The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: September 2003

How to sell products online

1 September 2003

Best practices in retail e-commerce are supported and driven by an understanding of business process value for the Internet channel.
The online shopper's discovery process is an end-to-end journey that includes many measurement points. Conversion rate, shopping cart size, brand equity, repeat visits, profitability - all of these must factor into the overall goals for your retail e-commerce channel. Satisfying the shopper's discovery process and maximising business process value requires the deployment of 10 best practices and the tools to support them.
1. Understand the metrics of your business. Use an e-commerce site traffic analysis tool and deploy reporting tools at all levels. Review reports regularly so you can understand what does not work - these are opportunities for increased conversion rate. Understand the business process value by tracking user shopping behaviour through the site and understand the entire shopping process.
2. Eliminate 'results not found'. Present alternative related product categories when browsing. Never let the shopping experience and the brand promise go unfulfilled. Customers have come to your site because of your brand, so it is key to reward their experience.
3. Help users 'find what they mean' with spelling tools, thesauri, category browse, attribute search and natural language. Implement search with spell check, correct, suggest. Implement fuzzy search. Implement a thesaurus and customise it to fit your brand and your shoppers. The typical user query has been found to consist of 2,2 words - you can 'find what they mean' by adding category browse functionality.
4. Category browse and search must be integrated and deployed at all levels. Understand your top queries by reviewing reports daily. Implement classification to create browsable aisles of products, and to create familiar lines of sight with end-caps of popular items to draw shoppers deeper into the category. If you have search but do not have category browse, add it. Classification will also enable concurrent browsing of relational categories, as well as the deployment of brand stores, theme stores and/or designer stores that drive conversion and return rates higher.
5. 'Know Thy Customer'. Market to individual needs through profiles and recommendation. Use cookies or a login ID/password to populate actionable user profiles. Classification can be used to create profile-specific categories of products that appeal to these user groups. Track explicit user behaviour to create user profiles based on queries, categories browsed, products viewed, products added to cart, and products bought. Aggregate individual user profiles into a small number of profile groups, no more than six at first, to keep them manageable. Make sure you track implicit user preferences and to create customer-defined communities of product interest.
6. Again, 'Know Thy Customer'. Market to community preferences on the first page of results. You can affect product behaviour in a result set based on shopper interest, popularity or conversion. Ensure that you develop a strategy to understand and benefit from shopper-defined communities of preference. You can have your most popular products automatically placed on the first page of results to maximise conversion rates.
7. Support the customer research process by making all information available to your shoppers and provide your users with the ability to sort search results by characteristics that are important to them. Support search for all data and file types (catalogues in databases, unstructured data such as PDFs and Word documents) Enable all data and file types to be viewed in shoppers' browsers. Integrate customer reviews that are automatically linked to search.
8. Enable multichannel marketing at all levels. Put kiosks in your stores to enable online purchase of items that are not stocked in the store. Clearly indicate those products that are exclusive to the website, and not available in the store or catalogue, and allow return of e-commerce purchases in stores. Coordinate channels to drive greater shopping cart size, brand equity and return visits. Implement find-it-local, need-it-now functionality by integrating store inventories. Ensure that you enable customised alerts that build closer relationships with your customers and more return visits. This reinforces all channels of your business.
9. Use merchandising tools to promote, cross-sell and up-sell products and categories. These tools will drive the operation of your e-commerce site. Include search functionality that associates products with accessories (eg, cameras with lenses, batteries, film, etc). This functionality will also allow merchandising managers to easily promote products in realtime without complex business rules and cumbersome deployment processes. Enable cross-sell strategies that suggest alternatives on the product description page instead of the search result page.
10. Support the discovery process with a comparison shopper for all your major category stores. Category-specific attributes can be used to populate product comparison pages (eg, compare digital cameras based on focal length, auto focus, mega-pixel, etc). Table format will allow for easy navigation, as well as drill down through product categories. Integrate a search box with category browse and drill down.
The key to developing a best-practice retail e-commerce store is to keep the focus on solving the business process problem end-to-end. This requires keeping shoppers on the site, maximising shopping cart size, maximising conversion rate, maximising profitability, and maintain and building brand equity - this will get the shopper to return and use all channels of the retail business.
Garth Wittles, district manager for Verity in South Africa
Garth Wittles, district manager for Verity in South Africa
For more information contact Verity South Africa, 011 447 0655.

Others who read this also read these articles

Search Site


Previous Issues