Once you have decided to include e-commerce functionality in your online presence, it is useful to remain mindful of the end user experience
when designing it. This requires you to think about what the overall process for completing a transaction is and what information will give the customer, supporter or donor the best and most useful
information to lead them to complete the transaction (and, hopefully, come back again).
To fully harness the benefits of e-commerce, it is important to minimise the reasons for customers, donors or supporters to drop out
midway through a transaction, such as inadequate information about shipping costs or poor delivery options.
The type of e-commerce functionality you adopt may depend on the level of investment you are prepared to make in your online
presence. You can choose either to build a payment or donation facility into your website or to establish your commercial presence on a third party marketplace.
CHOOSING YOUR E-COMMERCE PLATFORM
When getting started in e-commerce you can choose to set up your own e-commerce enabled website or to sell through an existing online
marketplace. Existing marketplaces such as auction sites (for example,eBay) provide quick and easy ways to get started because they provide off-the-shelf shopping cart and payment functionality.
Making your products and services available through well known e-commerce marketplaces can also make your offerings visible to large amounts of traffic from people who are already browsing these
However, selling through third party e-commerce websites may reduce your margins and can limit the terms on which you transact with
customers and build lasting relationships with them. Establishing your own e-commerce website gives you the flexibility to tailor each part of it as required, and to integrate it more closely with
your customer relationship management system to, for example, establish a customer loyalty program or track the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Many people initially start selling through
third party sites and then establish their own e-commerce enabled website when they want more control and flexibility.
DESIGNING THE PROCESS
Typically, standard online customer transactions will follow a process that is very much like shopping in the physical
- Browsing through the goods or services on offer
- Selecting the items desired to be purchased
- Placing these in a (virtual) shopping cart
- Proceeding to the checkout
- Arranging for the delivery of the goods or services
- Paying for the purchases via a payment gateway and your designated payment method
However, there are also a number of other important things to consider if you are planning to transact online with customers (or, in
the case of community organisations, members or supporters). For example, you need to:
- Establish trust with your potential customers so that they are comfortable purchasing from you online.
- Have robust systems in place to ensure you meet the expectations you create for your customers. This includes adequate delivery systems
and the ability to provide customer support and respond effectively to complaints.
- Have effective strategies in place to ensure that your organisation is protected, as far as possible, from people trying to defraud you
(such as by paying with a bogus credit card). See privacy and security for more information.
PROVIDING RELATED PAYMENT INFORMATION
An important part of building up the trust of a customer, supporter or donor so that they make a payment to you online is to ensure
that you provide them with sufficient information about the online payment process. This can include making sure that:
- The user knows the exact charge—including all taxes and if applicable, shipping costs, etc.
- The user knows all they need to know about donating or spending money with you—including policies on returns, refunds and
you are confident you can meet the expectations you create for your customer, donor or supporter, including delivery within the
committed time period.
Much of this information can be brought to the user’s attention during the virtual shopping cart process and with reminder buttons
and links on the payment page.
Your online payment process should also:
- Clearly explain what goods, services or membership you are selling, so that your customers have realistic
- Clearly state how and when you will deliver the goods or services, or activate membership. For example, if you are supplying physical
goods this will include:
- Specifying the delivery time customers should expect.
- How you will deliver the goods and what the customer’s obligations are for receiving the goods.
- How the customer can contact you if the goods do not arrive on time.
- What action you will take in their favour if the goods do not arrive.
- Provide a method of collecting payment in a way that is convenient and that your visitors will find familiar and
- Provide contact details for people to contact you (a phone number, email address or online chat service) for more information prior to a
transaction, to resolve issues and address complaints.
- State the terms and conditions governing purchases from your website, including the responsibilities of customers (such as providing an
accurate delivery address) and policies for cancellations and refunds.
Consider allowing customers to leave public comments on your website about their experiences. This shows faith in your own
organisation’s capability. If you provide good service and meet expectations, then the positive comments will greatly improve the levels of trust for new prospective customers, members or supporters.
It also gives you the opportunity to publicly state how you did respond to any negative experiences.