Top 8 website features for retailers

Following on from our series of blogs on the best eMarketing techniques for different industries, we will now take a look at the best website features for each industry.

There’s a common misconception that website features are not industry-specific. The argument goes that all businesses will use the gamut of website features (or more accurately website platform features) over the course of their online journey.

But experience tells us that different industries in fact have completely different requirements for their websites, which in turn leads to different features and functionalities.

It’s horses for courses

For example, a form/survey building feature will be critical to a training organisation but just ‘handy’ for a retailer. Or an ‘extranet’ (password protected area) critical to a franchise business but far less so for a stand-alone retailer.
So to help you grasp exactly which features you are going to need either now and in the future, in the coming weeks we will identify the top eight website features for each sector.

A critical aspect of this analysis is one of the ‘important web terms’ we discussed last week.

Scalability ensures your website platform grows easily and affordably as your requirements grow. So even if you don’t think you will need the listed features at first, there’s an excellent chance you will need them in the near future.
This week we look at the retail sector.

1. Content Management System (CMS)

Yes it’s true. The most valuable website feature to the retailer is NOT a secure shopping cart. Now that you are back off the floor, let me explain why.

It’s now common knowledge that a large percentage of Australian retailers don’t even offer a professional website let alone one that allows visitors to buy online. And most of those that do still need to get their web designer or other professional to update the site. The result is a static and outdated site that turns traffic away instead of at least enticing them to find out more about what they do and encourage a physical visit or phonecall. So it’s critical to get these fundamentals right before moving to the more complex task of selling online.

2. Email Marketing System (EMS)

One of the biggest oversights in the entire retail industry (let alone the online retail industry) is its failure to embrace email marketing.

Email marketing outstrips any other promotional medium when it comes to stimulating repeat business. Because of course it is essentially free and comparatively non-invasive. So a retailer that embraces email marketing is going to reap the benefit of a hugely effective and low cost means of getting customers back into their physical store let alone their online equivalent.

Yet even as the majority of the population uses email on a regular basis, how often do your favourite shopkeepers ask if you’d like to go on their email list?

3. Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)

Of course, an EMS without a CRM is a wasted opportunity and something of a waste of time. A good CRM will allow you to integrate your customer data (another important term from last week) so that you can seamlessly send emails, keep purchase records and have a record of website visits, among other things.

This approach saves having to keep such data in a myriad of different unconnected places and the time involved in maintaining each one.

4. Secure Shopping Cart

Finally, the ubiquitous cart gets a guernsey. Yes, it’s this far down the list because a retailer needs to get the top three right before attempting this increasingly simple development.

Many retailers argue that they prefer to deal with customers in person than the less personal online channel. Newsflash people. The majority of Australians love the convenience and even fun of shopping online, not to mention the millions overseas who could also be in the market for your product. And as we have always said here at the Internet Secrets blog – if you don’t look after your customers online, your competitors will.

5. Auto-Homepage Capabilities

There’s few things worse in the online world than visiting a website some time after your previous visit, only to find that nothing has changed and that the so-called ‘Coming Soon’ specials have never eventuated.

Auto-Homepage capabilities allow you to bring new product, special and so on to the front page of your website without having to physically alter it. In other words, by literally ticking a box the featured item brings itself to the front page of the website and keeps it fresh, interesting and above all, likely to result in more sales.

6. Australia Post Delivery Integration

Managing delivery costs can be a major frustration for website operators as they constantly need to be updated to reflect changes in postal charges and product dimension, etc. But a good cart system will be integrated with Australia Post delivery charges. This allows real-time integration of the latest delivery charges so that you never need to alter it beyond your initial inclusion of the product – leading to fantastic time and cost savings.

7. Currency Conversion

The truth is very few Australian retailers consider making interstate sales let alone those from overseas. But why not? A customer is a customer is a customer, no matter where they’re located. And if they’re prepared to pay the delivery charge, even better. If you can’t achieve automatic currency conversion, at least have a prominent link to one so they can ‘do the math’ themselves.

8. Financial Software Integration

This capability is not critical to many retailers because online sales can be categorised as such on their financial software and entered periodically with a ‘refer online sales report’ memo. Others prefer complete integration with their software.

Either way, such an integration is not difficult with today’s cart solutions.
Of course, this isn’t a definitive ranking of features pertinent to retailers but at least provides a handy guide if you are considering selling online or updating your current website platform.

Do you agree or disagree with these rankings? Either way, tell us why below. We’d especially love to hear from retailers who regularly use online sales platforms.


For more Internet Secrets, click here.

Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.



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