The 6 Technical Foundations of an eCommerce Website
If the recent economic disruption wrought by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic demonstrated anything, it's the fact that businesses need to embrace digital sales as a matter of their long-term survival. Those that already had an online presence were in a much better position to adapt when in-person retail sales ceased and shoppers turned to the internet to purchase everything they needed. Those that didn't faced the difficult task of cobbling together temporary solutions or closing entirely.
Now that nationwide restrictions are being lifted and Australia's businesses are starting on the path to normalcy, that doesn't mean they should forget the often-costly lessons they just learned. That means they should start making plans now to build or upgrade their digital presence and step up efforts to promote digital sales to the greatest extent possible. To help them do that, here are the six most important technical foundations of a business eCommerce website.
1. Reliable Web Hosting
Just as a house is only as stable as its foundations, a website is only as reliable as the host that serves its pages to visitors. That's why the most important part of building an eCommerce website is to choose a web host that has a solid track record as well as the capacity to handle as much traffic as the business can generate. There are several options to choose from, and the best choice is dependent on the specific type of site the business requires as well as the geographic location where the majority of site users are located.
2. Bulletproof Security
Since the main purpose of an eCommerce site is to facilitate and process transactions, it must include security features to keep user data safe and secure. The most basic security feature is, of course, that the site uses SSL encryption to protect all traffic passing between it and the customers it serves. Making that happen requires the purchase of an SSL certificate that proves to each visitor that the site they're connecting to is who it says it is. It also lets the client know that it's safe to establish an encrypted two-way connection, which makes it impossible for anyone to eavesdrop on any data passing back and forth.
3. Top-Notch Shopping Cart Software
No matter what kind of design is chosen for an eCommerce site, it's easy to make the argument that there's one part of it that no business can afford to get wrong: the site's shopping cart. It's a feature that has an outsize effect on the site's ability to convert visitors into customers, and there are a variety of options to suit multiple use cases. It's not a stretch to say that choosing the right shopping cart software can make or break an eCommerce site, so it's something business owners should put plenty of thought into before committing to one.
4. A Flexible Payment Gateway
Today's shoppers expect businesses to give them flexibility in all things. They want customer service provided in whatever way makes them most comfortable, they want multiple choices for every item type, and most of all, they want the flexibility to pay for purchases using the method of their choice. For businesses, that means it's necessary to enlist the services of a flexible payment gateway that offers shoppers multiple ways to pay for their purchases. PayPal is, of course, the most well-known option. They're not the only one though. Some, like BitPay, even allow customers to make purchases using cryptocurrencies, which is becoming quite popular with online shoppers.
5. Low-Cost Shipping Options
One of the big advantages of eCommerce sites is that they offer shoppers a fast, convenient way to buy the products they want and need. But none of that will matter if they have to pay a fortune to get the things they buy brought to their doorstep. For that reason, an eCommerce website needs to offer low-cost shipping options that will keep total prices reasonable and customers coming back for more. It's fine to charge extra for expedited services, but the goal should always be to carefully balance delivery times with costs and to give customers options beginning with standard, inexpensive parcel post.
6. A Content Delivery Network
For any business that hopes to create an eCommerce site that can handle high volumes of traffic without slowing to a crawl, the final piece of the puzzle is to add a content delivery network (CDN) into the mix. A CDN uses a large distributed server network to cache webpages and site assets to deliver them to visitors faster than a single server could ever hope to match. That helps assure a great user experience for shoppers, but also makes the site more resilient against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that can render them inoperable.
Prepared for the Future
For Australian businesses who've made it through the coronavirus crisis, speeding up their transition to digital sales is critical. Even before the current situation forced the issue, it was an economic transition that was already well underway. Taking steps to get a viable eCommerce site up right now is not only good business, but it's also a forward-looking way to ensure a business's long-term survival. In the final analysis, there are almost too many reasons to make the switch, and no reasonable reasons not to. All one must do is look at the businesses that failed to survive because they were utterly dependent on brick-and-mortar sales. With that in mind, the right business decision should be an obvious one.