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Creating and Maintaining Effective E-commerce Websites



By Dr. Allan C. Reddy, Professor of Marketing, Harley Langdale, Jr. College of Business Administration, Valdosta State University.

Email: areddy@valdosta.edu

and

Dr. Rajesh Iyer, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Valdosta State University.

Dr. Allan C. Reddy, Professor of Marketing, and a Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C. He has been teaching at Valdosta State University since September 1980. He has published 5 books and more than 100 articles in business journals and has been consultant for many small, medium, and large business and non-profit organizations. His teaching and research interests include Internet Marketing, International Marketing.

Dr. Rajesh Iyer, Assistant Professor of Marketing, and a Ph.D. in Marketing from Southern Illinois University. He has been teaching at Valdosta State University since August 2000. He has published articles in Marketing Management Journal, Business Research and others. His teaching and research interests include Marketing Research, and Services Marketing.


Abstract

As a growing discipline, E-commerce is increasingly attracting the attention of marketing scholars. Established, as well as neophyte firms, want to jump in and succeed in the E-commerce business. Depending on the nature and type of the product and the size of the business and its objectives, creating an effective E-commerce web site can cost anywhere from $200,000 to a 1,000,000 dollars. However, the road to success is riddled with several problem areas, one of the major ones being consumer resistance. It is important that businesses be alert when spending money for web designs. They must ask their web designers to design an E-commerce web site with the following features in mind. At the forefront, the business manager should determine exactly what should be told about the business to the public at the website. By acknowledging and considering these principles in the strategic planning, businesses can overcome barriers to success in the highly competitive field of E-commerce. This paper presents a checklist of ten points that are important and cannot be overlooked for web design. A quick guide to see how your website is in comparison to the competition is also presented.


Creating effective e-commerce web design is very important in a highly dynamic environment where surfers have limited time to take a second look at a site that is sticky and improperly designed. Here are few important considerations for marketing managers to insist that their web site designers do in creating and maintaining e-commerce web sites for their businesses.

Yahoo-type portal sites serve as entry points to several of the businessí services and web sites like Ebay or Ubid are designed for detailed interactions between the customer and the businesses. If one bids on a product at Ubid, the play of web interactivity starts followed by e-mails indicating whether the bid is won or not and what can be done to win the bid. Though these sites may have minor limitations, these are indeed carefully designed for e-commerce and thus they are effective.

It is very important that businesses be alert when spending money for web designs. They must ask the web designers to design an e-commerce web site with the following features in mind. At the forefront, the business manager should determine exactly what should be told and how it should be told about the business to the public at the website. In the following paragraphs, check lists of ten points that are inscrutable and cannot be overlooked are developed.

  1. Speed. Regardless of how attractive a web site may be, if it takes too long to download more then ten seconds, few surfers will linger at the site to look at the information. Like an interstate highway at rush hour, the Internet has too many commercial websites trying to reach the public. When the highway is crowded, the computerís speed matters little; the Internet can still be slow to navigate. For this reason alone, one has to design a web page that loads quickly, five to eight seconds should be the limit. Notice amazon.com or yahoo.com and how they come up so quickly because they do not carry too many images, fancy fonts, or graphics.

  2. Simplicity. A related point is simplicity. A site design should be simple. Fancy and glaring backgrounds or too many graphics distract the attention of viewers. Very few successful sites use sounds, videos, or frames design. Some older computers, using older OS or web browsers, may not be even able to download frames. Instead of frames, use tables that have the look of frames. Pages should not be too long, especially the introductory page. People do not like to scroll down to see the content. The content and links need to be laid out in an easily understandable manner.

  3. Software. State-of-the-art software should be used to reduce graphics or enhance interactivity features of the web site is important. The use of java language has become ubiquitous at many sites. For example, some sites like hifi.com have an image of customer representative who answers routine questions regarding a product/service of the firm. Questions that are not in the answer bank are referred to a customer representative for response through e-mail.

  4. Service. One of the frequent complaints of any business is poor service. Having a web presence and thus being able to interact with clients partially alleviates the problem of poor service instruments (refer to hifi.com). Customers are happy when they can interact with the company online. Anxiety is reduced for many customers who have problems with their products.

  5. Security. A major concern is the security of credit card and personal information exchanged online. Recently, a couple of organizations TrustE.com and Better Business Bureau have provided guarantee seals that online businesses can use on their web site. Knowing that a reputable organization has checked out the firm and will continue to monitor its user online information is very important to customers.

  6. Style. What is said, how is it said, the white space left around the text, the colors used and their number, size of the font and type of the font are all-important. When you go to yahoo.com, what do you see? Are they too descriptive or up to the point. Being voracious and bombastic in writing might have been a style at one time; but today, people like simple elegance.

  7. Safety. How safe is to do business on the web? After all, you are trusting the mechanism behind when you use charge card for purchases. What guarantee is there that the charge card information will not be abused or sold to a third party by the vendor? With the advent of Billpoint and Paypal, the Internet transactions are now becoming much safer to use credit cards. These companies have tied up with major websites and auction companies to provide security and ease of Internet transactions.

  8. Quantity of the Content. Appropriate content and images explaining the firm and its objectives is very important. Writing too much information on a web site is like putting too much information on a billboard. Trying to put too much content on the home page, is like viewing a movie that has not been properly edited and therefore it is long and boring.

  9. Quality of the Content. The language used and the information used is important. Is the information deceptively presented or the presenter is outright frank about it.

  10. Overall Neatness. The overall make up of a web site counts and is important.

When the above ten things are taken into consideration in designing an e-commerce web site, businesses can create an effective web site that can make doing business on the web a profitable opportunity for the firm. Here is a quick guide to see how your website is in comparison to the competition.

REPORT CARD Ratings
(Please circle the appropriate response)
Competitor
(Please circle the appropriate response)
Top 5 Sites
Speed
How fast does your website load up?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being very slow and 7 being very fast)
Now also rate how your competitorís website performs. Identify the top 5 sites that load very fast.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Simplicity
Do you believe that your website has a simple format?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being very complex and 7 being very simple)
Now also rate how simple is your competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that are simple fast.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Software
Does your company use the state-of-the-art software technology to develop its website?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being low tech software and 7 being high tech software)
Now also rate the technology of your competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that are tech-oriented.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Service
Does your company provide interactive service through its website?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being low service and 7 being high service)
Now also rate the service of your competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that offer interactive service.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Security
Does your website have guarantee seal backed by the Better Business Bureau or E-trust?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 having no guarantee seals and 7 being backed by guarantee seals)
Now also rate the competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that have the guarantee seals.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Style
Is your website styled with the consumer in mind?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 having no style and 7 being styled with the consumer in mind)
Now also rate the competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that have a good style of presenting information
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Safety
Does your website provide a safe environment for customers to make purchases?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being not safe and 7 being very safe)
Now also rate the competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that provide an environment for safe transactions.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Quantity
Does your website provide information regarding the objectives and missions of the company?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being no information about objectives and 7 being adequate information about objectives)
Now also rate the competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that have company objectives in their websites.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Quality
Does your website provide information in a clear and precise manner? (Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being no clear information 7 being clear and precise information) Now also rate the competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites that have clear and precise information in their websites. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Overall Neatness
How well is your website laid out in terms of images, content, information, language, etc..?
(Rate this on the scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being not very neat 7 being extremely neat)
Now also rate the competitorís website. Identify the top 5 sites whose websites are overall neat.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7