LP Web Development supply and install a range of ecommerce applications that can be conveneniently grouped in three ranges:
- Online stores with less than 2,000 products
- Online stores with high product numbers / an unlimited number of products
- Ecommerce CMS
Ecommerce is the specific description for the type of website that sells products directly through the site, with a checkout procedure that organises payment, tax, and shipping. Usually, this process requires a credit card, and therefore a crucial requirement for ecommerce sites is one or more payment gateways, or methods by which credit card payments are processed. Currently we favour the Protx gateway incorporating PayPal, and WorldPay with DCC* gateway, though occasionally another option is chosen. A capable ecommerce solution will have around 500 payment gateway options available.
* DCC = direct currency conversion, where customers see the prices in their own local currency.
Other names for this type of website are eshops and shopping carts, though perhaps the latter is more appropriate for a smaller facility used as a CMS plugin.
Commercial ecommerce applications
Commercial solutions generally offer the quality, search success and usability that we need. However, this doesn't mean that costs are elevated for smaller sites, as there are good-quality small commercial solutions. For example the software license might be only $300 or so for this size of site.
With larger sites the software cost is still low enough that it is not really an issue, and other costs such as implementation, maintenance and hosting become more relevant. There are various arrangements for monthly or annual hosting and management options.
The fastest-growing website market sector is without doubt the ecommerce CMS area.
We currently supply three product lines here, ranging from smaller sites with under 2,000 products through to giant sites with unlimited numbers of products, using multiple databases. The cost of a smaller system is not unreasonable and this option should be considered if you have interesting content that can be published along with your products.
Of course, there is a valid opinion here that all ecommerce sites should follow this approach, since it makes for a much-improved site and helps tremendously with search success. This is because your content will probably be unique, with custom-written text and images - but in the store, the product details may be identical with those on 1,000 other sites. Obviously, your own content will be far more successful in search.
- Take your ecommerce project and isolate the costs from marketing or similar.
- Decide your initial ecommerce budget and your annual budget, then break the annual budget down into a monthly sum.
- Ensure you have a monthly marketing budget.
- Work out how many products you will have to start, at 2 years in, and possibly in 5 years.
- Do you have content that needs to be published along with your products?
- Then, ask your providers what the options are with all this data.
Remember that you must have a marketing budget or you will be invisible. At least, on the High Street, even if you don't spend a cent on marketing a few passers-by might drift through your doors. Online, you are completely and utterly invisible unless you promote your business. There is nothing less visible than an online business with no marketing budget, except perhaps a black hole.
There are a very large number of factors that might be taken into account but here are some of the most important. Of these, the two most important without a shadow of a doubt are search viability and visitor usability. Never compromise in these two areas because your project will never achieve full potential if you do.
We have a lot of experience with many different ecommerce platforms, and those two areas are where we now concentrate our main resources because they always pay off better than any other approach. Quality (which certainly includes search compliance) and usability rule. Here are the factors you can consider:
- measured by many code, legal and other considerations - but ultimately by search success. Not all factors are visible with an inspection of the site, and even an analysis of the pagecode doesn't give all the answers since the way the application works is important. Some ecommerce solutions are brilliant in search and some fail miserably.
- for the visitor. Vitally, crucially important, especially where purchases are not made on the first visit to the store - which probably applies to most sites. The site must be easy to use, and visitors must be impressed by how easy, so that they return and make their purchases. If some are so thrilled by how easy that they actually email you to tell you this, then you know you have succeeded. Usability is part of the user experience, and the most important factor by far on an ecpommerce site.
- this is a search success factor but hard to evaluate for non-experts.
- the initial software license cost.
- wholly-owned, or leased, or with an elevated monthly hosting cost.
- the non-product pages or content handling ability - how easy is it to publish text, images and videos on the site, on pages that are not product listings? This is an absolutely crucial aspect now.
- the product capacity is a factor. Many sites have less than 1,000 products so it isn't an issue. It will be if you have 50,000 products though. This determines the class of application to be used. A large number of sites have about 2 or 3,000 products, so almost any application could be used.
- the stock management capability is a factor for larger sites. Some applications have simple arrangements, some have every possible bell and whistle. You must choose, for example, if you need spreadsheet uploads and stock level displays in the front end - or if all that is not relevant to your operation.
- accounts package integration is important for most sites now and becomes critical with scale. There is a point at which an ecommerce site should integrate their accounting software with the backend, or the manual workload becomes too high. A few high-value sales will not be difficult to manage, but bulk sales are very difficult to manage efficiently without accounts integration and stock management capability.
- the requirements for US, UK, and Euro sites are different. You have to state your hosting location and your market area/s, then decide the options.
...and a few more options of course that are best discussed with your supplier.
The ecommerce SEO advantage
We are experts with ecommerce SEO and can prove it. An ecommerce site is one of the hardest types to work with as frequently the code is of low quality, the product details are identical on a thousand other sites, there is no text, image naming is sub-optimal, the URLs are appalling -- and so on. Ecommerce SEO is hard.
In fact there are several well-known cases of big-name SEO firms, who make a lot of noise on the Net, failing miserably with ecommerce applications and being sacked. This is not the right area for search marketers, it's a hard tech area where technical background is everything.
Because of these factors our ecommerce sites do extremely well against the opposition, and it's not unusual for a medium size site under our management to place right at the top of the search results along with monster multinationals with over 1 million links. Quality is the key - as always.