I’m currently working with a client on the second version of an eCommerce site.
The first version had a clean, attractive design, but it suffered from a slow load time and numerous little glitches.
And sales have been extremely disappointing.
A large part of the reason for the poor performance of the site is the architecture and the amount of customisations that were incorporated into the core code of the eCommerce platform.
Most of the customisations were unavoidable because of the type of business my client operates, but the fact that they were built into the core code had a number of impacts:
- Upgrades to the core code became really complicated
- Changes to the site often created new glitches in other areas of the site
- The code became very heavy, slowing down page load times
So the second version has been architected very differently.
With my client’s agreement, the offers on the new site will be simpler.
This will enable us to reduce the number of customisations that are necessary, and customisations that are done will be created outside the core code, as external modules – a little bit like plugins in WordPress.
As well as the policy of ‘no changes to the core code’, we also adopted a policy of only creating offers that could be supported by the default functionality of the platform.
And, finally, we reversed the process that was followed in the first version: in the first version the design was done first and then the eCommerce platform was shoe-horned into it.
This time round we created the wireframes and customer journeys first to ensure the functionality was clearly defined and agreed. And now we’re adding the design.
As a result I’m totally happy that the new version of the site will perform well. Page load times will be much improved, as will overall site stability and scalability.
The platform they’re using is a top of the line eCommerce platform so the range of offers that it can support, while simpler than what were previously on the site, is still good.
But will the sales improve?
Only if my client puts up offers that people want to buy, and that they cannot get elsewhere.
eCommerce in Hong Kong is some way behind the development it’s reached in North America and Europe.
This is partly due to how small Hong Kong is. Convenience is one of the benefits of buying online in North America or Europe (overcoming the need to travel to shopping areas), but that doesn’t apply in Hong Kong.
Most people live within the urban areas and, in all those areas, most people live no more than a 10 minute walk away from one of my client’s retail outlets.
Hong Kong people are famous for shopping around for the best deal possible – even a small price advantage is enough to secure the sale.
And to do this they will typically visit several competitive retail outlets and haggle until they get the cheapest possible price.
This is part of the culture (because they like to bargain) but it’s not something they can do online.
So in order for the online shop to be successful visitors have to be convinced up front that the offer is either something they cannot get elsewhere, or its price is unbeatable.
And that has nothing to do with the performance or design of the site.
It’s all about the offer.
My job is to ensure that the new version of the site performs to expectations, but that will not make it successful as a sales channel unless the offers it carries are sufficiently tempting.