eCommerce Sites – Simple?

eCommerce Sites are seemingly ubiquitous and are very easy to use by end users. What you may not realize are some of the details an eCommerce web site needs to address and some of the hurdles it must overcome to before it accepts its first order.

A successful eCommerce web site has a number of characteristics:

  • Maintain a product catalog
  • Categorize products
  • Order Management
  • Order history
  • Predictive product marketing
  • Inventory management
  • Campaign management
  • Promotions management
  • Product management
  • Pricing, sales tax management
  • Payment processor compatibility
  • Link management

A site’s product catalog is a view into the products a site sells. Products are usually arranged based on category, or type to make them easier to find. Some products can appear in more than one category, and categories can change over time. How would you want your eCommerce site to behave when you delete a category that still has products in it? Should you site delete the products too, or leave the products alone possibly making them impossible to find?

Order management is the process that takes place not only when a shopper pays for the things they want, order management also occurs when your site restocks its inventory. Your eCommerce site should be able to manage orders, back-orders, preorders, and a range of other types of orders.

Your clients’ order history is important because it provides information that supports you when you create future promotions, create advertising campaigns, and can help when ordering new products to sell. Order history is also important for incomplete orders – these are orders that users start yet never complete. An order is considered to be abandoned when a user goes to pay yet stops short of actually paying. Gaining an understanding of why users are abandoning their orders is crucial – it could end up being a simple solution that dramatically reduces order abandonment.

Predictive product marketing occurs when the eCommerce site displays products to the user that may be of interest to the user based on their previously browsed or ordered products. Analysis is usually performed as the user browses and relevant related products can dramatically increase sales.

Campaign and promotions management use order history and profile information. A campaign could be a special advertising campaign, or some special offering that’s targeted to specific users or groups of users. A promotion is less targeted than a campaign so it’s reach is broader. In both cases, your users’ profiles and order histories help you create the campaign and also target users when they browse through the product catalog.

Pricing and sales tax management can be tricky. Pricing can change based on date, product availability, and a range of other factors. The eCommerce system needs to ensure that prices are correct and that they change based on your needs. Sales tax calculations can get very involved – especially in countries or regions where sales taxes change based on the buyer’s location, the location where a product is consumed (attendance at a conference or class for example), or your organization’s location. Some regions also offer sales tax exemption in many cases, so your order pipeline needs to be able to accommodate calculations like this.

There are various payment processors for credit cards and other forms of payment. While many payment processors are standardized now, many regions don’t support the larger ones or have regulations that make using some payment processors impractical.

Link Management is an important yet overlooked aspect. Users can bookmark product pages, or send links to their friends. The eCommerce site must support all links over time, even in cases where products no longer exist.

In addition to all of these characteristics, better eCommerce sites support the following non-functional characteristics:

  • Accessibility
  • Audit and control
  • High Availability
  • Performance
  • Quick recovery from different types of failures
  • Compliance with local and international regulations
  • Privacy management
  • Stable
  • Secure
  • Testable

From the end-user’s point of view, eCommerce sites just work. This article has demonstrated some of the design that makes an eCommerce site successful.