Tag Archives: Ecommerce

Are you a makkhichoose

We know that future of online shopping is bright in countries like India. With sites like snapdeal, flipkart, amazon, shopclues, jabong, myntra etc, things will heat up further, which will be beneficial for end customer as he will get multiple options.

With Online shopping, people are also moving away from loyalty to one vendor or brand. Earlier we used to go for same shop for various electronics needs, but now before buying we can compare prices and offers on different websites (plus nearby stores). And with this knowledge, there are various player which are ready to help you with comparison among online sites. There are websites like Junglee, which will help you compare various prices, and I recently came across some browser extensions which will help you compare prices on the fly when you are viewing the product itself. Makkhichoose is one such extensions. Though it is not cooked up completely yet (I could see some products on various sites which were not reported correctly), but it definitely shows the where the future of online shopping heading to.

eCommerce: A view from the backend

Apart from features mentioned in my last post, which were directly related to commerce part of business, following are other important parts of an ecommerce system

Content: Your system will need to display items like News on products, Stock prices, policies etc.The content might be product related like images or videos for promotion.

Community: For customer to make an educated guess, it is desirable that he should know what others are talking about product and services. Product reviews, comparisons, chat messages, forums can be helpful for this.

Some other features which are actually invisible to end users, but business needs to take care while setting up ecommerce system

Load Handling: How much concurrent load can your website handle? The ecommerce site needs to be load tested to understand its behavior with increasing load.

Scalability: The website today might be designed to handle 10K users, but in future we might have 100K users. Can our website (technology we used) will scale up to handle increased user base.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This is another important aspect of an ecommerce system. Say we have a website selling mobile phones. We would like to make sure that search engines rank our site high whenever a mobile related query like “Android smartphone”, “Nokia phone” etc is searched for.

To support all the features mentioned for ecommerce site, we need to have some services working at backend to fill in manage the data

Content management: How the content is to be managed on user interface. What all items will be displayed and their organization at UI. This means creation and maintenance of pages and templates to be shown on website.

Product management: To add and manage product details.

Catalog management: As mentioned earlier, catalog will create list of products in a categorized manner. There can be different version of catalogs created and maintained by business.

Order management (workflow): An order management process needs to be defined and maintained.

User management: This is for both end user (making purchase) and business user (managing the system). We need to make sure no one gets unauthorized access to the system. For end user we need to make sure if user is active, and maintain user purchase history.

Offers Management: Various offers are provided by business in form of discounts and personalized deals. Business needs to monitor these offers and when an offer is active (season based/ holiday season etc).

In addition to above mentioned components, a true ecommerce system might also have

Suppliers and supply chain management: From where we will get the products? How much inventory is available and how much time will it take to be delivered (or how many tickets are left).

Shipping management: How shipping is handled (mostly outsourced). How products which are returned to company are handled?

Customer Relationship management: How do we make sure customer keeps coming back. You need to maintain the customer purchase history so you can recommend the most suited products. Also returns and complaints needs to handled gracefully to avoid any bad publicity and encourage customer loyalty.

Key components of an eCommerce system

Having an online presence is a must for any business in current world. For a company which is selling products, it will mean creating an ecommerce website, from where customers can purchase products. There can be businesses which are selling totally online (Amazon, ebay) and others which already have offline selling mediums (showrooms), having ecommerce site as an additional way to sell products (Bestbuy).

Depending on the business, and role of ecommerce in it, and complexity of the system will vary. For example, one can have listing of products online but actual selling is through phone, or user can order online which is being manually interpreted by backoffice employees, or a completely automated system. There can be different types of ecommerce systems as well, some selling tangible products like mobile phones, electronics, apparels, other might be selling airline tickets, music for download, a consultant service etc.

As noted, we can have multiple types of ecommerce systems, but some of the key components used by most sites are-

Product Information: Product is the sellable unit in ecommerce system (we can sell services as well, but then they will be considered as product for that particular system). We need to have as much information as possible about product so that it can be shown to customer, who can then make an informed decision on purchase. Information should be provided in industry accepted standards, so that it can be compared easily by customer.

Catalog: A catalog is online version of brochure or menu, which should contain all the products (services) business is providing. The products are further categorized/ sub-categorized into meaningful lists like electronics > kitchen appliances > microwave

Search: This is most used feature of any ecommerce website. Rather then looking for a product in catalogs, customer will prefer searching for it by keywords. A  good search functionality will make sure he gets what he is looking for (or better).

Shopping cart: All the selected products by customer will be shown in shopping cart. This is responsible for applying any offers, taxes, discount etc.

User Details/ Profile management: An ecommerce site might allow a user to shop without login to system. But at times it is desirable to let user create a profile, so that he does not need to enter his details (address, name, phone number etc) everytime he makes a purchase.

Order management: How can customer order for a product or a service? Can he order online, send emails, call up customer care or go to nearby store.

Payment: What are different modes of payment customer can use- Credit card, debit card, net banking, cash on delivery etc. Usually a third party payment gateway can be used to keep focus on business requirements.

Guarantee/ Warranty management: A product might have guarantee or warranty associated, which needs to be honored by the business to make sure customer is coming back to it.

Offers: Businesses need to come up with frequent offers/ discounts/ loyalty programs to boost up sales. Business also uses techniques like cross sell or up sell to increase profit and help customer make good choices.

Privacy Policy: A business might need to collect some information from customer like name, address, age (sometimes more private info) etc. What will happen to info collected from customer (kept private)? Also will cookies be used by the site?

Security: Customer might be sharing sensitive information online, so system needs to use https/ SSL for data collection. Additional requirement will be to secure data already collected by use of authorization and firewalls.

Amazon India- Ecom war gets tough

When I had to buy a book last week, the first obvious choice was Flipkart for me. But I knew Amazon has launched recently Indian online e-commerce website with books and movies, so I thought of giving it a hit. And to my surprise the price quoted was 10% lower than what was asked on flipkart. With cash on delivery option available, it was a safe bet to try, so I gave it a shot.

It normally takes 3 to 4 days for stuff ordered online get delivered, so I was not expecting the amazon delivery card on third day itself (as no one was at home). The card stated that they tried delivering the book and will bring it again the next day. Normally with other websites, I have to check status online, in case I do not get the item delivered within expected time period, so the card was a welcome surprise. Anyway, the book got delivered, as promised, the next day.

Overall I will have to say amazon, as always has kept its high standards from the very beginning in India. With just its presence in Books and movies category, I am expecting a takeover in near future. Let’s see how the things will shape up in future, but with so many online e-commerce sites coming up, it is definitely going to be tough to survive unless one comes up with a unique advantage over others. At the end, customers will get benefited with so many quality options.