A decade of e-commerce

Kate Little

Kate Little

As the Editor of the3rdi magazine I have to confess a special interest in this story. From 1996 to 2007 I ran a hugely successful e-commerce business. We designed our own e-commerce suite which we used to launch our own internet retail company and we leased the software to other companies to allow them to sell their own goods & services over the internet.

In 1996 there was pretty much just Amazon selling on-line, now retail sales are an enormous part of almost every companies income.

So I thought it would be interesting to hear from Kate Little, Client Services Director for leading digital agency Channel 6, a company which has itself has gone from being a sole trader in a bedroom in 1999 to the leading digital agency it is today.
Channel 6 proves business-focused e-commerce web design and internet marketing services for a range of e-commerce clients.

“Our staff are busy with more than 150 clients from across the UK and overseas, and we are constantly striving to stay ahead of the game when it comes to innovative e-commerce web design.

Channel 6, which is based in Edinburgh, launched its current e-commerce software ch-ching five years ago – which gives online retailers a platform from which to sell their goods. Changes in business, technology and internet usage have dramatically altered the way we approach e-commerce web design.

There have been huge changes in e-commerce and web design in recent years. Customers have come to expect more from online shopping, but many opportunities have also opened up for businesses looking to sell their goods via the internet. For example, the introduction of online social networking via sites such as Twitter and Facebook has had a real impact – especially in the past year. Consumers now look for friends’ feedback before buying something. They also find out about new products through friends and trusted blogs and other online sources.

So we are constantly working to make it as easy for our clients and their customers to connect to social networks. Savvy e-commerce sites have already integrated these social networking tools into their websites by providing easy links to Twitter with “tweet me” icons or options to post links to their products on Facebook.

Some e-commerce sites will also personalize the shopping experience for each of their customers by storing information about previous purchases and notifying them about other products they might be interested in. Customer Feedback and product reviews are increasingly featuring on e-commerce and shopping comparison sites giving customers the chance to rate products or even rate the seller in terms of the service they provide, as is being done on Amazon and eBay.

This means even if an online retailer has the cheapest products, a poor seller rating can have a large negative impact upon sales. With information about product and retailer performance available to everyone, customers can now make more educated choices about what they buy and who they buy from than ever before.

Such developments mean our clients have had to enhance their services to retain custom and remain the most competitive retailers on the net. Next day delivery is now an expected option and some large retail sites such as ASOS are now even offering same day delivery to customers – and other etailers will surely follow this trend.

When it comes to selecting items, customers no longer want to be more than two clicks away from finding the product they are looking for, and e-commerce sites have progressed significantly from the websites developed five years ago where they would oftentimes have a huge menu structure to navigate through.

Cutting-edge design is more important than ever as computer hardware and broadband speed and availability has improved over the last few years, meaning websites are now loading really quickly, wider on average and can contain larger image sizes and features. Multiple images of products and zoom features are now expected as standard by customers to allow them to see products they are purchasing in fine detail.

This information has helped to make customers more confident about the quality of online purchases, allowing even the most expensive products to be successfully marketed on the web. For example, diamond jeweller Blue Nile, has been hugely successful and other high-end jewellers have been forced to follow into online retail.

With more and bigger payments being made, shoppers are naturally increasingly tuned in to security online. Channel 6 recently carried out a major audit to ensure our ecommerce software was compliant with new Payment Card Industry standards designed to protect customer’s financial data when buying goods from the retail sites we design.

The next key development to watch will be the handheld device as people are now increasingly use mobile phones to shop online. Taking this into consideration will mean designing sites that are easy to navigate from mobile phones and linking in with e-commerce iphone applications. While technological developments will help our clients reach new markets – another noticeable development for Channel 6 has to be the rise of the e-commerce entrepreneur, especially women.

Prior to 2009 a majority of our customers were men but over the past year, over half of our new clients have been women looking to set up an e-commerce shop. We anticipate that the trend for female e-commerce entrepreneurs will grow, as having an online business fits into the work life balance of many wanting to balance raising a family with having a business.”

You can visit www.ch-6.co.uk/ for further details

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