January 30, 2009

Understanding online retail needs

Following is a list of questions to help companies figure out their online retail needs before engaging agencies and e-commerce platform suppliers. The more you figure this stuff out, the less pain in the long run:
The customer proposition
How much of your range will be online?
How frequently will it be updated?
How will you handle out of stock items?
What supporting functionality will you offer? (wishlists, ‘save for later’, email a friend etc)
What user groups do you need to cater for and how should you reflect this on your site in terms of how you position your product offer? (eg: early adopters look for the newest products on the site under a ‘what’s new’ section; bargain hunters will be looking for a sale category)
Site sections
In addition to the shopping sections, will there be additional content areas such as magazine areas, news updates, user forums etc?
Does this content currently exist and, if not, how will it be created?
How would you like these sections to be structured? 
Navigation
How do you want your range to be structured (section & sub-section names)?
Do you want persistent or context sensitive navigation?
Do you want fixed or dynamic visibility of the menu structures?
Browsing
How will customers want to view & browse your products? By Category? By Price? By other means?
Personalisation
Do you wish to be able to offer content personalisation and what form should this take?
Do you wish to be able to link products in your catalogue to encourage cross-selling, if so, how do you want these products to be selected?
Search and merchandising
How complex are your search requirements and how important is this to your customers, for example do you wish to be able to provide search on product features?
How intuitive does your search functionality need to be, for example, do you want to allow synonyms/spell check/stemming etc?
Do you want your customers to be able narrow down the choices available to them by product attribute?
How extensive and complex is your product hierarchy, and do you need to consider ‘guided search’ functionality?
Basket & checkout
Do you wish to provide gifting functionality, such as a gift message and gift-wrapping, if so, where do you wish this to appear in the customer journey?
How many checkout stages would you like to have and at which point do you wish to require the customer to login?
Do you want a ‘fast checkout’ process for existing users? (eg Amazon’s ‘one-click’ checkout)
How important are attachments, up-sells, cross-sells to your business and how and at what stage do you want these to be presented to your customers?
What payment methods would you like to be able to accept?
Will you cater for payment methods such as PayPal, as well as traditional debit and credit cards?
Do you have store cards, loyalty cards etc that need to be taken into account?
How susceptible are your products to online fraud and what steps would you like to put in place to avoid it? 
Customer communication
What emails do you wish customers to receive and at which phases of the purchase process?
What order tracking functionality do you wish to provide your customers?
Do you want to provide your customers with the facility to feedback on their purchase or returns process?
Other functionality
Would you like to provide any community content / functionality such as product reviews, forums, blogs etc?
Do you have any requirements to feed or receive any of this content to other sites with which you are associated?

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