I don’t buy groceries or rent videos online. I resist trendy looking sites and trendy advertising campaigns that reek of decadence, desperation, or deranged venture capital. I price everything online – even if I’m ultimately going offline to buy. I will never purchase lawn and patio furniture from Amazon.com. I have zero tolerance for amateur e-storefronts or dodgy payment processing systems.
And a lot of other Internet users feel the same way. On all counts. But does that mean that e-commerce is in trouble? Hardly.
That’s because I do buy books and CDs on the Internet. I buy coffee online (which is not the same as groceries because I get a great deal from an out-of-state roaster) and I pulled my espresso machine off the Net, too. Airplane tickets, gift certificates, computer equipment, software, a Russian camera, and a big box of edible seaweed – all purchased online. On occasion I’ll even succumb to an impulse buy, especially if it’s a unique item that I just stumble upon, that’s sold professionally, that’s marketed with a little website integrity and old-fashioned entrepreneurial aplomb.
Tens of millions of other Internet users feel precisely the same way I do. And that’s why e-commerce is not in trouble.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Currently, the media portray e-business in two lights: 1) it’s imploding or 2) it’s a technocratic realm where jargon-wielding experts preside over esoteric and expensive e-commerce solutions. The first image suggests that taking a business online is sheer folly. The second image suggests that taking a business online means spending a fortune so your intranets, extranets, and ultranets are all configured properly enough to simply get your product online.
Neither image comes even remotely close to the truth.
The fact is, Internet success stories usually involve regular businesspeople selling great products on professional websites built with reasonably priced e-commerce solutions.
E-commerce transaction volumes continue to grow rapidly across the Net. More than half the US population is now online and of those many millions of Internet users, a sizeable number converts to online shopping every day. E-businesses are selling products, building loyalty, achieving profitability. People are buying online – and if you have a solid product or service, then the key to success is to simply make it easy for customers to buy from you.
What Online Shoppers Are Looking For
So what are shoppers looking for? Frictionless e-commerce.
Frictionless e-commerce is not about website bells and whistles. Nor is it about having the lowest prices on the Web. And it’s certainly not fabricated by a team of self-decreed marketing gurus.
Rather, frictionless e-commerce only happens on websites where shopper expectations are met, where benefits are clearly articulated, and where consumer needs are satisfied quickly and conveniently. It’s not so much about e-commerce innovation as it is about avoiding the pitfalls that commonly derail online businesses. And it’s not so much about “looking incredible” as it is about being inordinately credible.
That’s because too many websites force customers to run obstacle courses and leap through flaming hoops. And many more businesses slam the door on sales with fly-by-night auras and telltale signs of amateur (or un-secure) e-commerce. That’s friction.
Frictionless e-commerce only happens on sites that are easily found, easy to navigate, and that streamline the shopping experience into an efficient, orderly system – professional all the way. Information? Frictionless e-commerce provides it: FAQ’s, toll-free service numbers, rapid customer support by email or phone, and clear shipping details. But only the facts and benefits consumers need to make an informed decision.
Frictionless e-commerce means bringing a human face to faceless medium – but it’s also about convenience and flexibility: shoppers want a site with options – and they want to pay with their credit cards, get instant verification, and know the transaction will be safe.
Of course, achieving these goals entails dedication. Profit and growth require that no piece be left out of the e-commerce puzzle. Building a successful business involves, above all, intentionality – every step of the way. If you want to create frictionless e-commerce, you need to build and manage your business the right way. More than one great business idea has run aground on poor web design. Inventory never moves without solid business strategy and smart choices. And even fantastic websites never get found by accident.
Sure, building a successful e-commerce site demands an initial investment. But dispel the myth that you need tens of thousands of dollars to build your commercial website. Depending on your technical skill level, you have options that range from the several hundred dollars to less than five thousand dollars for top-notch, custom-designed e-commerce websites.
But always remember: You get what you pay for. Cheapo solutions usually backfire. And the results are always the same: lost sales, server downtime, hidden charges, inhibited growth, unscalable solutions, poor customer service, abandoned shopping carts, and the sinking feeling that your website is second rate.
The good news is that people are buying on the Internet – and online shoppers buy from credible websites that instill confidence. Better news yet, you don’t need to break the bank to build one.