8 Point Checklist before creating your eCommerce Website

Many retailers usually start out by listing on the online marketplaces or e-marketplaces as they are called, such as Amazon, Flipkart, Ebay, Snapdeal, Myntra, Jabong etc. What most vendors don’t realise is that there are many hidden expenses and opportunity costs that could add up to ruin your business.

Instead, if one is willing to invest the time and effort, there are significant benefits of selling through direct channels.

You could build your website from scratch / hire an expert to build your website or buy ready-made templates and customisable platforms. Based on your business needs and technical capabilities you need to select the right system

  1. Technical competency: Can you learn how to build a site from scratch or would you prefer to buy custom built templates? Are you capable and willing to hire additional staff with expertise if required?
  2. Pricing: Is a monthly or a yearly plan better for the different components of the site or platform? Pricing also increases as features provided improve.
  3. Back Office Integration: How does the system fit with your existing back office capabilities? Is there a possibility for smoothening the move or extension of current facilities into online capabilities?
  4. Time available: Not just to understand and set up the best possible option but also to maintain and update the site to keep it running smoothly. If time is critical, are you capable and willing to hire additional staff with expertise to save time?
  5. Support offered: What are the levels and mode of support offered by the different platforms when problems arise? What is the level of responsiveness when help and guidance is required?
  6. Website features: Evaluate the additional features such as the website’s ease of use, security, mobile friendliness, etc as per your expectations and requirements. Keep in mind that basic features offered may be enough for starting out, but evaluate additional options on offer since it is almost a given that these will be required at a later point.
  7. Marketing tools: Tools for SEO, email marketing, CRM and integration with other websites are decisive tools in order to grow your market and brand.
  8. Unique customisations and features needed: Do you have any unusual needs and can the platform cater to your special requests?

Final note

The final decision will definitely depend on your requirements and needs. It will also vary based on the time, money and effort one is willing invest into this venture. Furthermore, you will need to consider long term strategies and evaluate whether the current decisions will leave room to scale the operation based on future necessities.

Remember that no matter what method you choose to go online, you don’t need to be restricted to just one channel. Selling through your own e-commerce store doesn’t mean that you cannot also sell your products through a e-marketplace to reap the benefits of both; Nor are you restricted to listing in only one online marketplace. Many successful retailers, especially the larger ones, prefer to be involved in multiple channels. However, each additional route takes time, money and energy to understand its processes and maintain it. What is important is that you take the time to consider the options available and formulate a strategy that works the best for YOUR requirements.

In my next post, I will look at some of the prominent ecommerce platform options available and rate them according to the measures mentioned here.

#emarketplace #ecommerce #marketing #digitalmarketing #sales #onlinesales #onlineshopping #retailer #tips #amazon #flipkart #snapdeal #myntra #ebay #retail #jabong #koovs

This post was first published on  LinkedIn, by Karina Pais, Consultant with Futureshift on Karina is an MBA graduate from UK and engaged with us a a consultant in digital marketing.

#CloudWars #Verdict – Will Google #Cloud Amazon’s AWS run?

Amazon and Google started out being unlikely competitors.

One started in 1994 by selling books and the other in 1997 by designing a new search engine for the Internet.  In 2002, both realized that they needed to open up their respective systems to developer communities as a technology disrupter, gain traction, and grow fast.

Both gave brick and mortar businesses a run for their money.  Both ended as undisputed leaders and have redefined the industry in their own ways.

Both Google and Amazon broadly attract the same segment of consumers, albeit for different reasons.

They have not looked back ever since.  The Titans are now eyeing domination of the Enterprise segment with cloud based web hosting services and solutions. Amazon has a significant lead here.  What does it take for them to come out as the winner?  Is the threat from Google real?

In continuing our series on technology game-changers, we focus on a summary of differences between the Google Cloud and the Amazon AWS from an end-user and developer perspective.  In an earlier series (*ISMAC) we had discussed the ubiquitous nature of CLOUD infrastructure in current technology solutions.

Cloud Vendors and Hosting Providers are available dime-a-dozen.

Hosting Providers are good enough for simple web site hosting, be it local or regional.  Most hosting providers provide base hardware
infrastructure (either Physical or Virtual Machines) with Linux or Windows Operating System and the corresponding Web(App)server (Apache, Nginx), Database (MySQL), Programming Language Support (PHP, Python, Java) etc.

Cloud Vendors on the other hand provide a whole slew of ready made and integrated software support like Email, Queuing, Messaging, BigData, NoSQL, Storage, Networking, Billing, Logging etc.  These services are all independent, but can be installed and setup to work cohesively with each other.  In this article, we will look at the offerings
of “Google Cloud” and “Amazon AWS”.

 

Google Cloud Console – //cloud.google.com/

image

Comprises of a separate Compute engine and App engine.  The Compute engine provides the raw hardware and allows the developer to install any tools/technologies they choose.  The App Engine on the other hand, comes pre-built with support for PHP, Python (language
interpreters).  It allows the developers to directly upload their source code and setup the environment. Google Cloud also provides out-of-the-box one-click deployment of numerous tools in the Data Store, Programming, and Source Code Control, Configuration and Build Management and other Front-End, Mid-Tier, and Back-end packages.

Costing is tiered with a free-tier for almost all functionalities including storage and network usage (upload/download).  This approach is
convenient for developers and companies to try out in a smaller scale free before choosing this as a production and scaling platform.

On the other side, setup is slightly non-intuitive for the first-time cloud user. The developer will require a few trials before getting comfortable with
the offerings.

 

Amazon AWS Console – //aws.amazon.com/

image

The console is organized very intuitively under various categories – Computing Resources, Storage, Content Delivery, Databases, Networking, Administration and Security, Deployment, Analytics, Mobile, Application Services and Enterprise Services.  Within each of these categories, the most common packages are provided in a single-click setup model.  Impressive is the ability to setup your own
Simple Email Service, Simple Queuing Service, and Simple Notification Services (for server-side of mobile apps)

Costing is Free for the first 12 months.  This provides a wonderful way
for developers and companies to test the platform and even use it in a
semi-production model.

AWS has a much bigger ecosystem and therefore has support on the Internet for almost all situations one could ever face.

Verdict

While both the offerings have similar setup and approach, Amazon’s AWS comes out better due to its maturity and developer-friendly tools.  Google Cloud’s free limits are a wonderful idea that could potentially be adopted by AWS.  This allows small companies to move to and continue on AWS (without charge) for their small footprint requirements.  Google Cloud needs a bit of Usability improvements especially for the developer community.

5 Hot Technology Trends (2/2)

In our earlier post, we wrote about #ISMAC and how it is changing the business ecosystem. In this post we will continue the conversation by understanding the leaders in each of these technology areas. We will also review what each one is doing in that space.

1.    Internet of Things (IOT)

Vendors in this space range from chip manufacturers (Intel, ARM, Texas Instruments), mobile and embedded device vendors (Freescale, Qualcom, Ericsson), Home appliance vendors (GE, Bosch), pure-play software developers (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook), Networking vendors (Cisco) and large system integrators (IBM, Oracle, SAP). The spread is so broad given the multitude of technologies that go into making a device intelligent and automated.  One of the biggest business and technological
challenges in this area is the need for standards at all hardware and software
layers.  Standards are important to
ensure complete hand-shake across device vendors as well as to derive
functionalities at scale. Early-stage research companies will lobby for their
work to become the standard.  This tussle
will continue for a few years until the standards bodies get a grip of the
overall collaborations required.  A potential obstacle from consumer perspective is the pervasiveness of these devices leading to privacy compromises. This will be a larger problem involving social, economic and political ramifications.

2.  Social

Social sector is already close to maturity on the consumer usage perspective.  While there could be finer tweaks, the ability to post 140 character reviews to author elaborate ebooks provides consumers enough to go with.  At the backend, processing of these gazillion bytes of data and deriving meaningful value for businesses is key focus area.  At the current juncture social channels are simply used for consumer and prospect connect beginning with lead generation through to customer service and repeat customers.  Most organizations are working to understand and correlate the various factors that impact the conversion funnel and how best they can take advantage of it themselves.

3.  Mobile

With about 200 Million feature phones and 80 Million smartphones sold in India in 2014, the data cannot be clearer.  Complete ecosystems have formed around mobile exchange of money, ewallet, transaction processing etc.  Nationalized banks are also heavily invested in this direction. Ability to transfer money with the swipe of a finger is practical subject to security considerations. While Social is the biggest application used on mobiles (much more data traffic over voice), other ecommerce and financial transactions are not lagging far behind.  It is critical for business to adopt a mobile-first strategy in through thinking. Minimalistic and Responsive Design as some of the key deliverables in this space.

4.  Analytics

The ability to spot the proverbial needle in the haystack holds promise.  Analytics space continues to be hot with hundreds of new entrants each quarter. Open Source Technology platforms like Hadoop (sponsored under the Apache Project) play a key role in providing real-time and batch analytics. Quick access data stores like NoSql are very prevalent given the
unstructured nature of data.  The need to handle millions of data element inputs per minute has also created a proliferation of queuing technologies that ensure data events are processed without loss. While Analytics is touted as the panacea, this space requires good blend of business acumen combined with computing abilities to derive true
value.

5.  Cloud

Cloud is the most advanced of all the five technologies.  The question is not one of viability any
longer.  Usage of cloud has become so
common place that one cannot imagine otherwise.
All our emails, files, photos, documents, videos, photos, blogs are saved
up there in one of the cloud. Cloud infrastructure vendors have gotten the
entire store, access, retrieve cycle ironed out.  Redundancy of infrastructure and replication mechanisms have evolved so well to completely hide the true complexity away from the end customer.  With companies like Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and others giving out free access to developer’s worldwide, cloud is the only de facto platform to develop applications.  It has also brought some semblance of uniformity of development with standardization of infrastructure stack open source products.

In summary, the five technologies listed above are very real and very NOW.  Businesses should take advantage of these technologies in ways that is most beneficial for them.

Futureshift Consulting [www.futureshift.in] brings you the right combination of business and technology strategy and implementation expertise. Visit us at www.futureshift.in for a sneak preview of our offerings.  Write to us [help@futureshift.com.sg]  or for a quick response..

5 Hot Technology Trends (1/2)

SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) and IoT (Internet of Things) are the five buzz words in the technology industry that is driving innovation for business and hence valuations for businesses that are in that space.

Let us address this one by one. In this two part series, we will cover introductory and business aspects of SMAC+IoT in this part and take up deep dive in the next.

SMAC delivers an ecosystem to help businesses have maximum reach with minimal costs. It also helps business to be present in front of the customer without being intrusive. We are all creating peta-bytes of data both in structured and unstructured formats. In today’s day and age, anything that we do on the internet is captured in more than one way. This explosion of structured and unstructured data is generating through billions of devices and services – mobile devices social media, sensors, loyalty programs and browsing website and is creating new business models built upon user-generated data. Each of the four technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud (let us keep IoT out of the equation for now) – is critical and creates a synergy and provides immense competitive advantage for businesses when used efficiently.

Social Media has provided billions of users and millions of businesses
with new ways to reach and interact between businesses customers and between customers to customers. The mobile technologies have dramatically altered the way people communicate, shop and work and have fun. Analytics allow businesses to understand how, when and where people consume goods and services. Cloud computing provides a disruptive way to access technology with data a business needs to quickly and respond to rapidly changing markets and solve business problems. Each of the four technologies can impact a business individually. But the power lies in the integration and the coming together of the four is proving to be a disruptive force and is creating entirely new business models for service providers.

While it sounds simple the integration involves immense complexity at the back end. There are tools available to achieve the stated purpose. Integrating SMAC requires clear systems, policies and management tools that can automate business processes. The online-retailer company Amazon is a
good example of a business that has successfully harnessed the power of SMAC.
For example, when an Amazon member buys an item on Amazon on their iPhone, they are given the option to login with Facebook’s social login. After the purchase, customers are given multiple ways to provide social feedback. They can rate their experience with stars, write reviews and/or share what they just bought with friends on Facebook or Twitter. Customer data is stored in the cloud and Amazon can break down its analysis to such a granular a level that its recommendation engine can personalize suggestions for friends that are connected and have similar preferences, a concept known as 1:1 marketing.

Any modern CRM strategy would see such 1:1 marketing as the holy-grail of customer engagement and is the aim of every SMAC initiative. Critics however worry that such massive aggregation of customer data from disparate sources, data that is possibly purchased from data brokers, may violate user privacy and cause legal problems related to compliance and data sovereignty.

In spite of such criticism, SMAC is here to stay. In the next post, I will talk about Internet of Things, IoT that is the next big disruptor. Stay tuned.