The power of a successful webshop

A 360° view on e-commerce
In my professional life I regularly work on measuring impact of human and marketing actions on buying behavior and on sales conversion. Nowadays online sales conversion has become an important KPI in marketing plans. Online business or companies that generate business online take into account how many ‘visitors’ are converted into ‘buyers’. With this background in mind I attended this year’s Spring Camp, ‘The power of a successful web shop’, organized by Indie Group. I had a very positive feeling afterwards since the topic closed a 360° view on e-commerce. So that is already one reason why I would like to share what I have picked up.
Internet is not a gadget, but real business
Vincent van Quickenborne kicked off Spring Camp 2011 with a general view on the Belgian e-commerce landscape. I would like to share some of the most inspiring results. Only a bit more than 1 out of 3 Belgians is buying online (38% to be exact). This is below the European average of 40% and far below our neighboring countries. It is also a matter of demand and offer since only 6% of Belgian enterprises (large and small) has an e-commerce website. E-commerce is clearly lagging behind in Belgium. Main reasons are the culture of the Belgian consumer, who is rather sedentary or conservative (especially compared with our northern neighbors); the digital gap; our legislation which forbids e.g. conditional sales and the lack of peers who should give a good example.
However, recently there has been a positive shift. So we should be convinced that the future for e-commerce is rather bright. There are opportunities (Belgians shop for approximately 900 million euro per year) and some pioneers perform well and are to be considered as good references though (e.g. the online shop of Vandenborre).
Minister Q took an extra step forward by having a look at the future of e-commerce. Social shopping (e.g. Groupon) is gaining popularity recently and m-commerce is also outgrowing its infancy.
Manage your online shop as you would manage an offline shop
By means of two real life testimonies (Vinomundo and MarketingAdviseurs), Cis Scherpereel from Indie Group convinced us that – even for an online shop – a business plan should be at the core. Research has shown that when visiting an online shop, 17% intends to buy something. However, there is a completion rate of only 62%. A studied business plan should manage to scale down this 38% loss rate.
The used technology platform and continuous coaching are two additional components that complete the core of e-commerce. Cis stressed that once your platform is live, it has just started. Running an online shop is a process of continuous improvement. The more investments are made after your launch, the higher your e-ROI will be.
Build an e-cosystem to support your online growth
Michel Goossens from Magento, an open source technology for building and supporting the online commerce platform, guided us through the building stones of the Magento e-cosystem: offer good products, allow innovations by the open source technology, be a partner in solutions and in the industry, build a community of users and put the merchant central.
The (Magento) platform helps in increasing the online sales conversion:

  • Offer marketing tools that allow up and cross selling: show promotions, product suggestions, wish lists, gift registries…;
  • Build the consumer experience and design it so that it generates customer loyalty and increases repeat business;
  • Allow personalized content and offer content staging and admin controls;
  • Invest in the infrastructure: back office integration, integration with third party services, reporting and analyses tools…;
  • Offer performance and security/compliance features

I want it now, I want it where I want, I want it when I want and I want it cheap
Next to the business model and the technology platform behind a successful online shop, Ilse De Keersmaecker from bPost Business introduced us to the distribution aspect of e-commerce. By means of the example of the Libelle Shop, the online shop of Libelle ranging more than 500 products, she explained that the distributor of your products and goods should perform as a full time partner. bPost Business offers a fully automated process from fulfillment to distribution that supports the distribution of online purchases.
To close the 360° view, Eva Koekkoek, Marketing Manager at MultiSafepay, introduced us to the possibilities of e-payment. She started with comparing the online payment market in Belgium with the Netherlands and it was again pointed out that Belgium is seriously lagging behind in terms of e-commerce. In 2010 Belgians spent 900 million Euros on online purchases. This is almost 30% more than in 2009 (because of the restored confidence in the economy in general), but compared with the Netherlands (8 billion Euros), Belgium is the black sheep in the family. To continue the comparison: in Belgium exist around 5.500 e-shops in total (22.000 in the Netherlands) and each month 90 shops see the light (250 in the Netherlands). The success of e-commerce in the Netherlands is explained, among other things, by the success of iDeal, an online payment method supported by almost all major banks in the Netherlands.
MultiSafepay is an online payment platform that intends to eliminate that backlog (in Belgium) by offering 10 different payment methods and 2 e-payment packages. This wide range of possibilities is deliberately chosen and necessary since 1) the more payment methods are offered, the more your website visitors will effectively buy and since 2) it faces the growing internationalization (1 out of 8 online purchases in Belgium are done across borders).
Next to the generally accepted and often used connect method, that offers consumers transparency and trust, MultiSafepay presents a fast check out method that is fast, easy and safe. This fast check out method counters dropout and increases conversion and secondly, it is complementary with already existing payment methods.
Finally we were given some tips in order to optimize your e-payment offering:

  • Use straightforward and clean forms
  • Limit the number of steps before finalizing the deal (ideally 3 payment steps)
  • Show on every page the order status and the available payment options
  • Secure and protect the deal e.g. by offering a buyer guarantee
  • Raise trust by integrating logo and corporate branding

This year’s Spring Camp was made for companies or business that wanted to be convinced of the way a successful e-shop is set up. This actionability and the 360° view pleased me a lot – and I don’t run a website, nor an online shop – since it stuffed me with extra insights that I can use in performing my daily job as a customer experience consultant. And in particular, I will remember the following learnings:

  • E-commerce doesn’t take an end when your e-shop has been set up. On the contrary, it is only the moment when the real story starts: e-commerce is a continuous process of improvement and coaching.
  • E-commerce is not only building a platform that manages your shop; the distribution and payment of your products should also be a part of your e-business plan.
  • The more payments possibilities are offered, the higher your sales conversion will be.

If you would like to discuss this, feel free to share your opinion via @dussem.

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