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Basic ecommerce website-2
Basic ecommerce web site design and development - Part 2

By: Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast

Pre-sales support to encourage sales
In Part 1 of this ecommerce series, we examined various pages that should be included on your site. A good ecommerce site is more than just a home page, product page and shopping cart.

This article examines other pre-sale services you may wish to consider as part of your online sales pitch.


Perhaps the online customer is not yet ready to order? Provide them with an offline reminder by the provision of quick downloading info sheets about your product, valuable information regarding the area that your product or service addresses and contact details in Word or PDF format. The infosheets should contain some of your site's branding elements to assist with recall. This is a part of viral marketing. Read our overview of viral marketing.

Pre-sales email support

Not every question can be answered in a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions page), so offering to answer pre-sales questions should be encouraged and clearly labeled. Rapid response to pre-sales questions will definitely assist in securing online sales.  

If I am interested in purchasing a product, submit queries and don't receive a response within 24 hours - I don't buy the product, no matter how good it appears. Delay in response time could mean poor online support in the future.

When responding to customer enquiries, ensure that your messages are well thought out. Address the question asked thoroughly and offer further support. Sales are also lost through poor spelling and grammar in email messages. View our guide to email etiquette.

Always thank the prospective client for their comments and questions, even if they are being what appears to be slightly unreasonable. You'll find that many customers will have ESL (English as a second language) and it can be quite challenging for them to submit queries. Ask for clarification if you aren't sure of what the client is requesting.

Live chat software  

Another way of encouraging sales is to implement live online customer support. There are many products available now that allow you to communicate with prospective clients over the Internet in real time directly from your web site.

The way that live support operates is through special HTML/JavaScript coding embedded in your site's pages, supplied by the company that you obtain the service from. It detects when a visitor arrives at your online destination. You are then alerted to the arrival by specialized software on your office system via a message from the company.

If you do decide to go ahead with implementing live online customer support, it doesn't have to be an expensive process. View further information on live chat software and support services and try out a free service!

Access to ordering

Having convinced your prospective online client of the benefits of your product or service, it's now time to close the deal. If it takes any more than one click to begin the ordering process, then it's too many. Make sure every page that contains information about your products has 'order now' links in appropriate places.  

The links or buttons should be easy to locate, but not too gaudy - it's a balance of subtlety and promotion. The best place to implement 'order now' links is after paragraphs which detail some positive aspect of the product, or directly after a testimonial from one of your clients.

Shopping carts

In the next installment of "Basic ecommerce web site design", we'll take a look at shopping carts. A shopping cart is a software package that collects customer details, assembles the order, calculates price, shipping and tax, then submits the data to you and a credit card payment gateway for further processing.  

There are many products and services on the market, but it is imperative to find one that suits your business totally and allows scalability. The wrong package could cause you a great deal of headaches and cost you money as your business grows.  

The good news is that there are a number of free shopping cart software packages on the market as well, which may fulfill your requirements.

Read more about selecting suitable shopping carts.  

Related learning resources.

If you're just starting out in the world of ecommerce, we have a wide range of articles and tutorials on Taming the

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Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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Ecommerce website-2