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35 Key E-Commerce Platform Features

13 October, 2009, Written by 0 comment

For serious online vendors the choice of e-commerce platforms can be overwhelming. There are so many different proprietary and open source options available. The following list describes some key e-commerce platform features that you should use to compare your options.

1.  Ability to administer multiple website domains from the same back end
This could be a significant benefit if you want to maximize your SEO in different markets by using different TLDs. For example www.acmewidgets.com AND www.acmewidgets.jp

2.  Multiple language display for front and back end
You need to be able to give visitors the option of which language to use and also give yourself the option of which language is easiest to run your store. You might also want to allow the option of future expansion into other language markets.

3.  Custom store views
You almost certainly would want to display different promotional graphics depending on the language choice.

4.  Automatic cross sell / up sell / related product offerings
A good e-commerce platform will maximize your sales opportunities by showing visitors other products which they should also be interested in.

5.  Allow visitors to filter products and change the display style
Visitors often only have a general idea what they are looking for. Research has shown that sites that allow visitors to manipulate the display of products are more successful at selling.

6.  Allow visitors to make side by side comparisons of products
Customers love sites that help them to make well reasoned shopping choices. A good e-commerce site will help visitors by comparing products in their shopping cart side by side, feature by feature.

7.  Allow visitors to tag products with keywords
Tagging has become a standard form of web browsing behavior and a great way for visitors to explore other product offerings in your store.

8.  Allow visitors to leave comments and ratings on products
Research has shown that visitors will place a lot of weight on the opinions and comments of other buyers from your store. It can be one of the most influential factors in improving your conversion rates. You will probably want to approve comments before they are published to your website.

9.  One screen checkout system
Visitors are often turned off by lengthy checkout procedures. It is important that they at least understand the total number of steps required and any other important requirements for completing the sale.

10.  Zoomable product images
Visitors like to see large, good quality images of products before they buy. Ideally you don’t want to have to re-load a new web page every time a visitor clicks on a thumbnail. This becomes tedious.

11.  Create community polls
Visitors like to feel that they are part of a larger group and community polls are a great way of engaging visitors with your site. A casual clothing store might create a poll question like:

“What is your favorite T-Shirt color:
White, Red, Blue, Orange, etc?”

The results can also help you make decisions about which products to promote.

12.  Create custom transaction emails
You should be able to send a different message to the visitor depending on language options and other variables.

13.  Newsletter management
Repeat customers are an important part in the success of any business and having the ability to create and manage newsletter promotions from the information in your customer database is a great tool.

14.  Create different sales rules for groups of products
The price of individual goods may change depending on other conditions. For example you might want to offer a “buy 2 , get one free promotion”.

15.  Customer loyalty discounts
Discounts based on the number of “points” accumulated are a common aspect of modern retailing.

16.  Accept orders by phone/fax/check/”furikomi bank transfer”/COD
Some visitors may not be comfortable with entering their credit card details online so its important that your e-commerce platform allows flexible payment processing. ATM bank transfer is very popular in Japan so this might be an important consideration for vendors targeting the Japanese market.

17.  An “intelligent” search form
Sometimes visitors may mistype a word in the Search box.
For example, a search on “latop” (misspelling of laptop) might return “no results” in a simple Search form.  An “intelligent” search form on the other hand could be configured to redirect commonly misspelled  words or suggest results for similar search terms.

18.  Integrated Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a fantastic free tool that gives store owners a fine grained view of who your visitors are, where they are, how they found your store, what they are looking at, how long they spend on your site, which Pay Per Click campaigns are converting best and many more insightful details.

19.  Custom page creation
Its important that you have a way of creating custom landing pages that support specific Pay Per Click advertisements. Generic landing pages will not convert to sales as easily.

20.  Customizable themes
Being able to create your own look and feel for the site will help make your store more memorable for visitors. Having control over the appearance also means you can
more smoothly integrate other online features like a user forum or a blog in a way that appears seamless to the visitor.

21.  Contact forms
Some stores just place a naked email address on one of their pages for visitors to contact them. This has a couple of disadvantages. Firstly, it means visitors have to open up their separate mail program or web mail account to get in touch. Second, these email addresses are often “harvested” by automated spambots
which add them to mailing lists for products you don’t want! The best solution is to have a form that visitors can use to quickly get in touch with you.

22.  Manage orders/invoicing/shipment processing
Ideally, your e-commerce platform should handle all these aspects of order fulfillment from the one back end. Sometimes it may be necessary to split orders into
separate invoices or separate shipments. Also you may need to issue credit notes and refunds. A sophisticated platform should handle all of these things.

23.  Manage different sales tax arrangements
Depending on the buyers location you may or may not need to apply sales tax. For selling to countries like the USA their may be different rates depending on the state.

24.  Export store data into Excel format
It will greatly help your management decision making if you can filter and export the data you need into a spreadsheet for in depth analysis.

25.  Stock control
Most good e-commerce platforms allow you to setup stock control options such as not displaying products which are out of stock or sending an alert to the store manager when stock volumes of certain items become too low.

26. Real time site usage statistics
In addition to things like sales and order quantities, a good platform will tell you things like the who are your most frequent site visitors, what are the most common search terms within your site, most viewed categories, newest customers and so on.

27. Integration with Social Media promotion tools
More and more people are using social bookmarking tools and social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook. It is an important benefit if you can integrate these mediums into your store interface.

28. Compatible with payment gateways that accept JCB
This is a popular credit card type in Japan and not all payment gateways offer processing services. For vendors targeting the Japanese market this should be an important consideration.

29. Permissions editor
Within your organization you do not want all people to have access to everything. It’s important to limit admin access to only what people need.

30. Tier pricing
Often store owners will want to offer volume discounts or first time buyer incentives.

31.  Multiple Currency
Language options and currency options do not necessarily go hand in hand.

32.  Wish Lists
Buying gifts for friends/family is often a chore. But more people are using wish listing to make life easier.

33.  Ability to Ship to Multiple Addresses
Important for people who want to send gifts to others.

34.  Ability to SEO and “click through optimize” your pages
To help boost your rankings in the search engine result pages and create enticing description snippets it is important to customize key elements of your pages like TITLE and DESCRIPTION meta tags.

35.  Single step checkout for registered customers
If you already know your customers shipping details and credit card info, make it easy for them by simplifying the checkout procedure.

Not all of these features will be relevant for every vendor but most of them should be.

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