Earlier studies on effectiveness of e-commerce
The interaction between the users and the information technology and the ease of accebility of software interfaces contribute a lot towards the effectiveness of e-commerce. For the interfaces to be effective, the designers have to remember that user interaction with information technology affects subsequent user behaviour (Widing, RE. and W.W. Halarzyk, 1993). Some researchers have reached the conclusion that using information search costs principle, developers can design effective web sites. For example, Alba et al. 1997 concluded that when quality information is easier to search for and compare, consumers seem to become less sensitive to price and so buy more expensive goods and services. Hogue and Lohse, 1999 used a survey to predict how subtle changes in the user interface design influenced information search costs. They found that several web design factors (such as use of graphics, choice of media, and ease of use) affect information search costs and consequently the consumers' behaviour. Meadow and his colleagues 1995 concluded that the type of interface affects performance and that users adapt their behaviour to interfaces differently. They maintain that a properly designed interface can stimulate system use and increase productivity while reducing learning time. Kang and Seong 1998 concluded that the development of effective measures for the complexity of interface design based on a proper model is desirable in order to improve human performance. Soloway and Pryor, 2000 maintain that interface design should not only support “doing tasks” but also “learning while doing tasks.” They add that “ease of use” is valuable but too limited a vision and that today's design should focus on nurturing the intellectual growth of the users. For example, the web site designer should be concerned with how a web browser should fade its scaffolding when a user has demonstrated his or her ability to effectively search on the web.
According to Nielsen 1999, to develop an effective web site, the designers should keep in mind these guidelines.
- The majority of users don't read; they only scan for information;
- The author's personality may make a difference in a site's attractiveness;
- The majority of users are not patient; they do not tolerate promotional features;
- The search capability is of critical importance;
- Download time can make all the difference;
- Animation and the use of frame are not liked by most users;
- Smaller images and maps are preferred.
Several authors, mostly in trade journals and on web pages, have provided lists of features that contribute to the design ot an effective web site. The following section briefly explains the design features cited in the literature, and these features were used as variables in the present study.
Prigent 1999 provides a list of important design features that includes cohesion. DeMarco, 1978, p. 310 defines cohesion as “a measure of the strength of association of the elements inside a module” and Fertuck 1995, p. 450 adds “the degree to which a module serves a single purpose.” In web site design, each page should be considered as a design module. Making sure that all the items on one page belong together and relate to a single theme or purpose provides cohesion. Web sites that present many different topics to their visitors, e.g., company mission, products, quality ratings, etc., need to present each topic on a separate web page and provide appropriate links to these pages.
Consistency of user interfaces across applications has been explored by some authors and has led to interface design standards advocated by many industry leaders. It is generally agreed that consistency of interfaces across applications can facilitate transfer of learning and ease of use because if all applications look and operate the same, a user can draw on existing knowledge when using a new application (Bennett, J.L 1986). Kellogg 1987 studied the consistency of the interface of an electronic mail application and concluded that the more consistent the interface, the more benefits users gain from the application. Satzinger and Olfman 1998 examined the effects of consistency on the development of mental models that result from multiple applications and concluded that the more consistent the interface, the more actions or tasks the users completed per time unit. They also observed that consistency could lead to more errors by the users. Gerlach and Kuo 1991 had earlier observed that consistency is critical to the ease of learning and as such the interface design should be based on the user's task instead of consistency guidelines as advocated by industry leaders. Detweiler and Omanson 1998 state that the more logical and consistent the overall layout of the site and its pages are, the easier it will be for viewers to quickly scan categories, particularly with repeated visits. According to Norman 1988, consistency is critical in that it reduces cognitive overhead. Consistency is achieved by establishing site wide harmony and units in terms of graphics, logo, typographic elements, and other layout considerations. Similar fonts and colors, pictures that match the topic and graphics that are similar in tone, foster harmony. If the pages are inconsistent, the visitors will have to spend extra time trying to learn how to find answers to their questions. The grouping of objects with similar functions can enhance consistency. Schwier and Misanchuk 1993 have provided a list of things that enhance consistency as follows:
- Style of presentation from one section of the sequence to another is similar,
- Placement of items such as orientation information, navigation devices, user input, feedback, or operating instructions;
- Use of color,
- Use of access structures such as headings;
- Use of cues such as font, bolding, italics, and color,
- Style of graphics; and
- Similar interaction behavior required in similar situations.
Applying the findings of the studies cited above to web site design points to the fact that maintaining consistency from one web page to another and across different applications within a given industry can help commercial web site users understand the information better. Consistency is likely to lead to routine cognition, which in turn may encourage users to repeat visits to the site. Card et al. 1983 present the argument that routine cognitive skills can be described as a sequence of cognitive operations and motor activities. Each routine skill has a time parameter that is derived from expert, error-free performance of computer-based tasks. As a site visitor becomes familiar with the operation of a web site they will more likely continue using it and return to it at a later time.
For users not to leave the site, navigation must be easy and simple. Toolbars should be used along with text to permit nongraphic users to navigate through the site. The site should provide the user with navigation options at the top and bottom of each page. Prigent 1996 maintains that attractive navigation tools can increase the interest of the user. Morris 1998 provides a detailed lesson on navigation. He underscores the importance of navigation by stating that no matter how good a site looks or how much useful information it offers, the users will be confused and discouraged if the site does not have a sensible navigation scheme. According to Shneiderman 1998, web designers can help users navigate through their applications by applying traditional design guidelines with the particular requirements of the web site in mind:
- Arrange information carefully so users will always know where they are in the application.
- Do not tempt users to interrupt their work by following links to other pages either in the application or on another site.
- Hide the split between the browser and the application by including navigational controls in the application.
- Preserve the context of an interaction so users do not need to recreate it in the middle of their work.
Good navigation often leads to ease of use and ease of use has been identified as an important information technology attribute that attracts users and which can lead to greater user satisfaction. Davis 1989 defined ease of use as the degree to which a user believes that using a system would be free from difficulty or great effort. He found that the relationship between ease of user and performance could vary over time depending on the task environment. In effect, the ease of use variability could be a function of prior learning experience or changes in the environment. The number of studies on this topic indicates the theoretical importance of ease of use. Bandura's 1982 work on the topic of self-efficacy supports the concept that ease of use is important in determining user's behavior. He defines selfefficacy as “judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations.”
One of the most important traits a web site should have is interactivity. Customers and visitors should be provided with a feedback mechanism through either an e-mail link or a posting section for comments or both. Good interactivity engages the user and makes your site memorable. The Web is an interactive hypermedia communications medium that your web site should reflect. King 2000 maintains that sites that involve the user and have a sense of fun or adventure will get more hits, and can charge more for ad space. Another advantage of interactivity is self-generating content. According to King, by allowing your visitors to interact with your site they actually create content for you. Script-driven user surveys and forums allow visitors to share information with others and can help shape your site to better serve their needs when you update your web site. Forum or chat software is another great way to do this,
Graphics and Aesthetics Issues
Consistency of graphics and logos develops an image or a model in the mind of the user that, in turn, enhances learning and the level of comfort. Detweiler and Omanson 1998 maintain that although graphics are an important part of the Web, many users still use browsers such as Lynx that only display text, and many users still access Web resources over relatively slow (9600 or 14,400 bits per second) modems. For these reasons, the designers should be careful not to use items that take a long time to load, since users may become easily frustrated with having to wait. Size of graphics should be kept small to speed load. Instead of using a single large image on a page, shared background and window colors with small graphics should be used.
Response Time (Download Time)
Neilsen 1999 surveyed web users to identify the top ten mistakes of web design and found 84% of the participants citing poor response time as a major mistake. He concluded that slow response times are the worst offender against web usability. Slow response time is not only caused by poor design but also other factors such as server performance and volume of traffic. Typically, the users do not care about the causes; they simply conclude that the site does not provide good service and so move on to other sites. Neilsen 1999 maintains that 15 seconds is the maximum response time before an average user loses interest. Wilson (33) states that animations are incredibly distracting and that most of them have no important purpose. Animations require much larger files than text and thus contribute greatly to excessive download time and should be avoided.
This actually attracts users away from your site to another site. In fact, the Chairman of the Internet Advertising, LeFurgy 1998 has enumerated the challenges facing Internet marketing to include gaining consumer acceptance, developing appropriate advertising models and creating an audience measurement system. In her recent article titled, “Ads Show Up Almost Everywhere,” Caroline Mayer (Washington Post, February 7, 2000) asserts that the proliferation of ads could backfire. She quotes Diane Cimine, Executive Vice President of Marketing for the Outdoor Advertising Association, as saying, “Ultimately, consumers are not stupid. If they realize that every two minutes there will be an interruption for some ad, it will be detrimental. They will be annoyed, not at the medium but at the company pitching the ads.” She also quotes Gene Kimmelman, Codirector of the Washington office of Consumers Union, as saying, “It's bad enough consumers are getting bombarded with new forms of ads, but even worse if the companies are surreptitiously creating more dead time to sell more ads.”
Steel 1999 has written extensively about frames. Frames are sub-windows displayed within the main window of the user's screen. They may be resizable and be independently scrollable, or they may be fixed in size and position while the rest of the window scrolls. They may be used to provide a corporate banner or toolbar menu. Frames may look good on a large, high resolution monitor, but they create serious problems on smaller, lower-resolution monitors. According to Steel 1999, when this happens, the viewer may resent having to devote valuable screen real estate to a non-scrolling logo or tool bar that cannot be minimized or deleted from an already limited viewing space. Another disadvantage with frames is that a page accessed within a frame cannot easily be printed or added to the user's bookmark file on some systems.
Other features have been cited in trade journals as being important for determining web site effectiveness. Some of the features include use of colors (Steel 1999, Wilson D, 1999), use of language (Morris, C. 1998, Neilsen 1999), and basic web site maintenance (Neilsen 1999). These features were not included in this study since the review of the appropriate periodicals did not converge to a consensus of the importance of these factors.
Measurement of Effectiveness
The goal of an effective commercial web site for most organizations is to create an attractive presence that meets the objectives of their businesses. According to Schneider and Perry (2000, p. 246), the objectives of an effective web site include:
- Attracting visitors to the web site;
- Making the site interesting enough that visitors stay and explore;
- Convincing visitors to follow the site's links to obtain information;
- Creating an impression consistent with the organization's desired image; and
- Reinforcing positive images that the visitor might already have about the organization.
The objectives listed above are based on the underlying premise that the more frequently a customer visits a web site, the greater the possibility the visitor will make a purchase. This premise is an old one that has guided the retailing industry on the use of advertisement, store layout, and promotional discount (Lewison, D.M. 1997). According to this premise, the more people you have visiting the store or retailing system, the more planned and unplanned purchases will take place. In the present study, effectiveness was measured by how impressed the users were with the web sites visited and consequently how willing they would be to revisit a site. The assumption here is that if a site is attractive to visitors, they will be impressed and they will be likely stay and explore the site and also return to visit the site again at a later time. Another assumption that is based on retailing literature (Lewison, D.M. 1997) is that the more frequently a customer visits a web site, the more likely they will purchase goods or services from the site.
Reason for moving to internet marketing:
“The number one fear professionals have about Internet marketing is the ability to obtain or gain their target audience online” (Harris V, 2005). Unlike traditional marketing, there are no pre-determined prospects that companies can discuss or send their promotional messages to and maintain a sense of security that they are received. Professionals must understand the following Internet trends:
- 95% of purchasing agents use the web to research products and services, B2B Magazine Survey.
- 73% of C-Level executives depend on the Internet to learn about new products or services, Emarketer.
- In general, there are 184-million Internet users in America alone. When purchasing a product or service, 68.3% of Internet users utilize search engines during the consideration or research phase while 42.6% use search engines to make their decision, (www.webpronews.com, 2005)
The Internet is used to make professional and consumer purchasing decisions by millions of Internet users everyday and there are tools available that have made it easier for these users to narrow their searches in order to find the specific products and services they are looking for. Key Internet features that have made it easier to find particular products and services online include:
- Keyword selection tools enable companies to optimize their website for the specific keyword(s) they believe their target audience will use to find their products and/or services online
- Search engines have sophisticated local and product (i.e. Google Local and Froogle) search options available to gain more controlled results
- Pay-per-click advertisements can be tailored to display within local searches
- E-mail marketing can be used to send targeted e-mail to select customers. (Harris V, 2005).
There are Internet marketing methods available that enable companies to define and capture their target audiences. Upon establishing a website online, it is important that companies utilize Internet marketing strategies in order to achieve their marketing objectives. (Harris V, 2005).
Why is traditional marketing still important?
“When it comes to marketing and advertising your services, it really is a jungle out there. Although there are many different forms of marketing, lately everybody seems to be dancing to the tune of internet marketing not realizing the fact that traditional marketing isn't out of beat yet, and I sincerely doubt it ever will be.” (Ritu, 2008)
The traditional approach shouldn't be undermined just because somthing is offered ‘internet related'. There are certain medium of traditional marketing such as television commercial, radio advertisements, newspaper and the king-word of mouth. Below these mediums of traditional marketing are discuss in brief.
Advertisement on television:
A commercial on a TV cost quite a bit but the turnaround is equally impressive. Ritu, 2008 before company venture out into this method of marketing they have to make sure that they have enough resources to meet the expectations of the potential clients. A firm will have much more business coming in than they would when they rely solely on internet marketing. Tv ads may not be good for every type of business. A 15 second commercial alone will expose company's service to millions if not billions of people in a matter of minutes. A commercial on TV cannot be ignored (well, you can always change the channel). It all depends on how fast a firm wants to grow and what resources they have as they convert those people who are watching there advertisement into clients. T.V. is a big form of advertisement and if a firm really want to grow their service or business, this is one thing that they should not ignore. No doubt, it costs money but company might gain return on that investment by couple folds.
Just like radio channels, there are national newspapers, state newspapers, country newspapers and town newspapers. It is really simple to get an ad in a newspaper and it's also the cheapest option. If a business can handle the business that might come from advertising on a state newspaper, by all means then it should be executed. If not then a company can try to take advantage of their town newspaper, it's cheaper too. Unlike radio, advertising in a newspaper is much cheaper. One doesn't have to buy an ad on the very first page or anything, just needs to pay some more money to put one on classified section. Although it might be a small ad but it cannot underestimate the fact that a lot people look in the classified section. (Eric Herskowitz, 2009).“When I started my residential cleaning business in my hometown, I had about 25 calls the very next day, which I think is pretty impressive. The fact is, many people will pay to get their house cleaned.” (Eric Herskowitz, 2009).
Word of Mouth (wom):
The major advantage that word of mouth marketing holds over every other form of marketing is the in-built power of recommendations. People trust the recommendations of others and hold that in much higher regard than anything a company could ever say. Word of mouth marketing is also relatively cheap, in that the marketing itself is carried out by customers. Companies only have to provide the tools and help form communities, which once established require minimum maintenance, yet continue to provide huge ongoing benefits.(Grewal, R, et al 2003).
Companies can sometimes come unstuck when carrying out word of mouth marketing. To begin with, not all products are suited to word of mouth. If a company have an extremely niche product attempting to form communities is likely to fail, and even if they do encourage their customers to talk about them they may be unlikely to ever come in contact with another person matching your target audience. Some products may be essential but are simply dull. Without having an exciting element to their product they're likely to struggle when it comes to getting people to talk about it. However, all is not always lost. No one would have considered hoovers as the most enthralling purchase, and yet Dyson turned all this around with his innovative ‘see-through' hoovers. (Shin and Annys, 2006)