Ecommerce Spot

Malcolm Duffitt

Malcolm Duffitt, the man behind EROL

I'm please to introduce you to Malcolm Duffitt, the man behind the EROL shopping cart software. Malcolm and his team have a real passion for their business - read on to find out his insights on how to make your shop more profitable!

Tell us about yourself
Malcolm Duffitt, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Dreamteam Design Ltd

In 1997, Dreamteam Design Ltd was originally setup as an out-and-out web design agency. Within three years we had created EROL (Electronic Retail OnLine) as an internal tool to help us build e-commerce stores for clients and realised that if we liked it, other designers might too. They did, mainly because we had approached it from a designer's point of view, and this design flexibility is still one of EROL's key selling-points. It's success means that the company's primary focus is no longer web design but e-commerce software development.

What is the most important thing someone thinking about setting up an online shop should consider?
We have worked with many start-ups as well as established bricks 'n' mortar retail businesses and they both have different reasons for being online. Most start-ups are totally reliant on e-commerce for their success - established retailers are perhaps looking at maybe generating an additional 10-20% revenue to their existing business. Understanding your reasons for, and your expectations of, having an online shop is key and do not underestimate what it will take to bring the shoppers in and buy so consider your marketing initiatives fully.

What do you think is the most common cause of failure of an online shop? How should people avoid that?
In terms of a shopping experience, the store design is crucial - people want to shop with confidence so first impressions count. When selling online you do not have the luxury of letting people pick up your products, so clear presentation of the products themselves within a suitably nice-looking store makes a huge difference. We have helped some of our customers re-design their stores and many come back within a few months to say their sales have significantly increased. Shoppers need clear signposts and labels, so a simple checkout process is essential. Many sites have protracted checkout methods and capture more information than is either useful or necessary - let's face it, nobody likes filling in forms! Selling online is a virtual business, so make sure you have clear methods of contact for your customers - they like to know there is a human being at the end of the phone/e-mail who can help them with any question or problem.

What trends do you see happening in small to medium business ecommerce stores in the next few years?
The SME e-commerce market has matured a lot, and customers' expectations and requirements are getting increasingly more sophisticated as they have grown their businesses online. I see a general move towards more CRM tools, as well as integration with ePOS systems, accounts and fulfillment systems becoming more important for established online businesses.

What one thing do you think most shop owners should do more of?
I think that keeping a store vibrant is important. I don't mean in terms of design, necessarily, more in terms of creating interest, particularly to repeat customers. Attracting new customers can be easy, but getting repeat custom is harder. Vary your homepage content and product offers regularly, send e-mails and do special deals and pricing for notable events like Valentines Day, 4th July etc. - you don't have to be a gift store to achieve this, it works across all product ranges, just show your customers your store has something to offer for every day and every occasion of the year.

Who do you see as the primary audience for your software?
Our customers range from the small business owner, who can successfully use EROL's tools to build his/her own store with the standard toolset and templates, right through to the designer community whose skill and experience allow them to deploy visually rich stores for their clients.

Why should shop owners choose EROL over the competition?
EROL's design flexibility is still highly-prized, but of course the product is now augmented with familiar management tools that our customers need to run their businesses everyday. An EROL store can be completely previewed offline with full functionality and EROL stores can be deployed on 99% of commercial web hosts and require no specialised hosting features. Our customers get to deal with our enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful staff.
 

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