.

Marketing

Develop market objectives that are realistic and specific. If possible, hire consultants to assist you in identifying the available market, to understand who will be competing with you for that market share, and to formulate a realistic projection for your share of that market.

Competitive Forces: Who are your major competitors now and who is likely to be your major competitors in the future? What response can you expect from those competitors to any change in your marketing strategy? How does the structure of the industry affect competitive forces in the industry?

Economic Forces: What is the general economic condition of the country or region where the majority of your customers reside (demographic research)? Are your consumers optimistic or pessimistic about the economy? What is your target market’s buying power (demographic research)? What are the current spending patterns of your target market? Are your customers buying less or more from your website and why?

Socio-cultural Forces: How are society’s (and your targeted market’s) demographics and values changing and how will these changes affect your web-based business? What is the general attitude of society regarding the Internet, your business, and its products/services? What ethical issues should you address?

Legal and Regulatory Forces: What changes in various government regulations (domestic and foreign) are being proposed that would affect the way you operate? What effect will global agreements such as NAFTA and GATT have on your web-based business?

Technological Forces: What impact will changing technology have on your target market, if any? What technological changes will affect the way you operate your website, sell your products/services, and conduct marketing activities?

Identify Target Market: What are the demographics of your target market, i.e., characteristics such as, sex, age, income, occupation, education, ethnic background, family life cycle, etc.? What are the geographic characteristics of this market, i.e. its location, accessibility, climate? What are the psychographics of your niche market, i.e., attitudes, opinions, interests, motives, lifestyles? What are the product-usage characteristics of this market?

Needs Analysis: What are the current needs of your target market? How well is your website and its products/services meeting these needs? How are your competitors’ meeting these needs? How are the needs of your niche market expected to change in the near and distant futures?

 

Good customer relations keep your customers coming back for more. Fostering good customer relations requires a customer service strategy that puts in place policies, services, software, and hardware that make it easy for customers to feel confident when making a purchase online. 

Bibliographical Information

The Complete E-Commerce Book: Design, Build & Maintain a Successful Web-Based Business, Second Edition

By: Janice Reynolds

Publisher: CMP Books

Pub. Date: March 30, 2004

Print ISBN-10: 1-57820-312-0

Print ISBN-13: 978-1-57820-312-3