Designing the e-commerce websites

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1.Introduction

In today's rapidly changing business world, for a business to be succesful, it is very important for it to be in line with the ever emerging technology. E-commerce has become a very fundamental issue because of the growing number of people using internet and therefore E-commerce website design has become an important issue for a business to be succesful. Designing the e-commerce websites succesfuly, will eventually enable sophisticated online purchasing, payment gateway intergration which will result to tremendous increase in profits and revenues.

This report will therefore be discussing this by looking at the clothes industry which includes Matalan and Dorothy Perkins and the Airline industr which includes Kenya Airways, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

2. E-commerce

Dave Chaffey ( 2009, p.10) defined e-commerce as all the information that is transferred through electronic means to and from the organization to its stake holders. This can be further defined  as a set of technologies that keep on changing and a process that links corporations and consumers. E-coomerce ca be linked to buying and selling of different consumer products over the interebt. However, this is a very narrow definition of e-commerce this is because, according to Wiggand (1997, p.5) explained it as the implementation of information and technology from where it begun till the end point along the value chain of business processes conducted on an electronic basis.

E-commerce transactions can take place between a business to business, business to consumer, business to government, consumer to government and vice versa.

2.1 Advantages

  • Increased change which would lead to reduction of product cycles
  • Reduces costs of communication between customers and suppliers therefore providing the firm with an opprtunity to carry out a more refined market research and satisfying consumers profitably.
  • Enables more information to be shared and therefore reduces consumer exploitation as they will be aware of the price differences in different shops located in different countries as the stes can be accessed worlwide.
  • It is easily accesible-i.e can be accessed by anyone in any part of the world
  • Allows individuals to know who they are connected to and their purpose
  • There are non-linear information systems where, the user is not directed on what to do, he can navigate in any direction

2.2 Disadvantages

  • There are times when due to technical problems, customers may have paid for the good/service but the company does not get this information and therefore consumers may think that there money is either stolen, or the order has reached the wrong place and this is not suitable for the image of the organization
  • Disorganized responses to customer enquiries.
  • Customers needs could change rapidly, thus making it difficult to predict and therefore a lot of investments need to be made in the Research and Development for the organization to anticipate future needs of customers and go on satisfying them profitably.

3. Web Designing

Thomas A Powell (2002, p.3) defined this as the collection and harmonization of available components to create the layout and structure of the web page.

It can also be defined as a multidisciplinary plan for the production of websites and is not limited to technical development and visual design.

  • How visitors may find the design is of great concern this is beacause the main source of revenue is from them.
  • The second point of concern is that how likely is it for visitors to return to the website and therfore the design should be attratctive.
  • How often visitors buy or register is of a great concern aswel because there is no point of visitors just seeing the site without performing any action.

3.2 Features of a good web design:

A website design has many perspectives which when summed up will result to a good web design. Mostly people think that a good web design refers to the external/visual appearance of the website. However, this is a very minor section of the phrase "good website design". There are many other aspects which need to be considered:

  • Design: An organization always needs to consider the most fundamental issue about design is that a "first impression will be the last impression" which will attract visitors to the site; however, the organization must be consistent/improving in providing more to hold the visitors.
  • Usability: A website should be simple and spontaneous to use. Organization should ensure that navigation for customers should be easy because, if it takes too long for a page to open, or if i is too detailed and requires too much information, thn visitors may get disappointed and leave the site and never come back.
  • Search engine optimization: The website must be search engine friendly, or else no one will visit it, despite it being so attractive. The higher the search engine ranking, it will imply greater sales opprtunities.
  • Content and Site purpose: An organization must ensure before it designs a website, the overall goals, objectives and the purpose of the website, so they can work on fulfilling the purpose. The content of the site must be related to the goals of the site.
  • Link: The links being provided should be active and working because links that do not work will also bring a bad reputation of the site and of the company aswel.
  • Internet service provider (ISP):  The role of the service provider is very important and should boast quicker transfer speeds.
  • Site structure: The advantage of choosing a specific company's site depends on the programming structure, i.e. It should be openly usable in all browsers without additional plug-ins or additional softwares to download.

3.3 Features of a bad web design: Jeremy Vest, Shannon Pochian and William Crowson (2005, p.3) listed some of the features of a bad web design.

  • Bad color scheme: If the appearance of the website is too bright or too dull, it may damage the viewer's eyes and they therfore may not visit the site again.
  • Unsorted content/purpose: Sometimes companies do not think ahead of time and end up designing websites which don't clearly sate what the website is about.
  • Slow loading: A website that has too many animations, sounds, and graphics has a greater chance of blocking many users from viwing and using the website. Often websites have many multimidea contents which provides a high bandwidth version of the site, which makes it difficult for people with slower connections to view the website.
  • Internet Service Provider (ISP): If the service provider's connection is very slow, it may slow down website loading speed relatively.

4. Clothing industry

I have chosen two industries on which i will present my report. The first one being the clothing industry. Due to the rapidly changing technologies, competitive, low-cost textile industries have been put up to produce any cloth suted to the design a customer wants, and by doin this many countries for exmple China have created a niche market.

The clothing industry is a very competitive field and therefore if an organization decides to sell a branded product, it must distinguish itself from its competitors, from the day it enters into ts laid he new market so as to be recognized by consumers.

4.1 Airline industry

I have chosen this industry because it provides service to practically each corner of the world and it being an important part of he global economy. The airline industry is an economic force in terms of the operations it carries out and the effect it has on other related businesses.

I would therefore like to illustrate the two sites from the clothing industry and three sites from the airline industry and layout the differences.

5. Clothing industry

5.1 Dorothy Perkins

I have chosen this organization, because it is one of the most famous women's clothing retailer based in the United Kingdom. The clothes sold are very fashionable and attractive, besides this, the organization is very much liked for its accessories, shoes, jewellery e.t.c.

5.2 Jane Norman

Jane Norman is of United Kingdom's most successful young fashion brands and has created a niche in the market and targets specific audiences which is 16-25 years old women.

Thea M.Van der Geest (2001, p.149) has laid out a number of guidelines which should be looked at when designing a site, taking into consideration the target audience that the organization looks at:

Site style: An efficient and effective style will communicate what it offers through the use of colourful images, eye-catching products with beautiful colours and this is exactly what Dorothy Perkins has done on their official website, with a light pink back ground and a black header, with all the information on it about what customers want, including the sales offered and the new arrivals, written in large font, so as to catch viewer's attention

However, Jane Norman's official website is a bit dull than Dorothy Perkins and the font is too small, but is very attractive and causes a "want to see" feeling in the viewer's mind.

Site Personality: When the elements of a site are put together, the personality of the site can be laid out and therefore, the way a person's personality is explained, similarly a site personality can be explained by saying either it is attractive, fun, formal e.t.c.

Usually as far as the clothing industry is concerned, consumers shopping online would want detailed information about the product and they would want it graphically intensive and therefore the organization should consider the barriers that may come in between, for example screen resolution, colour depth before putting up the designs. Some of these barriers are:

  • Speed of access: Huge graphics sites take long to download and this may end up frustrating consumers. However Dorothy Perkins does not take to download the products, which is a positive point for the organization and so is Jane Norman, it is very fast at presenting the site. Dorothy Perkins and Jane Norman  provides an icon called "Accessibility" where the former provides a simpler way to navigate within the site for example, by holdin the key C to jump to the main content, holding the key S to skip, while Jane Norman provides accessibility, but they do not provide a simpler way to navigate but provide consumers with a confidence that they are trying to make their site simpler.
  • Screen resolution: This is a very fundamental issue that must be considered by all organizations, designing web sites with too many graphics, this is because consumers have different sources such as net books, which have a small screen resolution while laptops, which have 800 by 600 pixels, so if organization's design the website on PCs, then it is difficult for consumers with low screen resolution to view the site. However, in the case of Dorothy Perkins and Jane Norman, both can be viewed in different screen resolutions.
  • Number of colours: This is also a key issue that must be considered, because some consumers may have monitors which are able to display 16 million colours which shows the reality of the picture, however, some may only have a monitor or PC that displays 256 colours, therefore colours of the specific product or cloth should be given with the product information so as to re-confirm the colour that the consumer is viewing and has a perception about. This is what Dorothy Perkins is practising but in Jane Norman, the site does not re-confirm the colour of the product and this may bring problems in the future, as consumers who own PCs which provide limited colours may end up choosing something else.

Site organization:

This refers to what structure is chosen to group and classify information. There are some rewuire ments that should be fulfilled when organizing a site:

  • Information in a site should be naturally indexed- this refers to the index being set up chronologically or aplhabetically or by the author or by the title. As far as Dorothy Perkins and Jane Norman are considered, both follow the order from the tops, to coats, to skirts, trousers, shoes, jewellery.
  • Information should not be too ambigous. For example, where the content of the site is divided into different topics, tasks, audience. The use of metaphors on sites, these can be misinterpreted by viewere, for example, the use of the metaphor "shopping basket". Dorothy Perkins uses the metaphor "shopping bag" which is quite reasonable while Jane Norman uses "add to bag." Therefore the main point is to minimize the number of concusion schemes.

Site navigation scheme:

Dave Chaffey (2009, p.643) refers to this as the amount of tools a viewer is provided with to move around and acquire different information on a website. The flow of a website is a fundamental issue because if a website cannot be viewed by consumers, or it does not move into different contents of the site, then there will be no flow and therefore certain factors construct the flow, for example, long download times, installing plug-ins.

There are two types of navigation schemes:

  • Narrow and Deep: This is where there are fewer choices on the page but makes it easier for the consumer to choose from
  • Broad and Shallow: This requires fewer clicks to reach the same information; however, the information may seem to be jumbled.
  • Dorothy Perkins has a maximum of 20 items in each page, however when filtered it has less, therefore, the filtering will lead to a narrow and deep navigation scheme, while in Jane Norman, it has a maximum of 10 items, thus making it easier.

  • Page Design: This refers to the layout of each page in the website which includes the title, the navigation and the content. For example, copyrights maybe added as a footer on the page like in Jane Norman's website. However, it is important to consider that, within this, the elements which will be included. It would be a better idea to place the title at the top of the page so as to have greater amount of content on the main page.
  • Resizing a page should allow users to adjust the page according to their screen resolutions.
  • A printing format should be allowed for consumers to use.

Content Design

An organization can copyright for the web, however the problems that maybe caused are:

  • When designing the content, organizations assume that visitors have alot of knowledge about the product/service offered
  • The internal jargon used through use of acronyms.

Therefore for a content design to be good it is necessary:

  • To layout the purpose as precisely as possible
  • Explain the text in as short as five to six lines so as to enable the visitor to quickly go through it
  • Use headings and sub-headings
  • Avoid having too much information on a single page i.e avoid making it lengthy
  • The simpler the content, the better it is to comprehend
  • The more unique the style is, the more it will be remembered, leading to visitors often viewing the site.

6. Airline industry

6.1 Kenya Airways

This is one of Africa's famous and leading airlines, which enables passengers to travel to 40 destinations primararily in Africa, in Europe, Middle East and Asia/Pacific region from Nairobi. It is partnered with Air France, KLM and Korean Airlines. Kenya Airways operates a fleet of  twenty five aircrafts  which are mainly the boeing model.

6.2 British Airways

This is one of the largest airline based in the United Kingdom. It is owned by government and has one of the most profitable and far-reaching networks. The airline is branding itself as a major full service flight.

6.3 Virgin Atlantic

The second largest long haul airline based in the United Kingdom and includes destinations in the United States of America, Carribean and Africa. They have won many awards offred by the travel industry.

7.Electronic Selling

Joachim Zentes, Dirk Morschett and Hanna Schramm-Klein (2007, p.55) stated that this cane be reffered to as a technological form of direct selling. Manufacturers usually communicate with the consumers over the internet to show what they are offering. The use of internet has induced many retailers to create internet shops for example, Amazon.

7.1 Differences between electronic shopping and traditional departmental shopping

It is very important for an individual to know the differences between selling online and retail selling through a departmental store (referres to as a brick and mortar store front.) There fore the main differences are:

  • Display: When shopping at a departmental store, customers can touch the items, i.e. tangibility is visible, while in online retailing, retailers have to display the items with graphics, pictures and texts based formats to describe the product.
  • Costs: Departmental stores (bricks and mortars) required larger budget, for the set up of the shop this is because of the space occupied by storage of products, the rent of the property, however online services do not have to pay for these expenses and therefpre, this results to lower costs.
  • Reach to customers: Traditional departmental stores are limited to a particular area within which they are located, therefore, only consumers living within that area will have higher chances of visitin the shop. However, electronic selling is not limited to a particular areas and can reach local, national and international customers.
  • Communication: It is difficult to communicate with customers through an online store, because if anything goes wrong, for example, late delivery or the wrong item being delivered, then customers cannot directly visit the store, they have to follow the long procedure of e-mailing them and giving them all the details again. However, in a traditional retail store, this is easier because:
    • There are less chances of the wrong item being selected
    • If this happens, it can be returned by going to the shop and selecting the right item.
  • Technology:  Online selling retailers will experience rapid changes in technology and therefore have to keep up to it, which may also have additional costs, however traditional departmental stores, have technology that has been running for a few years which rarely changes.

8. Deparmental Shopping:

Shopping in this generation is no longer just an act of purchasing a product. Shopping has now taken a new stand on experiential dimensions which are developed to gain customer's attention.

8. How traditional retail outlets create an attractive shopping environment?

Jack Ries (2007) mentioned one of the most essential:

  • Visibility: Retailers often invest a lot of money in order to distinguish their products from competitors and try creating an atmosphere which attracts customers and induces them to stay for longer.
  • (Michael R Solomon et al. 2006, p.320) also described some of the ways that retailers use to attract and retain customers:

  • Lighting:
  • The lighting quality in a retail shop is normally balanced, because it is considered that dull light may make the shop unattractive while too much light makes it uncomfortable for consumers to shop, so that is the advantage of traditional shopping stores. Effective lighting displays can make a great difference between display that may make people yawn or make them stop and look.

  • Presentation of the colours
  • This is a fundamental issue when shopping in traditional retail outlets, the advantage is that consumers will tend to pick the right product due to the colour which will be shown in a realistic way and will be able to have a physical view of the product.

  • Sounds in shops: Often, when consumers purchase from retail outlets, they would prefer music that would enable them to purchase more from the shop.
  • Tangibility: Some products like apparels, perfumes and groceries need to be felt and tried on, and therefore retail outlets provide this facility.
  • Social interaction: For many consumers, shopping to retail outlets not just purchasing, but a way to social interaction and engage retail therapy.

9. The techniques that online businesses use to attract customers

A. Gunasekaran, O, Khalil and S.M Rahman (2003, p.199) discusses that attracting and retaining customers is the most difficult and complicated task. This is because the business must ensure effective web design along with creative financial incentive offerings. Here are some of the techniques that online businesses use to attract customers:

  • Providing free service and information to customers
  • Updating customers with e-mails about new products, offers, providing free samples, extensive advertising, changes in product offerings
  • Flexibility, as consumers can view the information from home, office.
  • Enables businesses to link innovativeness with customer's expectations.
  • Online business offers benefits such as convenience, in terms of reaching the products, savings, in terms of time, not much time is wasted, as consumers do not have to travel to different shops to compare prices and view different varieties of products.
  • Online shops are available 24 hours, 7 days a week and 365 days in a year.

10. How internet selling can be conducive for some products

Frank Feather (2002, p.127) mentions that recently, internet has been top in the list in online shopping and this is because of increase in the amount of people realizing flexibility, convenience e.t.c.  Some of the products which would be more conducive to sell online are:

  • Travel Tickets- The travel industry has earned a lot in the past few years because of the increase in number of sites offering cheaper travel rates and therefore online shoppers get attracted and would not leave the opportunity, therefore sales increase.
  • Brands: Names, clothes, electronics, cameras, laptops, automobile parts which are online at cheaper rates enable consumers to purchase, without having to visit the shop physically
  • Accessorising online has become very common as it provides consumers with a wide variety before they make the final purchase.

10.1 How internet selling can be less conducive for some products

There are some products that cannot be purchased online because these maybe items that consumer want to touch, smell or simply view it. For example,

  • Perfumes cannot be purchased online because consumers would want to smell each one of them before purchasing the one they like
  • Lipsticks need to be tried by customers because, often the colour shown online may not be the same in reality due to different screen resolutions
  • Tailored suits cannot be ordered or sold online because it needs to be measured
  • Properties cannot be bought online, because what is shown online may not be the same as what it really is, and therefore consumers would want to have a look at it before reaching the final decision.

11. How do e-tailers redce the risk of shopping online?

Consumers often abandon their cart before purchase due to:

  • Presence of high hidden costs, for example, shipping charges.
  • Lack of trust on the business and the site
  • Unreliable
  • Price comparison with other companies

The above diagram shows some of the main reasons customers abandon their carts and therefore to improve these, e-tailers can do the following:

  • Removing hidden costs by making the ship costs visible on the product page so as to enable customers to anticipate how much they will be spending.
  • Promised delivery date should be visible, so as to give customers the faith that it will arrive by a certain date.
  • Gaining customer trust, is one of the most important areas that businesses need to focus on, this refers to respecting customer privacy, i.e. their account details which should not be exploited.
  • Improving site reliability refers to how long a page may take to download, and through this customers are likely to link their billing security with the unreliable site, which is unsafe.

12. How internet can be used to increase level of customer service

In today's changing world, mostly all businesses have access to the internet. This is because the growth of internet has provided opportunities for all businesses to maintain better relations with customers who are the most important assets.

(Longenecker et al. 2010, p.373) Internet will enable the company to have effective communications with customers among the sales and services team. Therefore, to boost customer service, businesses must invest a vast amount in developing a presentable website targeted for a specific audience. However, sales and support systems that do not work as a team often spoil their relations with customers. Internet therefore provides new ways of interacting with customers through the use of integrative technologies for example "active-content"

  • Providing customers with greater access to product information is a way of enhancing relationships with customers.
  • It makes it easier to maintain customer relations as it is possible to learn customer preferences through tracking the websites they visit and developing their profile.
  • Developing a customer relations management software programme to help companies get all customers contacts and information, which they can use to e-mail them and provide them with information they need.

13. Impact of internet on organizations

Syed Mahbubur Rahman and Mahesh S. Rasinghani (2000 p.202) state that the internet provides the organization with an opportunity to present a commercial image. The internet has become a widely accepted medium to reach customers, this is because it has increased base of communications. For example, video conferencing enables businesses to interact with customers, suppliers and train employees. There are very few regions around the globe that can do without internet.

  • Most organization's need internet and look out for service providers who are well reputed and reliable.
  • They can have this done from business to business, or business to consumer or develop a site just to inform customers about what they offer.
  • It enhances flexibility for employees, interms of working from home thus motivating them and getting to do work faster. It also enhances flexibility for customers, in terms of time and moving to different shops.
  • Greater reach toward the target market at lower costs  thorough the internet as it is not limited by location.
  • However, companies do not just have to agree to the orders placed, the availability of stock must be checked aswel.

14. Conclusion:

After analysing the information above, i have come to a conclusion that E-commerce has cultivated. All businesses therefore need to have access to this, not because of other businesses, but to gain a competitive advantage and to be innovative through the use of web design and increases brand awareness. An organization having an e-commerce sight will take a company toward the upward direction and more transactions will be experienced due to the convenience and flexibility it provides.

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