Future-proofing your eCommerce web design and development – 2020 and beyond

Monday, 7 September 2020  |  Posted in: Most Recent, News  |  10min read

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on the way we all use online tools and platforms and eCommerce is no exception. As people all around the world were sent home eCommerce flourished as a way to continue sourcing the goods and services we need in the modern world.

While eCommerce has been around for a long time its embrace during the pandemic has been staggering. Total online spending from January to May this year hit $82.5 billion, a 77% increase on last year and an acceleration of the sector by 4 to 6 years.

In another analysis of the eCommerce explosion it was calculated that, by May, 40% of total retail sales in the US were online. This is in comparison to 2019 when 85% of all retail sales were in brick and mortar locations. The current migration to eCommerce platforms shows no signs of slowing down as the pandemic continues to affect countries around the world, so it appears we will remain in the midst of an eCommerce bubble for a while to come.

The benefits of eCommerce are clear for both customers and business alike, especially during such uncertain times. From a customer’s perspective, eCommerce is often a more convenient way to browse a larger range of products from more retailers while remaining socially distant, and once purchased, your products are delivered directly to your door. This convenience is not insignificant, and a recent survey of US consumers suggested that they were even prepared to pay for this convenience.

 

Benefits for business

eCommerce also brings considerable benefits for businesses. Fewer physical locations push down overheads and an online store can be managed by less staff. While there are some new costs that need to be considered, such as website redesigns, redevelopments, improved hosting environments and security implications the inclusion of eCommerce into your digital strategy needs to be considered for the efficiencies and retail security it provides.

Nothing can truly replace the physical experience and not all businesses want or need an eCommerce solution. However, if your business can benefit from expanding online and incorporating an online store then there are some things you will want to make sure you have in place to ensure you can provide the best possible customer experience.

 

Consider your platform

There are several different eCommerce platform types available to support the development of an online store. These range from low-cost subscription-based SaaS platforms, to more flexible eCommerce plugins like WooCommerce for WordPress, through to fully customisable enterprise eCommerce platforms like Kentico Xperience.
Understanding the differences and benefits of a more customisable platform is vital to making a good decision.

Pros and Cons of Customisable Solutions

ProsCons
SaaS
  • The cheapest option, often with only a monthly commitment
  • Limited design options
  • Little to no control of payment gateway and often larger transaction fees
Plugins
  • Cost is often comparable to SaaS platform (but does not include other website costs)
  • Design is often inherited from the rest of the site with some additional options
  • Payment gateways can be configured more easily and to integrate with other services such as delivery and BNPL options
  • Data is often shared between the website and the plugin creating some security concerns
Native Platforms
  • All design and transaction settings are fully customisable in most cases
  • eCommerce often one of many tools available on the platform which can help you develop a more complete customer experience
  • eCommerce data does not need to be handed to plugins or other tools making it more secure for both the customer and the merchant
  • Most expensive option as you licence an entire website platform that includes eCommerce functionality

If you are interested in looking at eCommerce it can be a good idea to get a website development agency to assist in breaking down the platform options relevant to your requirements.

Talk to a specialist eCommerce Digital Expert

Are you starting an eCommerce project? Get in touch with the team at The Digital Embassy.

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Improve your online security

No matter what kind of eCommerce solution you put in place, as soon as you identify as an online store you become a more attractive target for cyber crime. There are lots of things you can do to improve the security of your website and online store, in most cases the security improvements will also result in better website performance too. With cyber crime it is important that all websites are potential targets and you should think very carefully about your website security at all times, this is just even more true for eCommerce platforms.

Secure your domain

The domain, or URL, for your online store can be inherited from your current website (example.com/store) or you can keep things a bit more separate and instead secure an entirely new domain just for your store. Either way you now need to look at securing your domains if you haven’t already.

To secure your domain you will need to organise for the installation of an SSL Certificate. SSL certificates encrypt data as it moves between your website and your customer, so it is vital in the case of eCommerce. These certificates are becoming more and more common across the internet with Google recommending them for all websites. A recommendation like this has lead many to now consider an SSL certificate good SEO practice, no matter what the website actually does.

Maintain your website and plugins

eCommerce websites are such common cyber crime targets that platform and plugin developers are constantly reviewing and updating their code to repel would-be hackers, but that is only half the job. These updates require confirmation, installation and testing on your own website in order to make sure they are working and you are as secure as you can be.

If you are unsure about managing these kinds of updates it is best to speak with your website development or support team.

Organise dedicated hosting

Another common way hacker attempt to access eCommerce websites is to attack them through their server environments, for this reason, shared environments are a lot more vulnerable than dedicated environments. We have written about the security, speed and reliability improvements due to dedicated hosting and for an eCommerce website we consider this kind of environment essential.If you are interested in finding out more we have recently published a blog looking at five simple things you can’t ignore when it comes to website security.

 

Design to inform and to sell

Good website design should always focus on the user and the activities you want them to be able to achieve, this is especially true for eCommerce websites where the user is a customer looking to spend their money on your products.

In eCommerce there is also a need to balance the creation of simple pathways from product to purchase with a unique and branded experiences tailored to the user, otherwise known as ‘content personalisation’. Content personalisation has developed dramatically from automatically including user’s first names in emails. Websites can now adapt in real-time to show/hide content, change colours, update product recommendations and display specific advertisements.

Personalisation is also the best way to address common eCommerce design issues such as ‘analysis paralysis’ where the ability to display an abundance of choice actually prevents eCommerce conversion. Through a range of personalisation tactics and good design, the available choices can be reduced to those most likely to sell or solve the user’s issue and so the likelihood of conversion increases.

The types of personalisation options available often depend on the type of online store you have developed. Native platforms, for eaxmple, tend to have more modification and configuration options than the typical SaaS store.

 

Integrate your payment gateway

How you manage payments on your platform is often limited by the platform itself. SaaS products tend to use pre-existing deals with gateways to lock you into their services which makes it easier to get started, but often come with less favourable transaction terms and fees.

If you can select your payment gateway it is a good idea to shop around. Your bank may have a product they can recommend, or you can implement one of the increasing number of products available.

The big considerations in payment gateways are security and payment options as different gateways will handle data in different ways. Some can process credit cards but also incorporate digital currencies like BitCoin or ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ services like AfterPay lending even more flexibility to your store.

 

Manage shipping requirements

Organising shipping is often the most painful ongoing part of your eCommerce store. Storing, packaging and distributing your products requires careful organisation. Your more customisable options like WooCommerce and Xperience can also act as inventory management tools which alleviates some of the stress of managing order shipping and should be part of your considerations when picking a platform.

It is also important to remember that just because your customer has completed their purchase it does not mean they have finished their experience. What can you do to make the delivery, unboxing and first impressions more powerful for the customer? Consider offering coupons for the next purchase, extra gifts or notes to turn your customer into a repeat visitor and remember to consider environmentally friendly packaging options like shredded paper instead of plastic if you can.

 

Test, Iterate and Update

Finally, nobody develops a perfect online store on the first try so it is important to test new layouts, designs, photography, offers, specials etc. regularly and update your website in response to what works. This kind of iteration can be time-consuming, but each little improvement will make your store more efficient and result in better performance.

 

Let us help

Embarking on a new eCommerce project can seem like a daunting task but with the right design and development support, you are able to lay the foundations of a powerful, revenue-driving platform to support your business and provide a new way to engage with and service your customers.

Looking to start a new eCommerce project?

Let us help you get your eCommerce project off the ground. Speak to our Digital Solutions Team today.

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