If you’re selling products online, you have an e-commerce ecosystem, even though you might not realize it. Your entire website creates a path that leads a consumer to the final destination, which is making a purchase. And each step of this path requires each part of your website to work properly and in conjunction with all the others. If one part doesn’t work correctly, your customer isn’t going to stick around. Rather, he or she will move on to a website with a working e-commerce ecosystem for a seamless and integrated experience. Learn what an e-commerce ecosystem consists of and why you need to make sure it runs properly at all times
Defining an E-Commerce Ecosystem
Image via Flickr by Kip-koech
You might think your website and a shopping cart setup are all that you need for smooth operation of your business. But the truth is that you need much more:
- Website host provider
- Shopping cart (whether integrated or external)
- E-commerce website
- Merchant processor
- Payment gateway
- Shipping processor
All these elements work in conjunction with one another, creating what could be reasonably termed an ecosystem. Let’s take a look at them and examine what makes each important on its own and in concert with one another.
Your website needs hosting on a server in order for it to function properly. A hosting service provides you with both the server space for your website files and a name server to make sure your website will be found when someone types in your URL. Many hosts also offer domain registration services to make it easy for you to get all of the basics together under one umbrella. You can separate the services among different providers, but it’s best to keep them all on one host.
The reason is simple: efficiency. The hosting service has to respond to website requests within milliseconds of the URL being requested by a user. The end user gets the website resolved within a second of typing in the URL, even though he or she may not be aware of what went on behind the scenes. Hosting everything on one provider almost guarantees that the site will get delivered by the browser at top speed.
Always research to make sure the hosting service is as good as it claims to be. Some hosts simply resell service, and it may be harder to hold them accountable when things don’t work right on your e-commerce site.
Many website templates are available for little to no cost and work well despite the fact that they’re not expensive. But they may not have the features you need to keep the website dynamic and easily changed when new products come in. Spending a little money up front on an e-commerce website that receives regular updates and has flexibility enables you to change things as needed.
The saying “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” is a truism in the world of e-commerce, but it never hurts to tweak a material design to keep things from going stale. Make sure the tweaks affect the material design only and don’t make it harder for your customers and support staff to navigate and update the site. When a customer can navigate the site in a familiar manner, he or she won’t get frustrated and defect to another seller.
Shopping Cart and Purchase Processor
The shopping cart and purchase processor make up your silent partner in your e-commerce ecosystem. This is the area where your customer selects what to buy. It also leads to your payment gateway and merchant processor to finalize the purchase, and it notifies you of the sale on the back end so you can fulfill the order. You need a shopping cart that’s reliable, that won’t fail at the worst possible moment, and that can keep track of stock so your customer won’t try to buy something that’s not available.
Many e-commerce website templates have a shopping cart built in, or you can use an all-in-one service provider like Magento. Another option is to use a third-party processor’s shopping cart code and insert it into the web page as directed. The latter isn’t the most professional in appearance, and shopping cart software is usually pretty easy to integrate for a seamless look.
Merchant Service Provider and Gateway
Processing credit cards is at the heart of e-commerce. It’s what enables someone to go into business and get paid for the product he or she is selling. It’s important to work with a merchant service provider that has years of experience and proven reliability in the e-commerce realm. Here’s why:
When your customer goes to the final screen for checkout, he or she is trusting your gateway to function properly even though he or she may not realize what a gateway is. The gateway secures the card and customer information so it can’t get intercepted by a hacker on the way from point A to point B. That gateway needs to work within a reasonable amount of time after the customer has pressed the “Buy” button. It can’t hang and make the customer wonder if the purchase went through or got hacked. A reliable merchant service provider has everything locked down tight and uses fast processing servers to make sure the customer can complete the transaction in a timely manner.
Understanding the Importance of These Elements
All these elements of the ecosystem have to work together and do the job right. If one aspect doesn’t work correctly, the customer isn’t very likely to complete a sale. A customer needs to feel comfortable with an electronic purchase, as the risk of getting hacked is higher online than in person. Giving that customer a smooth transaction experience from the moment he or she lands on the site is your number one priority. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing the sale and taking a hit in your reputation from people who are talking online about your site and how it doesn’t work for them.