E-commerce, though a relatively new way of doing business, is growing at a rapid rate. In fact, e-commerce businesses have seen an amazing increase in sales in spite of the current economic crisis. Traditionally, businesses have used hit-and-trial methods to set up their e-commerce solutions. Instead, active benchmarking of competitors and other e-commerce sites is more effective in improving the features and functionality of an e-commerce solution.Changing rules of e-commerce website design and development
E-commerce website development cannot be static and is a continuously evolving process. This is necessary to hold the interest of internet shoppers. The reasons underlying the constant evolution of website design are:
Advanced technology makes it possible for e-commerce sites to be innovative and efficient. Websites that incorporate advanced security features offered by latest technology also win the trust of customers.
Competition is high and technological innovations bring about a sea change in website designs and development. E-commerce businesses need to revamp their websites constantly to keep up with competitors.
Customers have big expectations from e-commerce websites regarding customer service, website features and usability. Customer inputs have become a vital part of any commercial website.
Effective benchmarking of competition
E-commerce businesses can improve their own processes and design through meaningful benchmarking of competition. Steps involved in benchmarking are:
Identifying the functional emphasis of the e-commerce business
Before initiating the process of benchmarking, it is important to identify the core functional emphasis of the e-commerce business. Most e-commerce websites have many functions and features. However, meaningful comparisons can only be made between similar functions.
The functional emphasis of an e-commerce website can be:
* transactional, if it sells goods to customers
* informational, if it provides details on topics to interested audiences
* promotional, if it promotes a company and motivates people into taking action
* a source of customer feedback, if it focuses on receiving customer feedback to improve product development and design
An e-commerce business can have more than one function, but benchmark comparisons must only be based on the functional emphasis.
After identifying the functional emphasis of the e-commerce business, its main components should be identified as key indicators. These key indicators should be compared not just with competing websites, but also with other e-commerce websites of different industries and scale.
The comparison matrix helps in ranking and rating of the key elements, and analysis of the relative position of the business’ e-commerce website. While general comparison across e-commerce websites is a great learning process, the main emphasis of the e-commerce business should be on the competition’s statistics.
The comparison matrix helps e-commerce businesses address two areas of improvement:
Immediate changes: Features and functions that make the user experience better on other e-commerce websites should be implemented immediately.
List websites to monitor constantly: The comparison matrix brings up the e-commerce websites that stand out in web design, user experience and other key elements. These select websites should be constantly monitored. This helps e-commerce businesses keep up with competition.
E-commerce businesses should undertake benchmarking on a periodic basis to take advantage of latest technologies and internet practices. They can improve the user experience of their websites by comparing them with competitor’s e-commerce solutions and other websites.