Gravit-e Blog

December 15, 2014

Why You Should Consider A Custom Ecommerce Website

Custom-ecommerce

 

While there are many online website templates available to build an ecommerce store they do not always allow you to customize and scale according to your business needs.  A custom ecommerce website is ideal for those who want to control every feature and function of their retail presence.  For others a combination of a SaaS ecommerce solution integrated with custom-built features may be the perfect balance. Whether you’re building a retail environment from the ground-up or simply adding a few features to a commercial platform, here are 11 ways that customization sets you apart from the competition:

 

No Lock-In:  When you use a commercial ecommerce platform it has the downside of being locked into the platform.  While you can switch to another platform, the transition will be difficult. With most of the major ecommerce platforms the best you get a CSV export of your product information should you decide to leave.  With a custom-built platform everything built is your intellectual property.

 

Visual Impact: The images and videos used online play a central role in helping the customer decide whether or not to make a purchase. Customizing the visual components of your online store allows you to control all aspects of how your products are displayed.

 

Speed: Most custom solutions use content delivery networks to increase speed, allowing images and video content to load faster.

 

Scalability: Custom ecommerce solutions are typically stored and hosted in the cloud, allowing the business to scale without additional costs.

 

Reporting: You decide what unique information is captured and tracked in order to gain insights relevant to your business.

 

 

Complex Orders and Checkout Processes: Not all retail stores have a simple ‘add to cart, checkout’ process. Some require additional steps, such as explaining their problem and having the business recommend modifications to their order before proceeding to checkout, adding an additional step.

 

In-House Rewards: Through customization you can add a rewards program to promote customer loyalty, such as collecting points, special offers, and rewards for referring friends to the site.

 

Custom Tools: Some ecommerce websites offer tools to help visitors make decisions. For example, the website Clearly Contacts allows users to upload a photo of themselves and virtually try glasses on.

 

Product Recommendation Tools: Built-in questionnaires or live chat areas with personal shoppers can assist visitors with product selection and enhance their customer service experience.

 

Integration:  Custom software can be integrated with your accounting software, inventory, point-of-sales system,  suppliers, and many other applications.  

 

B2B Services: For businesses selling to other businesses, custom solutions are particularly relevant. Customizations may include quote estimation/generation tools, automated invoicing, and online payments without a shopping cart ever even entering the picture.

 

These are just some examples of how customization can enhance your ecommerce site.  Almost anything you imagine that would enhance your online retail environment can be built and added. If you find yourself limited by commercial ecommerce software get in touch and exceed your customer’s expectations.

 

December 01, 2014

7 Dangers of Cheap Commodity Hosting For Applications

Cheap-hosting-dangers

When it comes to application hosting, the old adage ‘You get what you pay for’ rings true.

Poorly selected hosting has the potential to ruin your online business. Downtime can lead to lost sales, users, and customers.  

While cheaper hosting options may be fine for static websites, dangers of cheap commodity hosting for applications include:

 

  1. Performance- Cheap hosts are frequently oversold, running on older hardware, or may be heavily throttled, meaning you only have access to a tiny amount of the server’s resources.There may be ,less attention being paid to monitoring server performance, meaning your website is more likely to go down.  Server speeds may vary from fast to slow.  Cheap shared hosts are also unlikely to support technologies which can speed up site/application response times, as they require more server resources.

 

  1. Reliability- Cheap hosts and dedicated servers often run on the cheapest hardware available with little or no redundancy built in.  Some do not even have RAID drives for virtual data storage, meaning a single hard drive failure can take an entire server offline.

 

  1. Backups-   Cheaper hosting options usually have less comprehensive backup processes, if they do have any at all. At best they typically offer access to one or two backups, one that is a week old, and one that is a day old.  Although this is better than nothing, more frequent data snapshots are invaluable for many applications.  A daily backup may seem all well and good, but if your ecommerce site’s database fails in the afternoon an inadequate backup plan could easily result in you losing a day’s worth of order records.

 

  1. Security-   If you are using a shared server, there are dozens (possibly even hundreds) of other users and sites running on the same server. If one of these users is malicious or one of the other sites is insecure, it gives them a potential attack vector to exploit your own site or application.  These servers are often configured to be as convenient as possible for users, and they may offer direct access to the database server via the internet- a huge security risk.

 

  1. Outdated Software- Cheap commodity hosts are more concerned with maintain stability than staying up-to-date. More often than not, a shared server will only recieve critical updates.

 

  1. Less Support Available- While your website may be running twenty four hours a day 365 days a year, a cheaper hosting company’s help desk may only be available for support during regular business hours in order to cut costs.  Others may not have a support telephone line at all. In addition, these support teams may be overseas and not speak the same language as fluently as you, making it difficult to resolve the issue.

 

  1. Search Engine Optimization- Using a cheap or free hosting companies may negatively impact SEO.  Google penalizes websites for slow load times, downtime, database errors, and caching issues. Having your top level domain hosted on an overseas server, as is often the case with cheap commodity hosting, can result in decreased search rankings. Furthermore, sharing your hosting with spam sites can in turn affect your perceived legitimacy by search engines.

 

While there are many affordable hosting options available to businesses, a hosting option that is free or unusually cheap it is likely a poor choice for hosting an application.  It is still important to exercise caution when selecting a hosting company, regardless of the price point.  Doing online research and reading reviews is a helpful way to avoid bad hosting companies and avoid the pitfalls of cheap commodity hosting.

November 24, 2014

5 Steps To Streamline Your Company's Workflow

Too much on your plate? Why hiring is the last thing you should be doing.

Overwhelmed

Sometimes we become so engrossed in doing work that we forget to examine and question how the work is being done. This is particularly true when we find ourselves overwhelmed and falling behind.  Don’t make the mistake of adding before you subtract. Before you decide to hire an assistant or additional staff it is important to take a step back and evaluate what you can do to  make your business run more efficiently. You may be surprised to find you don’t need to hire many or any new staff members by streamlining the way work flows through your organization.

 

Here are five steps to take to make your work count:

 

Step One: Delegate and Automate

 

As a business owner it is important to understand what role you and only you can play in your company. Are there tasks that should be executed by technology or your staff that you constantly find yourself doing? If there isn’t any existing software that performs the functions you need you can always have software custom designed for your business. Examine how you can automate, delegate, and restructure workflow in your company to ensure everyone is focusing on their core competencies.

 

Step Two: Work Less, Sell More

 

Use Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM).  This will help you communicate more effectively with your customers and determine which ones to focus on.  It is far easier and less expensive to get your existing customers to spend money than acquire new customers.  

 

Form partnerships with businesses with similar target markets that are not in direct competition with you. For example, a catering company may form a partnership with a florist.  Valuable partnerships where you refer customers to one another can help you attract more business without spending time and money on advertising.

 

Step Three: Cut Down On Commutes

 

When possible try to get your meetings done through video conferencing.  This can save precious time and cut down on transportation, food, and coffee expenditures.

 

Step Four: Get Organized

 

Keep your workspace organized to avoid looking for lost items.  For parts of your workspace that are shared ask your staff if the current organization methods work for them.  Sometimes we organize our entire business in a way that makes sense to us without considering how easy it is for our employees to find and retrieve the same information.

 

Don’t neglect online organization.  Although a messy computer desktop isn’t as unsightly as a real work desk it can waste just as much time.  You can clean up your online workspace by:

 

  • Keeping the way you name files and where you store them consistent.

  • Having a document that contains your many usernames and passwords or using password management software such as Roboform.

  • Using a cloud based file sharing application such as Cubby or Dropbox.

  • Effectively using folders in your email.  Labelling your folders things such as ‘invoices’, ‘leads’, and ‘receipts’ can save you time in the event you need to recall an email.



Step Five: Eliminate Time Wasters

 

The internet is full of distractions.  You may have gone on your Facebook page just to post a status update for your business and found yourself still clicking through pictures and articles an hour later. Be vigilant. Over the course of a week take note of activities that are not productive such as:

 

  • Reading articles that aren’t relevant to your business

  • Getting engaged in lengthy social media conversations

  • Over reliance on email. Sometimes is better to pick up the phone rather than let the conversation drag out over the course of one or more days.




While many of these productivity tips may seem like no-brainers, even the best of us fall prey to time  wasters from time to time.  Be aware of how you and your employees are spending their time and spot bottlenecks before they happen. Ensure your technology is working for you rather than you working for your technology.  If your software isn’t working the way you need it to or you’re programs don’t work together consider having custom software built for you or having your programs integrated by a development company such as Gravit-e.

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