2012 will have seen the biggest volume ever in online sales at Christmas and this strong growth trend will continue. Retailers must therefore ensure that their online stores give a pleasing shopping experience to potential purchasers. The most obvious criteria is that it should be easy to get around with a minimum of confusion.
Surprisingly even the most popular online stores often do not achieve this. In one survey by ForeSee, customers say Apple’s online store has become less satisfying to shop.
Larry Freed, president and chief executive of ForeSee, told Reuters that customers felt navigation on Apple’s online store has become more difficult. In particular, customers apparently feel Apple’s expanded product lineup — which has added products such as the iPad in recent years — has become an issue.
Even if navigation is satisfactory, popular online stores must cope with large numbers of customers all attempting to purchase at once. Once again there are examples of major retailers who encounter problems.
If your progress through the online store is frustrated by too much traffic ahead of you, then again the retailer loses out as you abandon your shopping cart. Even worse if the online store crashes.
Retail giant Selfridges saw its website crash today as online bargain hunters took to the web in their millions in a bid to avoid Boxing Day sale queues. Web customers are expected to spend an estimated £1billion over three days starting on Christmas Eve fuelled by the number of shoppers using new gadgets such as tablet computers to browse their favourite stores online.
If even the mighty can run into problems in this way, what is the small entrepreneur to do in setting up an online store. This requires careful and skilled planning covering both web design and hosting to ensure good customer experiences and speedy fulfillment even when the sales come in at a record speed. In the early stages of an online store it may be preferable to use an online store package from your web hosting service. Once the store has proved to be successful then you may consider upgrading to a more complex e-commerce package, perhaps with a dedicated server to handle peak sales.
Image Credits: courtesy of morgueFile