Anatomy of the Online Store

Some of these parts, electronic product catalogs, were related to structure and were developed in a variety of database-driven architectures. The online store that relies solely on a database-driven product database is weak and cannot withstand competition or support customer needs. These early electronic catalogs displayed long lists of products to online customers. They lacked intuitive organization and structure.A strong online store is dependent on having the right elements, which consist of structure, form, and navigation. It is also dependent on having the right product mix, sufficient customer research, intuitive navigation and ease of use, and a good delivery and fulfillment mechanism. Information must be adequate and appropriate. The basic elements of the store €”the web pages €”must fluidly guide the customers to desired destinations. Customer-centered web design reverses the typical development order for websites. The typical method is to take an existing product database and build a user interface on top of it to accommodate the existing category structure. The customer-centered method starts with the user interface and builds the database structures and content to accommodate the page layout and content requirements of the customer and merchant. The user interface requires specific online merchandising techniques to influence effectiveness and design simplicity.

Online Store Benchmarking

We developed and used the following process:

  1. Establish search criteria.
  2. Develop a metrics scorecard.
  3. Conduct the evaluation.
  4. Map out purchase process flow issues.
  5. Purchase products.
  6. Total the scores.
  7. Recommend improvements.

Recommendations were supported by annotated screen captures. Recommendations were detailed in an overall recommendations/assessment document that lists good and confusing aspects of navigation by area and category. It also noted best practices that reinforced what appeared to work well within the site.

A meeting was conducted with the online merchant to share key findings and deliver recommendations on online store improvement as it related to category profitability. Store executives, buyers, merchandisers, and members of the IT department attended the meeting, because all have an influence on the online store design.