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Making an E-Commerce site easy to use

The ease with which a customer is able to use an e-commerce site is an important part of its success. It's also an important part of your online brand image.

There are three elements of the shopping process that influence how easy and enjoyable the customer finds it to shop on an e-commerce site - the shop front, shopping cart and payment software.

Shop front

The shop front is the interface presented to the customer. This often incorporates an online catalogue that enables them to browse for products and identify those they wish to purchase.

The intention of the shop front is to make sales, and in order to do this it should have certain attributes. Customers should be able to find the product quickly. There is an eight-second guideline frequently cited, whereby if they are unable to find the product within that time, they are likely to go to an alternative site.

It should process the order speedily and, if necessary, send details for it be packed and shipped. There should be a summary of the order generated, together with a printable receipt and there should be a mechanism to send a confirmation email to the customer.

The design of the shop front should make shopping intuitive, with the customer knowing at all times what stage of the buying process they are at.

Shopping cart

This is the software that facilitates easy selection and payment for products purchased by a customer from an e-commerce website. Once the goods have been selected, the customer should find the checkout clearly signposted, so that they can proceed to pay for the goods.

Payment gateway software

Most customers will wish to pay for their purchases with credit or debit cards. There are three options for accepting such payments - you can:

  • open a merchant account
  • use a payment processing company
  • set up an online shop within a virtual shopping mall