The interest in the recent Online Retailer event held in Sydney highlighted that most companies appear to be still struggling to fully benefit from ecommerce and offer their clients/customers a new convenient sales channel.

A number of Australian retailers are working to refine their online strategies and understand that if they are successful they can potentially make tens of millions more in revenue. With many Australian retailers still learning the ropes, you competition may only be a few steps ahead and it’s not too late to catch up.

The common project questions are what platform, shopping cart and web analytics will be best suited to your industry and budget. What can often confuse business is the sheer number of potential store platforms and shopping carts available.

For simplicity we have listed seven of the most common solutions in typically order of cost:

  • Paypal
  • Amazon/eBay stores
  • Out-of-the-box hosted
  • Custom built by web developer
  • Open sourced solutions
  • Proprietary solutions, and
  • Enterprise solutions.

The store cost also varies from a small investment in time and possible ongoing charge per sale to enterprise solutions costing millions. The first three options are the cheapest and quickest solutions but are not suitable for competitive industries or large stores. Many custom built solutions by web developers while appearing cost effective can often have longer term limitations, can be inflexible, non-search friendly and make it difficult to track ROI.

The best solution for ecommerce stores is typically an open sourced solution, as they offer the most flexibility, support, plugins and customisations. Proprietary solutions can be suited to complex projects or need implementation within existing CMS platforms, they can prove expensive and not always the best solution. The enterprise solution is the type that Walmart, Amazon or Woolworths would select and can be a combination of proprietary and open sourced solutions.

The main factor that can rapidly increase costs of an online store is the addition of multiple solutions such as:

  • Back-end fulfillment
  • Customer relationship management
  • Email marketing integration
  • Geo targeting/personalisation
  • Multiple stores
  • Integration with custom applications
  • Onsite search engines, and
  • Usability testing and implementation.

The more advanced options can even replace other existing sales channels as they can offer more potential benefits allowing visitors to receive the best possible experience and better ROI for the business. While these can increase initial launch costs the benefit of many of these solutions can provide to your online store with better conversion rates, reduced processing costs and even increase visitor traffic.

In this current economy many projects don’t always have the budget for a complete website rebuild so there are two effective solutions to increase your ROI. If you have an existing website solutions such as SLI Systems offer intelligent search solutions which can improve conversion rates and can assist with improved search optimisation campaign results. There are also web usability firms such as Peak Usability that have advised my clients that typical conversion rates should be around 2% and websites should be aiming for around 5%.

The focus in a successful ecommerce business should always be on quality foundations supported by the ability to correctly measure ROI and success. The key to better understanding your visitors and behaviours is having correctly implemented web analytics running within your shopping cart that combines visitor data and revenue.

Around one third of websites are still not using web analytics software and rely on the basic web server logs to understand the success of their online marketing campaigns. The problem that many of these web server logs while free, do not offer business the necessary information required to track their campaigns or refine their online marketing spend.

If you are driving visitors to your online store you need correctly implemented web analytics so you can track how much revenue each campaign or medium delivers the best revenue. While most web analytics packages support campaign tracking some allow for advanced integration with email, video & social media platforms.

Most people understand that the leading web analytics solution is now Google Analytics based purely on the volume of websites, across all industries followed by Omniture. According to my extensive research of the world’s top 1,200 public companies a majority of the world’s largest retailers are split between Google Analytics and Omniture.

While enterprise solutions such as Omniture are often suitable for large ecommerce websites, its setup and costs can make it harder for business to justify. There are other web analytics solutions that fit between Omniture and Google Analytics, listed below with links to their clients/case studies.

If you are in a particular industry it can be a good guide to check the top few sites and follow their solution for web analytics as customised packages maybe available for particular industries. So using web usability testing, onsite search and web analytics you can measure how many visitors have their shopping cart half full and better help them fill it.

Case study success stories: