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Source: InternetDay.com

Posted on August 24, 2001

      A formula for e-commerce success should always be viewed holistically as the sum of interacting e-commerce elements. An effective e-commerce Web site is one in which various technical and design components all work together to generate customer interest, garner consumer trust, communicate product value and facilitate convenient, unimpeded transaction.

      Achieving e-business goals requires that all your e-commerce processes are streamlined and optimized. A winning e-commerce formula ensures that once a visitor reaches your site, every link in the process of buying from you flows smoothly, conveniently and professionally. Successful e-commerce is effortless e-commerce -- and that means avoiding e-commerce hazards that can lead to "transaction turbulence."

What is Transaction Turbulence?

      Transaction turbulence occurs when obstacles on your Web site or deficiencies in your e-commerce platform hinder or derail an online transaction. It occurs on Web sites where the process of communication is disorganized or easily interrupted; where Web site usability is awkward or inconvenient; where potential customers feels uneasy about transacting business with you; or where flexibility is sacrificed and essential shopper needs are not met.

      Abandoned shopping carts and deserted order pages are the most common overt symptoms of transaction turbulence. However, transaction turbulence can begin the moment an online shopper enters your site -- the very moment you need to be building value for your product or service, differentiating your brand or signaling your e-commerce legitimacy. Above all, to be successful on the Internet, you need to be taken seriously.

Common Causes of Transaction Turbulence

      Turbulent Commerce: Typically, business owners discover the limitations of their e-commerce systems only after they've spent a sizeable amount of money on them -- or after limitations paralyze business growth. What kind of transaction turbulence can you expect from a "limited" e-commerce solution? Besides shopper frustration with disorganized or flimsy catalog systems, there are the myriad transaction errors that come with poorly developed (or poorly integrated) e-commerce software components/APIs. Also, sluggish credit card authorization times, transaction bottleneck errors, no direct access to major processing networks and overt security hazards can make doing business on your site either awkward or incomprehensible. The key? Invest wisely.

      Inadequate Hosting: An e-commerce Web site is only as powerful as its hosting platform. Inadequate e-commerce hosting solutions often translate as slow loading systems, uneven or error-laden performance, limited bandwidth, recurrent downtime and Internet connectivity from communications backwaters. In simple terms, this means lost sales. Transaction turbulence is avoided with high-bandwidth hosting on a solid hardware/software platform, complete backup redundancy, and direct, high-speed connections to local and global Internet communications backbones.

      Ineffective Content: Clear communication is central to effective e-commerce. Communicate the unique value of your product or service, articulate its direct consumer benefits, differentiate beyond price and provide a clear sketch of the any online process involved in acquiring your product. Use persuasive, action-oriented content that works (from testimonials to bulleted benefits to case studies) and experiment with various sales overtures and value propositions until you find the sales process that works best for you.

      Deficient Navigation or Poor Web Site Usability: Everyone assumes that their navigation system and sales flow is transparent, intuitive, logical and clutter-free. However, the truth is, even good Web sites need constant fine-tuning. Analyzing traffic data will usually tell you if there are weak spots or dead ends on your Web site where visitors lose interest, get confused or simply etherize.

      Here are some questions to ask your log file: Is there too much information on your Web site -- or not enough? Are visitors getting distracted or overwhelmed -- or are they plain underfed? How deep do visitors get into your site and how long do they stay on critical pages? How many make it to the order interface? And of those, how many complete the transaction? Finally, how many visitors are going the wrong way -- reading self-indulgent press releases and corporate mission statements -- when they should be on your sales channel? Locate symptoms of turbulence, diagnosis problems and optimize.

      Flash Liability: Theoretically, a quick Flash intro can transmit a concentrated marketing message in an interest-snagging, multimedia format. It may also be a misplaced atavism from another media (TV) that both restricts Internet user control and disrupts the flow of normal hypertext activity. Contraindicated for most e-commerce Web sites, a Flash intro can be a bit superfluous if not a total liability. If you opt for Flash, make sure you leave a "skip it" option. And only go multimedia if it truly builds value for your product or brand -- in a usable Internet context.

Troubleshooting for Transaction Turbulence

      Eliminating transaction turbulence means optimizing your Web site for impact, performance and usability. From e-commerce first impressions to the performance of host servers and e-commerce software, transaction troubleshooting should be a holistic, inclusive analysis of everything that makes your Web site go.

      Does your Web site instantly establish your e-commerce credibility and provide immediate orientation for your visitors -- with clear choices and honed marketing messages that emphasize the right points? Does your Web site download rapidly and reliably? Does it provide a clear, streamlined sales channel and a direct, unobstructed conduit towards whatever objective you want to achieve (contact forms, order forms, online sales, etc.)? Do you finish with a compelling call to action?

      Eliminating transaction turbulence comes down to grasping the logic of the Internet itself. Above all, the Web is about the power of (hypertextual) choice and self-determination -- and e-commerce is about enabling customers to take control of their shopping experience. Does your e-commerce platform empower visitors with a necessary spectrum of options and satisfy their needs for security and ease-of-use?

      Because increasingly high shopper expectations must be met or exceeded on your site, a streamlined, shopper-friendly Web site with easy-to-use e-commerce tools is a cornerstone of successful online business.

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