Effective web design and good marketing are integral to e-commerce success.
After a recent article highlighted the challenge of selling online, we decided to follow previous months' tips on charity and university websites design, and look at e-commerce.
First in our series: marketing. A sound marketing strategy can help to address common issues including how to incentivise visitors not to abandon their shopping carts, and how to secure repeat orders.
Take a careful look at your shipping costs
Here e-tailers need to perform a balancing act: Royal Mail's study found that more than 50 percent of e-commerce shoppers abandoned their shopping cart due to shipping costs.
When this is weighed up against the order's value, or the potential revenue from a returning online customer, a few extra pounds for postage and packaging seems a false economy.
However before offering free postage, a company has to consider carefully the impact this might have in terms of smaller, less profitable orders.
If selling prices are adjusted to reflect postage costs, there is the potential for them to become uncompetitive.
One online butchers' strategy is to offer free local delivery for orders of £30, and £60 nationally, taking into account the different costs of courier and local delivery.
Consider a special offer
The highly successful Liz Earle skincare website includes free travel sized samples with every online order.
As well as the obvious incentive this creates for visitors, it also adds a personalised touch which helps to establish the e-commerce site as a continuation of the brand as a whole.
Amazon has used offers to secure the loyalty of their customers with their model for delivery charges, Amazon Prime.
Customers pay an annual fee for an unlimited number of two day deliveries, with net sales quadrupling since its introduction in 2005, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.
Integrate the site with your offline activities
As far as possible, a website should be synchronised with what's on offer in-store.
If you're a smaller business with a personalised service, Facebook and Twitter can be great ways to support this strategy, giving a social context to the shopping experience that a customer enjoys in-store.
Rather than detracting sales from your bricks and mortar outlet, a website and store can both benefit each other, using techniques like advertising an in-store event in a leaflet included in an online delivery.