Introduction Invention of the computer and World Wide Web has revolutionalized business and the manner in which corporations carry out their processes. Marketing, retailing and advertising have evolved phenomenally; marketers use the internet as a market place, consumers’ access and choose goods and service on the internet, firms use the internet as an advertising medium. Not long ago, buyers would make enquiries or order goods and services through mail but now it is even more convenient through online purchasing. Online retailing involving general household merchandise has been the most affected. Discount retailers and supermarkets in general such as Wal-Mart have taken to online stores in addition to the traditional stores.
However, there are exclusively online stores such as Amazon. com and eBay. The service industry has also taken up online retailing of their services best displayed by the tour, travel and hospitality industry. In analyzing the use of e-commerce, this paper will analyze two industries, consumer retailing and the tour, travel and hospitality industry. Under the consumer retailing industry, the paper will analyze Lastminute. com and Thomas Cook. Under the consumer retailing industry, the paper will analyze eBay, Amazon and the online arm of Wal-Mart stores.
In this analysis, the paper looks at the suitability of these websites for online shopping and assess whether they meet the standard requirements for a good website according to mainstream literature on a standard e-commerce website. Online retiling versus in-store retailing There exists a lot of information on standard effective web designs with varying factors and considerations to be made. The industry in which an e-commerce firm operates basically determines the web design layout and the needed inclusions.
Elliot and Speck (2005) say that “as the expectations of online shoppers rise, their satisfaction with online retailers has declined” (p. 1). This alone indicates the need to develop more effective websites that will attract shoppers and are easy to locate through key words on search engines. Elliot and Speck (2005) add that there are five major factors that web designers should keep in mind in order to make a website more attractive and user friendly. These are; ease of use, product information and display, entertainment/ambience, trust and currency.
Jones (2010) on the other hand says that there are six major qualities of a good website namely; template, content, meta tag and title, internal navigation, broken links and search box. Palmer (2002) conducted a study on a number of websites in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and observed that “website success is significantly associated with the website download delay (speed of access and display rate within the website), navigation (organization, arrangement, layout design and sequencing), content (amount and variety of product information), interactivity (customization and interactivity and responsiveness (feedback options and FAQs)” (p. 151)A website template is the basic format, layout or physical appearance of a webpage onto which contents of the website are added.
Most companies strive to develop a unique website template though Jones (2010) claims that some organization stand accused of copying existing templates used by other companies. He says that this is risky since some functions may not fit in the chosen template. He thus advises that companies should always seek the services of a professional web designer of a company in developing an effective website template.
Of the five websites under review, none have similar web template. However, all the four websites except for Wal-Mart display their company name on the top left hand corner in visible colors that greatly contrast the web page color. Wal-Mart has its company name displayed on the left hand corner just below an advert banner. This in line with what Nielsen says that “Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half. A conventional layout is thus more likely to make sites profitable. ” Therefore, all companies prefer web users to first recognize at which website they are in by placing the name and logo of the company at the most convenient place.
Nonetheless, given that the website is not primary a source of information about the company, the product information as suggested by Elliot and Speck (2005) is given maximum space and attention.