The online retail industry is a highly lucrative one. eMarketer estimates that revenues for Web-based stores rose as much as 21 percent last year. In fact, the Chase Paymentech Pulse Index noted a new record on December 18th – more than 3.05 million online sales transactions processed in just a single day. And growth is expected to continue at a rapid pace according to the Forrester Online Retail Index, which projects an increase of over 17 percent in 2008.
At the same time, selling over the Web has become intensely competitive. Buyers have tens of thousands of sites to choose from – with hundreds more new Web shops launching every day. In order to achieve peak profitability, companies must make their sites easily noticeable to and accessible by potential customers, while providing them with the most intuitive and convenient shopping experience possible.
What Is eCommerce Software?
An eCommerce software package provides Web-based stores with a variety of tools that automate all facets of Internet sales. Also known as shopping cart software or “e-tailware,” eCommerce software supports all related activities from end-to-end including creation and maintenance of an online product catalog, marketing and promotion, payment processing, and order history tracking.
Key Benefits for Your Company
The use of an eCommerce software application can deliver tremendous advantages to online retailers, including:
- Increased sales through more effective site marketing.
- Improved service and loyalty through an enhanced customer experience.
- Greater efficiency through full process automation and minimized site administration.
- In-depth insight into the trends and factors that impact sales and profitability.
- Improved branding through more professional and comprehensive site design, promotion, and management.
Does My Company Need an eCommerce Software Package?
In order to most effectively operate an online retail business, companies must be able to clearly differentiate themselves from other similar sites. The best way to accomplish this is to make the Web-based store as attractive and intuitive as possible. While this can be achieved through manual design and coding, that process can take months or even years to complete. With eCommerce software, online retailers can rapidly create and deploy sites that are compelling, user-friendly, and easy to locate. This, in turn, will maximize sales and revenues.
Key Features of eCommerce Software
Today’s eCommerce software applications are robust, feature-rich environments that provide:
- A single, centralized database that stores all product listings as well as order and customer history data.
- Advanced search facilities that make finding products fast and simple for potential buyers.
- The ability to easily add or update new products and product categories, as well as the ability to include comprehensive descriptions, images, features lists, and more.
- End-to-end checkout automation including dynamic calculations of pricing, taxes, and shipping and handling fees.
- Integration with third-party payment gateways, so customers can have the most flexible payment options possible.
- Integration with shipping service providers, to offer fully-customizable delivery options at checkout time.
- Comprehensive statistical reporting including click-stream analysis, keyword tracking, referring sites, and customer demographics.
- Integration with accounting software applications, for more effective management of revenues, invoices, outstanding payments, etc.
Additionally, many eCommerce software packages are designed to accelerate Web store deployment. With portfolios of professionally-styled design templates, companies can more rapidly set up and launch their online shops – without the need to hire an outside graphic design team.
So what to look for when choosing eCommerce software?
Search Engine Optimization
Providing buyers with a convenient online shopping experience is important, but making it easy for them to find your Web shop is vital to ensuring sustained profitability. Some eCommerce software applications include advanced search engine optimization capabilities, so buyers looking for related products and services through Yahoo, Google, and other search engines can quickly locate and get to your site.
Support for Affiliate and Online Advertising Programs
Many online retailers work closely with affiliates to leverage cross-promotion on other related sites. And, many others place banner or skyscraper ads on various sites across the Web to promote their products and services. If affiliate sponsorships or online ads are part of your marketing strategy, you’ll need to choose an eCommerce solution that can track the effectiveness of your initiatives.
Integration with Inventory Management Systems
To avoid customer satisfaction issues, your eCommerce software should directly link to your inventory management or warehouse systems. This will prevent order fulfillment delays by providing out of stock messages to shoppers. Many of the more advanced eCommerce software packages can also dynamically omit unavailable products from search results and product catalogs.
Support for International Customers
The Internet makes worldwide markets more reachable. Therefore, in order to leverage every sales opportunity possible, be sure to select an ecommerce software application that can support purchases made by international buyers. Look for features like dynamic translation of product descriptions into foreign languages, or automatic conversion of foreign currencies.