E-Commerce presents a fantastic opportunity for selling your products to a very large market, but comes with a number of challenges and potential pitfalls to the uninitiated.
There are various off-the-shelf systems which can enable you to get started pretty quickly and cheaply; however, many of our customers report finding these systems restrictive, and, over a long period, not as cost-effective as they seem at first. These products can be useful for exploring an idea, a new product or testing an unexplored market.
An alternative is to commission a custom-built online store. This can be designed around the precise requirements of your line of products and can offer them for sale in a uniquely compelling environment.
To sell online your website must take the place of a traditional shop, in which customers can walk around, soaking up the atmosphere and browsing the items available. In a physical shop your customers can talk to a knowledgeable sales assistant, this person can help them choose the right products, and often persuade them to buy additional, complimentary items and accessories.
Replicating this set-up effectively online is difficult. Whatever your product is you must assume that there is, or at least soon will be, stiff competition from other vendors. If your website fails to engage visitors quickly they can very easily go next-door and make their purchase from your competitors. For this reason, one-size-fits-all e-commerce systems can let you down: a configuration which fits one industry may be completely inappropriate for another.
Choosing a supplier
If you decide to bespeak a custom e-commerce website you will need to choose a supplier. One of the biggest surprises here is the massive range of price-points in the market. Without exaggeration, there are web designers and developers who charge, or attempt to charge everything from 10% to 1000% as much as we do. There are people who will offer to put something together for almost nothing, and there are of course agencies accustomed to dealing with banks and multinationals who will quote astronomically high prices for relatively simple projects. In general, as with all things, you get what you pay for but here at Ugli we try to offer "agency quality at small business prices".
When choosing a supplier for your e-commerce project, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they express themselves clearly? Ideally you will have a long-lasting relationship with your supplier so this is vital. Too often complicated technical or commercial jargon conceals ignorance or betrays an inability to make coherent sense, so make sure your supplier speaks to you in plain language.
- Do they listen to what you say? Your ideas are, or should be, at the heart of your entire project, so it’s very important that your supplier listens to them and – while not afraid to say how they can be improved – incorporates them into their work.
- Do they have a good record? E-Commerce is an under-regulated industry and a very easy one for the unqualified and inexperienced to enter. Can your supplier show a history of good work for happy clients? Does their own site and the sites in their portfolio inspire and delight you? Often freelance graphic designers and programmers rebrand themselves as web designers, and while graphics and programming are both very important skills in the field of web design, on its own neither one is enough.
- Are they established and dependable? For the reasons listed above, there are many one-man-band web design companies, many of them extremely skilled and professional, but you need to be confident that once you’ve paid your deposit, they won’t just vanish.
- Are they small enough to be nimble and cost-effective? Larger agencies often provide a very good service but at substantial prices. The fee they quote might go towards the rent on a fancy town-centre office, non-essential staff salaries or teams of designers pitching on-spec; or they might simply be used to working with extremely large corporate clients and charging the fees those clients pay. Also, generally, larger teams need to spend more time on management activities and internal communication, and therefore have less time for client work than smaller teams.
Of course we feel that for most projects, for most clients, and at most levels Ugli is a great choice. Why not find out for yourself if we can help?