Shrinking Growth will sort the Good Developers from the Bad

Ensuring you choose the right web developer to maintain or build your ecommerce website has never been more important than it is now.

With countries around the world falling into technical recessions and consumers struggling to obtain credit, ecommerce website owners need to be clever with their websites to ensure continuing growth.

In recent years website developers may have hidden any lack of ability behind a buoyant market which has seen double digit growth for a number of years; however, with times changing they will now be forced to demonstrate their expertise.

At the time of writing this piece, UK expectations for the 2008 Christmas shopping period look good for ecommerce websites, albeit they are not set to grow at quite such a large percentage as seen in previous years.

Findings taken from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, and reported in ZDNet, show that UK shoppers will spend £13.16bn on ecommerce websites in the last quarter of 2008. This rise is equivalent to a healthy year on year increase of 15%; however, represents a drop from the 54% year on year growth reported in the year before.

In the US, things are not looking so healthy but again the figures have not entered a decline. According to comScore’s monthly retail ecommerce sales estimates, October saw the lowest monthly growth rate since they began tracking results in 2001 with just 1% year on year growth.

All told it will be the more savvy ecommerce website owners who reap the rewards this Christmas, while others who have not made sufficient plans for their ecommerce website will pay the price.

In the coming months, pressures on the economy will only serve to push things further so what advice can we give on getting the most from your ecommerce website?

Start by getting the right developer for your ecommerce website.

When selecting a web developer you need to ensure you are selecting one that is focused on the fundamental idea of ‘return on investment’. You need a developer who understands the market and can identify areas of development that will lead to sales growth.

It is easy to get carried away with statistics. Many web developers will talk about visitor numbers and rankings. These are important to your overall success but can be used to mask the real areas of importance such as bounce rates, cart abandonment and purchase levels.

Don’t rely on rankings alone. These figures often have more to do with other areas such as search engine optimisation (SEO) or marketing than they do web design or development.

Once you believe you have found a suitable developer for your new or existing ecommerce website you should take time at the outset to research your online competition, brainstorm functionality and define potential functionality.

Using the notes from this session you and your developer should perform a cost to benefit analysis on each function. The simple question you need to ask yourself is ‘Will this make me money*?’. It might sound harsh, but if you don’t take your website development seriously and pay for functionality that does not lead to increased profitability you are wasting money that could be used to generate a profit somewhere else.

*When we say ‘Will this make me money?’ you should keep in mind that customer retention is very important. If a particular function will help you keep customers coming back then you are developing potential repeat business which can be very valuable.

Wish Lists and Ongoing Development

Sometimes you will find that some areas of development are great ideas for the future. They could provide a decent return on the investment required, just not until user levels reach a higher level. Don’t discard these ideas – keep a note of them on a ‘Wish List’ and add them to an ongoing development agreement or plan to review them at a later date.

Other times you will notice that there are small improvements which could yield higher sales. It may be that you could add hurdle or bulk discounts, offer promotional codes or inform customers when items return to stock. Good ideas should be built into an ongoing development plan to spread the cost and allow for continued growth to be achieved.

Track Performance and Tweak

On launching your site ensure you have Google Analytics installed with Goals and Funnels established. Review the data regularly with your developer to establish fresh areas for development keeping in mind the simple rule – ‘Will this make me money?’.

If you can see that you are suffering from high levels of web cart abandonment deal with it early. If you were running a bricks and mortar store where customers where literally dropping out at the till you’d do something about it – why should the web be any different?

Map how your customers use your site. Are there opportunities to maximise the sales value? Are you losing customers on any particular page or product? If so, make changes and monitor the results.

Providing you follow the rules of ‘return on investment’ with your ecommerce website there is no reason why you shouldn’t fare well through tougher economic times. Get the right developer at the start and the investment will more than pay for itself.

If you would like to receive personal advice on how we help you grow your ecommerce revenues year after year, call Aren on 01872 555933 or use the contact form provided.

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This post was posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 10:16 am and is filed under E-commerce.

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