Ecommerce Websites and the Business User: Design Considerations
The modern ecommerce website is required to do a number of things at once. It has to provide a powerful promoter of the brand that owns it; it has to be a place where brand fans (they used to be called customers) can go to get more than just products; and it needs to be a connected part of the web at large, a focus if you like for all the web chatter about and dispersed references to the brand in question.
It also has to have an increasing relevance to the real world, specifically in terms of how the modern consumer discovers and buys his or her products and services. Websites are no longer things that are looked at only in the comfort of the office or the home. They have migrated even from the coffee shop or the pub with a WiFi connection to the pocket of the person on the street and in the store.
At the touch of a screen, a savvy shopper can call up the internet right at the point of purchase and may make a final buying decision based on what he or she finds out. Or he or she may discover something physical, either an example of a brand’s products in the real world, or a physical object (like a sticker or poster) advertising it. Again, he or she pulls out his or her phone to see if he or she can get one for himself or for herself.
Two considerations for the designer of the ecommerce site pop up in these paragraphs already. First, a web page now has to work just as well on a tiny touch screen as it does on a swanky wide screen home computer. Second, it has to, or at least it should, be capable of taking the real-world interactions of the consumer one step further and turning them into genuine purchasing or information-gathering opportunities.
This last point is skirting around the area of augmented reality, which of course is the big buzz phrase in the online industry at the moment. In essence, AR (they do love their initials) combines the online world with the physical world at a point where the two become actually indivisible: so you can’t fully experience the real-world item without plugging into the net.
In terms of modern site design, this points to the QR code. QR stands for Quick Response: the code in question is that black and white square you see on food packets or on stickers in shop windows. A person with a smart phone can scan the code and it can be taken to the brand’s ecommerce site.
In terms of how ecommerce sites now work for the brands that own them, then, the answer really is that they form a nexus of all their fans’ engagement activities. From research to on the spot decisions, the home page of a brand is no longer “just a storefront” – it’s actually the AR link between the real-world manifestations of the business and its online amplification.
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