Feb 3, 2009 by Marissa Berger
What makes visitors prefer one online store over another? Its simplicity and ease of use. A lot of planning goes on behind the scenes to make a checkout process user-friendly and inviting. Such planning starts with answering key questions about usage and management requirements.
How will you organize your products?
Organizing your products into categories is key. You should consider having products show up in several categories. For example, a book can show up under “fiction”, “mystery”, “bestsellers”, “gifts”, and even “books under $20″. The key is to put yourself in the shoes of the shoppers and anticipate how they expect to find what they are looking for.
Will you require visitors to register?
Decide if users need to create an account to complete a purchase or if it’s optional. Creating an account makes it easier for the return shopper. He no longer has to type in all of his personal information, can view his order history, can update his profile, and can even store different shipping addresses.
Will you ship to multiple addresses?
This means that a shopper loads up his cart with 10 items and then decides he wants to ship 3 to himself, 4 to his parents, 2 to his friend Peter, and 1 to his friend Susan. Many sites offer this functionality. It can be simple to add or complicated. It depends on what you are selling and how many different options and combinations you offer.
How will you calculate shipping?
Will you charge a flat rate? Will it be based on weight? Will you need a live lookup to the FedEx shipping tables? Do you sell perishable items and need to account for packing ice? Any calculation can be programmed in, but it needs to be clearly defined and consistent throughout the different shopping scenarios.
How will you handle returns?
What will your customer service policies be? Most shopping cart solutions let you edit orders while they are still being handled. Once an order is flagged as “completed”, you may not be able to edit it within the shopping cart system for security issues. You need to setup a specific, step by step procedure for handling the refunding of money as well as your bookkeeping.
Will you need inventory tracking?
Determine is the website needs to automatically track inventory for you. What happens when a product is sold out? Will it disappear from the site, or will it simply display “sold out” instead of the “add to cart” button? Will you tell customers when to expect it back in stock? Will you recommend comparable products?
Will you be integrating with your existing internal systems?
You want the entire shopping process to be simple for both the shopper and for yourself. You don’t want to receive orders and then have to manually process credit cards, type in shipping labels, type in invoices, and write up email receipts. Make sure the solution you choose can export all sales data in a format you can import into your existing systems, such as Quickbooks.
Will you need to coordinate with a fulfillment house?
If you are using a fulfillment house, it will need specific data in specific formats and at specific times. Make sure the solution you choose can accommodate such requests and make several test orders.
Do you plan to offer promotional codes?
The better e-commerce solutions offer the ability to add promotional codes through a simple to use control panel. You typically choose a date range for the promotion, what the promotion entails, and a promotional code. Make sure the solution you choose has this functionality built in.
Ask about the technical stuff.
You will need a merchant account, a payment gateway, and a security certificate to make it all work. Your web developer should have not only information, but also recommendations for you.
It’s all about a complete transaction. Plan well.