Out of all the ecommerce sites on the internet the printer cartridge store is propably the most complex design of all. Not only are the website requirements extreme but also the print consumables industry itself is perhaps the most competitive, cut throat business online today.
So how does a company remain competitive in todays economy with rising costs, higher taxes and ridiculous energy costs? I guess the main way to survive is to cut overheads, provide excellent customer service and make sure that your product is the absolute best there is on the market. To survive online you also need a website that is laid out well and is extremely easy for the customer to navigate, find the product they need and pay for it.
I guess that the average consumer figures that if all the above criteria are met then the store will be a roaring success. If only it were that easy but what about the other 500 online stores that are also selling printer cartridges? This is where the battle begins and as with any online business there is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes that the customer simply wouldnt be aware of.
The first and biggest decision to make before starting an online store is the platform you chose. There are dozens of them out there that will certainly do the job however not all are the same. Many of the "out of the box" type platforms such as Neto, Shopify and Magento are certainly excellent choices however the drawback with these are that they are all very difficult to customise.
Life would be so easy if these "out of the box" stores could be easily customised however for many people they are more than adequate for the products they are selling. Printer cartridge stores on the other hand, to be competitive need to be highly modified and utilise features such as Printer Search dropdown selectors, accurate search functions and fast page load times.
For our website we chose the Opencart Platform as it is one of the most flexible and easy to modify platforms and there are many premade modules that can be easily installed and modified to suite your needs.
Behind the scenes of the Printer Cartridge StoreOkay so you've no doubt seen the end result of our website and others but what goes on behind the scenes that you dont see. First of all page load speed is a huge issue for both the end user and our Google search reankings. Yes page speed is now critical to rank well so that people can find you amongst the other 500 printer ink stores.
The page speed for our Ink Hub store was a must as we have a huge amount of categories and Opencart tends to slow down very fast with lots of categories. We used a module called "Increase Page Speed" which worked brilliantly. For those tech minded out there it uses Browser Caching, Minification and various other functions which really speed the site up.
To provide a user friendly search function we used a standard dropdown category selector which allows customers to select their printer brand followed by their printer model. The result is that all of the related consumables for their printer are displayed.
Not only are the cartridges displayed but also a picture of the printer which re-assures the customer that they are on the right track. To add the product to the cart we added a module that allows the customer to add products without being redirected to another page. There is nothing more annoying on an eCommerce site if you are buying multiple items than to be redirected after every product is added to your cart.
Another very important issue is that of website security. Our site utilises several stages of security including an SSL Certificate, McAffee Secure and a Locked down VPS Server. These 3 steps ensure our customers that they are 100% protected when using our website.
The final crucial step is making sure that the checkout process is as easy as possible. We installed the "Ajax Quick Checkout" module for this purpose as it is fast loading and very simple for the customer to use.
The admin side of our storeTo make life easier from our side we have recently changed our shipping process to eParcel. The change to eParcel has helped to automate the whole process and make it much easier for us to get the orders out faster. We have a brilliant developer who has helped to integrate the whole eParcel system to the back end of our website and make it run seamlessly.
If you are looking for eParcel integration for your ecommerce site then I stronly recommend Daniel at Webdev as he is brilliant and nothing is too much hassle for him. Our site is set up so that all orders go straight to eParcel for shipping and the few dropship products that we dont stock here are seperated for instant shipping.
The system also automatically emails tracking details to our customers and lets them know when their order is shipped. It also records the tracking in our system so if a customer calls regarding their order all the details are ther for us.
The future of online Print ConsumablesAs with any industry times are changing rapidly and if you dont keep up with the technological changes then you wont survive. Over the past few years the requirements of a webiste has change heaps. Now they all must be responsive (mobile friendly), they need to be full SSL and they need to load super fast.
Combine this with the fact that they must be search engine optimised as well and contain great content or else they simply wont survive. Over the past 12 months there have been a huge number of both online and physical printer cartridge stores close down. This is due to many reasons such as rising costs, more fierce online competition and price wars.
Quite a few of the Cartridge World stores have also either shut down or been put up for sale as the online stores are stealing away thier customers by offering much lower prices. It's difficult to say what the next 12 months or so hold however even many of the big Print Consumable wholesalers have diversified into other areas as their sales gradually decline.
At Ink Hub our sales are still growing at this stage so let's hope that it continues this way. We try to keep overheads low and make sure that our products and service are the best, what more can you do. One thing is certain, the compatible ink and toner cartridge market will continue to grow as customers look for ways to save money in these trying times.