In this first issue of e-Business review, it seems appropriate to begin with one of the first, and still one of the best, e-commerce sites:Amazon.com.
Its excellence is due in part to a fanatical devotion to service. Many new entrants in the e-commerce field seem to think that online commerce somehow does away with this fundamental component of business. In fact, service becomes even more crucial online where a rival Web site is just a mouse click away.
Points to note are: the easy navigation through the site; an uncluttered style that makes good use of the whole Web page; plenty of editorial to inform people you buy; lots of user comment which is testimony that a good e-commerce site is one that creates its own community; and a smooth and well-explained checkout process, including the use of one-click buttons that allow customers to buy with little effort.
It is instructive to compare this model with a site from another well-known name in retailing, www.hmv.co.uk. Its e-commerce site begins promisingly, with a stylish opening page. But the design soon reveals itself as inefficient, in that it reduces the main window to a small box surrounded by menus and other items that are not necessary at every stage of the buying process.
Navigation through the site is difficult. The search engine is often ineffectual - either nothing is found or visitors are confronted with huge lists of hundreds of matches. This is bad enough, but it is compounded by the fact that there is very little editorial about the items if the user does manage to locate them.
In short, Amazon.com does all it can to make the buying experience pleasant through good design, good editorial and a sense of community - and easy. HMV's, by contrast, places too many obstacles in the path of the potential purchaser, has little editorial and no community aspect to encourage a sense of belonging on the part of the visitor - with obvious consequences for the conversion rate.
Comparing the two