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The ins and outs of taking your business online

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The ins and outs of taking your business online

More and more South Africans are coming online – and becoming more comfortable using the web for shopping. A survey by Shopdirect revealed that 46% of online retailers consider their endeavours to be “very profitable”, and the more established online shopping platforms have reported increases in traffic and purchasing of late.


At the very least, businesses should investigate the possibility of taking their company online – but there are no guarantees. Commercial goods, such as books or music, are good examples of industries that do extremely well online, whereas more complex services such as engineering are still lagging behind. Some industries have benefited by combining online catalogues with their real-world stores, which eases the transition somewhat. With other high-involvement purchases, for example cars, browsers are normally referred to a dealer to conclude the sale.

As a rule of thumb, custom-made items and luxury goods (such as jewellery) has not done well, as customers have an intensely personal bond with these items and enjoy the buying experience. Likewise, items such as clothing, inspires purchasing decisions because it is a tactile experience.

DVDs, CDs, movie tickets, books, airtime, software, and even electronics and computers are commonly sold online because of the convenience – as is travel. Online travel packages have become extremely popular, particularly when backed by a good catalogue and interactive features, such as user reviews and ratings. Increasing numbers of visitors pay for their accommodation, airfare and vehicle hires online.

Flexibility is still important in terms of payment, though: a number of transactions still take place via EFT or cash deposits, although as buyers start to perceive online trading as safe and secure (and with the advent of low-cost, secure payment services such as PayPal) this is starting to change.  

But although setting up a virtual shop might seem easy, converting browsers into buyers is not. There is no cure-all way of converting customers, but there are a few questions you need to answer that can aid you along the way.

Does the end-to-end conversion process suit all site visitors? If different buyers want different products or outcomes, try to stick to simple outcomes, simple processes and simple query-resolution. If a buyer can, on any given day, sign up for channel accreditation, book a course or buy a book from your web site, you have to make their journey to the shopping cart as uncomplicated as possible, eliminating any uncertainty or unease during the process.

Secondly, does the look and feel of your site hamper usability? From the user interface design to the layout of the product cart and banners, the site must breed familiarity by being simple and predictable, so that visitors can easily find their way around and make payment. Your design could very well impact your payment processing, inventory integration and even search engine optimisation.

Thirdly, do you have a good software and web development partner that can advise you every step of the way? The right partner can provide you with advice surrounding the design, functionality, web traffic and other crucial elements.

At the end of the day, it is vital that you understand your product and your industry. Make sure that you are designing your site in a way that encourages customers to click the “buy” button.

Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 10:57
Wesley Lynch

Wesley Lynch

Driven by a passion for software and problem solving, Wesley Lynch founded Realmdigital in 1999. Wesley, a technology entrepreneur, has over a decade of experience in the financial, business and software development industries; gained both locally and during his time in the UK. He is deeply involved in producing innovative technology solutions for African and international businesses and regularly shares his knowledge and experience through participation in various industry events.


Website: www.realmdigital.co.za

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