Understanding e-commerce is very important, especially for companies that are focused on providing online shopping and ordering to their customers. One of those companies is Overstock.com, which also goes by its shortened name of “O.co.” Companies like Overstock do a great deal of business on the internet, and in order to be successful they have to understand the value of what they are doing and how to relate to the customers and potential customers they want to attract. It is not just about having good prices or good products, because customers need to enjoy their shopping experience, feel safe providing their personal information to the site, and be able to easily and conveniently shop for their items and pay for what they decide to buy (Chaudhury & Kuilboer, 2002). With that in mind, Overstock will be examined here in terms of those specific issues, in order to determine how the company functions and what, if anything needs to be changed about the way they do business.
The website design of an e-commerce business is very important (Laudon & Guercio Traver, 2014; Nissanoff, 2006). If the company does not provide what the customer is looking for in the way of products and how to find them, that customer will generally shop elsewhere (Nissanoff, 2006). It is also important that the company focus on colors and text that keeps customers interested and coming back. When they are put off by the way a website looks, they may decide to find a different company. Even if a business offers good deals or has the merchandise a person is looking for, that person is not necessarily going to shop there if he or she feels uncomfortable regarding the look of the site (Miller, 2002). In theory that should not matter, but it is definitely important to a lot of people. Sites like Overstock have to be aware of that, so they can keep customers happy.
The website design for Overstock is colorful and welcoming, with the theme of the most recent holiday prominently displayed (Overstock, 2014). If there is no holiday coming up soon, the site reverts to a more neutral color palette that provides a selection of various types of offerings. One thing the site definitely has going for it is that it is not cluttered. A cluttered e-commerce site can be very difficult to navigate, and can be something that turns off potential customers right away (Miller, 2002). They want to know how to find what they are looking for, and they do not want to have to search through pages of items to locate the things that matter to them. With the proper design, a site can provide a great deal of information on its main page and make that information easily accessible, while at the same time ensuring that customers are offered clean lines and reasonable choices. Overstock does this through headings near the top of the page. Hovering one’s mouse over the heading produces a menu of other, more defined options that can be chosen from, giving the customer plenty of selections while keeping too many choices off of the actual main page, which is the first impression of the site (Overstock, 2014).
Every e-commerce company has to make sales in order to stay in existence, and one of the best ways to do that is through a good shopping cart on its site (Chaudhury & Kuilboer, 2002). The cart should be something that can easily be navigated, and putting items into the cart should be easy, as well. It should also be simple to update quantities and make similar changes, and to remove things from the cart if a customer has changed his or her mind during the course of shopping. It is not always easy to find a great shopping cart, but there are a number of providers that can help a company get what it needs in order to make sure its customers will be happy. A shopping cart does not have to be complex, but it does need to work properly and provide consumers with ease of use, or those customers may not make a purchase (Nissanoff, 2006).
The shopping cart on Overstock’s site is trusted by Google, and provides several options for checkout and payment (Overstock, 2014). That is vital to keeping customers shopping from a company and coming back, because a difficult time at checkout and/or problems with a shopping cart can cause a person to cancel the transaction and go elsewhere for the products they want or need (Chaudhury & Kuilboer, 2002). If a person does that, he or she may not come back to order from the site in the future, and those kinds of problems with customers can cause a company to lose a lot of money over a period of time. It can also mean the company can get a bad reputation, from something that would seem very simple but can actually be quite frustrating for people who are attempting to shop (Chaudhury & Kuilboer, 2002). Because Overstock does a high volume of business, the company understands the value of having a good shopping cart that is easily used by customers, that does not have glitches, and that is not “down” for maintenance or due to problems often, if at all (Overstock, 2014).
Security is another important issue for e-commerce retailers, and it ties into the use and value of a shopping cart on the site. If a person does not feel safe inputting his or her information, he or she will not make a purchase from that site or company (Miller, 2002). There are many data breaches and identity theft issues that happen on the internet, and when a person does not feel protected from that, he or she is not going to provide any kind of personal information — including payment information — to a site. The security that a site uses, especially on its “shopping cart” page, can make or break the site and the success of the company from an e-commerce standpoint. Using a secure site (https:/// / as opposed to http://) is a good start, but many companies go further than that (Miller, 2002). They provide a page on their site that discusses security, and they focus on telling the customer how the customer’s personal information is protected. If they do not make the customer feel safe, they can lose out on a significant amount of revenue.
For Overstock, security is a must. The site is large, and a number of people purchase from it every day. They do that because they know they can get good deals there, and because they want to be able to save money so they can purchase additional things they are interested in. When they do that, they can continue to shop at their favorite retailers — but only if they feel they can trust those retailers to protect their personal information. In the wake of data breaches and other security issues, every e-commerce company has to be more careful with customer information, and every company that has had a breach in the past can and should expect customers to be nervous about shopping with that company, at least for a period of time (Chaudhury & Kuilboer, 2002). Some customers will not worry, but others will have understandable and realistic concerns that must be addressed by the company in a way that makes the consumer comfortable providing his or her information to that site.
Buying from an e-commerce retailer is not just about the selection or the security. It is also about the ways in which a person can pay for his or her purchases. In addition to being able to pay with a credit card, Overstock also allows customers to pay with V. By Visa, or through PayPal (Overstock, 2014). A number of people who buy products online choose to use PayPal, often because it keeps them from being required to provide their credit card or other financial information to a company they plan to make a purchase from. Once they have a PayPal account, they just use that to make their purchases, which does not give any of the retailers and e-commerce sites they purchase from access to any financial data (Laudon & Guercio Traver, 2014). Unless PayPal is breached, they are protected — and PayPal also has good protection if a person’s account is hacked or otherwise compromised. Many credit cards provide that kind of protection, as well, but having financial data compromised is still a hassle, and can be stressful (Miller, 2002).
Additionally stressful is not having enough options to pay for a purchase the way a person wants to. For those who use e-commerce sites quite often, there are certain aspects of doing so that are expected and some that are not. For example, Overstock’s offering of other ways to pay besides a credit card goes above and beyond what many sites will provide to potential customers. That helps Overstock remain more successful, because a higher number of people who find something they like on the site will purchase that item if they are able to pay conveniently and in a way they feel comfortable with. The more payment options offered, the better off an e-commerce site will be in the long run, because it will appeal to more customers (Chaudhury & Kuilboer, 2002).
Overstock is serious about being a good e-commerce company. It knows the value of payment options, a great-looking site, good merchandise selection, and customer security. By paying close attention to what customers want and need, the company has been able to continue to grow and develop into an excellent shopping resource people can use from the comfort of their own home. This would not have been possible without the company’s commitment to excellent customer service and proper care of financial data, along with proper website design.
Chaudhury, A., & Kuilboer, J.P. (2002). e-Business and e-Commerce Infrastructure. NY: McGraw-Hill.
Laudon, K.C, & Guercio Traver, C. (2014). E-commerce. business. technology. society. 10th edition. NY: Pearson.
Miller, R. (2002). The legal and e-commerce environment today (hardcover ed.). NY: Thomson Learning.
Nissanoff, D. (2006). FutureShop: How the new auction culture will revolutionize the way we buy, sell and get the things we really want (hardcover ed.). NY: The Penguin Press.
Overstock. (2014). Overstock.com
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