Posts Tagged Electronic commerce

Was 2010 the year for eCommerce? Will Irish retailers begin to smell the coffee?

Supermarket check out, London January 2005 Aut...
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Over the Christmas you probably noticed a lot of retailers out on various news reports complaining about poor sales (as they like to at Christmas) and in most cases with great reason too. I personally still find it hard to believe how many of the retail outlets in Ireland are still in business. The double blow of the recession and the god awful snow that engulfed Ireland and the UK for nearly 3 weeks certainly didn’t do anything to help their falling sales. But, for many reasons, I just can’t bring myself to feeling 100% sorry for these retailers.

It’s not that I am a cynical and bitterly twisted man that makes me feel this way. And I am certainly not a hardcore socialist who would sticks two fingers up at all retailers and say “ha, you should have treated your staff better!”. No, I’m just someone who has worked in the Internet for over 10 years now and have seen so many Irish retailers ignore the great benefits a properly prepared online web strategy.

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” is the phrase mentioned by one Irish great that sticks out in my mind when I think of how Irish retailers have ignored such a valuable resource to their business.

In the UK, it’s been reported that 44% of their population upped their online spend this Christmas compared to 2009. The total amount spent online in the UK was £2.8bn !! Another interesting fact is that 86% of UK consumers logged on to the Internet on Christmas and St. Stephens day a 10% increase on the previous year. 62% of those consumers shopped for sale items over those two days!

John Lewis say that their online sales in the 5 weeks to January the first accounted for £500m. And I guess it’s no surprise that the leading retailers online (after Amazon & eBay) were Argos, Next and M&S.

When you see figures like this, it amazes me to think that Irish retail businesses still don’t take their online business serious enough.

Let’s take a list of Irish retailers and see how they compare with their UK counterparts…

Harvey Normanwww.harveynorman.ie
Although it appears to be sitting on an eCommerce system, namingly Magento – there is no option to buy online. Maybe they need the footfall to generate some cross sells – but there are other ways of getting people into the store – and not many people were venturing out in the snow! They don’t seem to have a UK site (if they are even there!)

Curryswww.currys.ie
Much the same as Harvey Norman – display lots of products, but don’t allow you to buy (from what I can see). You can buy online from their websites in the UK.

River Islandwww.riverisland.com
River Island have a nice website and you can purchase online – albeit in sterling and not 100% sure if you can get it delivered to Ireland (or pick up in store!)

Boots - www.boots.ie
I don’t know about you, but if I could have bought items online through the Boots website I would have! Anyone who has ever tried to buy perfume through somewhere like Amazon knows that they simply won’t deliver to you. A golden opportunity for someone like Boots to make a few quid online. And can you imagine those great 3 for 2 offers… oh I wish… of course, you can do this online if you live in the UK.

Dunnes Storeswww.dunnesstores.ie
A great Irish brand with, it must be said, a visually appealing website – but no you can’t buy online. A place I would have definitely bought online over the Christmas period as I desperately searched for 2 turkeys for Christmas Dinners!!

I could easily go on and on but I won’t…

There are of course some exceptions to what appears to be the rule. You will find some retailers with decent enough websites, but by on large they just don’t exist.

As usual, it tends to be the smaller, lesser known retailers that appear to take their online presence more serious in Ireland – but even those are far and few between. When we have a country next door to us spending nearly £3bn online at Christmas it seems ridiculous that there aren’t more retailers taking a serious look at trying to grab a piece of this with a proper online marketing strategy.

The Celtic Tiger as we know was really good for Ireland, but the current lack of interest in making a serious online effort to generate business is an indication of how well we actually had it. “Ah sure I don’t need to sell to online, sure there’s plenty of business already….”

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Choosing a web designer to build your website

Nowadays, most people’s first port of call after hearing about your company is to check out your website. For that very simple reason, your website needs to make that all important first impression that will hopefully help them decide if your company is the business they would like to work with. If your website isn’t easy on the eye, clear and concise, you may put them off and ultimately lose the sale.

If this is your first web project, choosing the right web designer may seem like a daunting task. If you’ve been here before, you are likely to be looking for different things from your web designer. There are so many providers to choose from that finding a web design partner that suits your needs best can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

But before you go checking out every single web designer in the top of the Google search results, you should first establish what your needs are. Do you need a dynamic eCommerce website where you will sell products online or is your website more of a basic brochure type website that will simply give you an online presence? Personally, I’m not a fan of the latter as I believe the majority of businesses can sell something online.

Choosing the type of web design companies that you’d like to approach can come down to many factors. Can they build the type of website you require? How long have they been in business? What is their portfolio like? And probably most importantly, how much will it cost?

It’s always good to have a budget in mind, especially when prices can differ greatly from designer to designer. Just to give you an idea of realistic budgets, using a reputable web design agency, who deliver quality custom designs you should expect to pay anywhere from €1,500 to €4,000 for a brochure type website. If you are looking for a cheaper option, you can get websites from as little as €300 but they are like to be prebuilt templates with little room for customisation.

When you’ve decided what you need, it’s time to find your new web design partner. The easy thing to do is to run a search in Google, but it’s probably best if you seek recommendations from others. Try and build a shortlist of no more than 3 web design companies that you think you’d like to work with.

One thing to remember is that it’s not important if the design agency hasn’t worked in your industry before. Just because they don’t know your industry doesn’t mean they won’t be able to deliver a quality website. In fact, it’s probably best that you work with a company that haven’t worked with a similar business to yours. The best web designers will want to see the website they build for you succeed. They will be eager to learn about your business and as the relationship grows, you will probably divulge a lot of inside knowledge of how you sell your business to help them understand what you need from your website. Can you imagine if they were telling another client all your secrets? All that hard work you put into making your website a success, simply being passed to a competitor.

When you’ve decided to request a proposal from your chosen web designers, it is important to brief them properly. If they don’t understand your requirements the price they quote will either be too low or too high. If the price is too low, this will lead to problems in the future. Web designers love to call it “feature creep?. This is where the client hasn’t explained their requirements properly, the designer feels that the request is extra work and inform you that they will want to charge extra. This can lead to a breakdown in the relationship which is a common occurrence in web design projects. I’m sure you’ve heard of someone who has a web developer who doesn’t answer calls or has gone missing from the face of the earth, well this is generally the reason why. The other side of that coin is where the designer over estimates your requirements and give you a massive estimate. Web designers are all too aware of this “build me a bebo? syndrome. Bebo of course would cost hundreds of thousands of euros to build, whereas most clients don’t even need 20% of the functionality for their own website.

After you have received your proposal and you like what you see, the next step is to look for references. Ask the web designer to provide you with a list of referees that you can contact and make sure you ring at least one of these. Find out key things like, did they deliver what you requested, did they do it on time, are they good to work with etc.

Finally, you should meet the chosen web designers – just like you would an interview. If you take your website seriously, your web designer will essentially become part of your team. If you want to get the best from them, treat them like you would a good member of staff.

Now you are ready to make your decision. Remember to treat this relationship as a long term one. A good web designer will always respect the clients who respect them. As your project comes to an end there will be changes required, some large and some not so. If you’ve a good relationship with your designer, they will be happy to make these changes without charging. But equally, if your designer tells you that it’s more work than they expected, let them know you are willing to pay them for their extra work. Good web designers aren’t easy to find, so if you’ve found one, cherish them!

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Need a web designer? Things you should look out for…

In the past, when fax machines were in mass use… if your business didn’t a fax number, no-one took you seriously. Nowadays, the same can be said about a company without a website. If any company is serious about succeeding, they must have a website. Unfortunately, web design is a lot more complex than plugging in a fax machine and waiting on it to ring.

It is essential that your business website conveys the correct message that will help with the promotion of your business. Whether that is just a simple brochure website that details your services, phone number and opening hours or if you require something a little more advanced like a fully blown eCommerce system, at the very least, it should add value to your business. And the best way to make sure you are getting the best from your web presence is to find the right web designer.

I think it’s fair to say, Web Designers are a strange breed. Everyone seems to know one and has had OR heard of a bad experience with a web designer. Web designers are notorious for falling off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. Many leave businesses stranded with websites that they can’t even make the simplest of changes. Others are left with designers who charge the sun, moon and stars for the tiniest of changes to a web page. Well unfortunately it is a very common situation. But there is a common reason for this.

In many cases web designers are highly under valued in terms of the work they do. The reality is that most people don’t actually understand how long it takes to make changes to a website. Although many changes are a simple task (to someone who knows) – most of the time, they are still quite time consuming tasks.

If you ask an electrician for an hour of his time to get your electricity back on, you’d probably be happy to spend €90 for this privilege. But with a web designer, someone who sits at a computer screen all day and “presses a few buttons”, paying them €90 for this seems quite outrageous. Especially when as far as you can see, you just want them to move an image to the other side of the screen.

The reality is that many web designers have plenty of work and can’t be bothered working for someone who refuse to value the work involved in getting your “small change” done. A lot of these cheap web designers come straight out of college or initially started working for you as a nixer. Getting that extra bit of cash is great in the early days. But as soon as they try and make a living out of it, they quickly realise that it’s really not worth it. It doen’t take long to realise that the time spent on your project, would be better spent working for McDonalds, because quite simply, they’d earn a lot more money and get more respect from people enjoying that Big Mac meal than having to listen to constantly justify the bill for the work they have done on your website.

If you are only starting out on the road to web success, you should really read this article to get an idea of the typical situation a web designer endures on a near daily basis : http://www.27bslash6.com/p2p.html – if you think you will easily be able to find the best web designer for your website for next to nothing, think again. The good ones simply don’t come cheap!

Here’s another few tips on choosing the right web designer for your business.

  1. Don’t judge the book by its cover
    The first thing most people do when searching for a web designer is look at the company’s portfolio. Although this will give you a good idea of what kind of work they produce, a lot of a web designers work is client driven. Web designers tend to work on the edge of the latest design fashions. They create websites every day and are therefore ahead of most clients taste in terms of design. Generally speaking the clients drive the style they want and most web design companies will give the clients exactly what they want (to a certain extent!).

    However, good web designers will work with the client and help them understand how best to interact with your website visitors. If you find navigating websites on their portfolio to be poor, chances are that they are too.

  2. Clear Communication
    We come across a lot of disgruntled customers who were unhappy with their last web designer. Not because they were bad at their job, but because they didn’t listen to the client and understand their requirements. A lot of web designers have a clear idea of how a website works and believe one size fits all, which it clearly doesn’t. If your web designer doesn’t share the same vision as you, it’s unlikely to be a good working relationship – so don’t waste your time trying to convince them to your way of thinking. Get someone on the same level.
    There is also a major we like to call “feature creep”. This is where the initial brief for the project changes as the project progresses. In most cases they are minor and a lot of the time the web designer will take the hit without any complaints. However, if these requirements grow or change on a number of occasions, that can seriously dent the web designers motivation to complete the project and therefore the the relationship can become soured. To avoid this, make sure you are 90% clear from the outset as to what you’d like to achieve and let the web designer advice you on the best possible way to approach the rest.
  3. Listen & Learn from their experience
    There’s nothing worse from a web designers perspective than to hear “I read that… so we should really do this”. If the web designer is worth their weight in gold, they would have been around the block and heard this numerous times from their clients.

    This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t question your designer – in fact, it’s the quite opposite. You should constantly ask your web designer for their advice. They will be glad to give it as they will feel happier that they can put their ideas into action and use your website as a great portfolio example.  They work everyday in this business and they have seen what does and doesn’t work.

    Always remember that a lot of what you read is already out of date in terms of web design and web marketing. A good web designer will be ahead of the curve and so detailed in his approach to design that he wouldn’t bore you with the details. But he would get great enjoyment out of explain the reason he used a particular font in a particular part of your site! So my adivce to you is to USE your web designers knowledge as much as possible – but make sure you are prepared to listen and change your mind.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing more a web designer really wants from you other than repeat business and a recommendation to potential clients. It is very much in their interest to make your website a success. It’s the successful clients that recommend them on for more work, which in turn puts food on their table.

The right designer will be passionate about every project they are involved in, to ensure its success. If you don’t feel the passion, don’t use that web designer. Find someone who is – but be very careful, like every industry, there are a lot of fly-by-nights. These web designers just want to make a quick buck from you and they never want to hear from you again. They don’t care if the site succeeds, they are making enough quick cash not to care about repeat business.

At this stage, it’s probably best to wish you all the success with your web project and don’t forget that our company offer web design and web development services – so get in touch if you’d like to discuss your web project with us!

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