by January 12, 1998 0 comments

The most visible part of
e-commerce–business to consumer–has started becoming visible in this
country. In fact, we ended up covering more e-com sites than we’d planned.
We covered about 66 Websites, and had to leave some out due to time
constraints. Even as we were finalizing the winners, new sites were sending
in mail, stating that they’d like to participate in this shootout.

We’ve covered Websites
under three broad categories. Sites that deliver merchandise anywhere across
the country, regional ones that delivered in certain areas only, and sites
that weren’t selling anything online, but were providing useful buying
information or other e-com related services..

For the shootout, we
considered only the first category with a total of 21 Websites. We split
these sites into two categories–supermarkets with a whole range of
products, and stores that were selling one or two product categories
only(apparel, for example).

We took into account five
broad parameters. We checked out each site for its overall features, quality
of service, product delivery, customer support, and security. All these
parameters are equally important for an online shop, so we gave them all
equal weightage.

First, features. The site
should have good product variety. Along with that, it should offer a good
search facility, making it easy for a customer to find a particular product.
Site customizability and any extra features like loyalty points for frequent
buyers and other special schemes were also considered.

In quality of service, we
considered whether or not a site actually delivers a product as claimed. A
site that accepts more modes of payments–credit cards, cash on delivery,
demand draft, and checks got more points. A site with a good return policy–where
it would refund the money or replace the product–got higher points than
one that didn’t have one. Ability ot track the product was another
important factor.

Delivery–An online store
should deliver all over the country, if not the world. Sites that did this
got higher points. Sites giving free delivery were obviously better choices
than those that charged for it. Currency is another important criterion. If
it’s an Indian site, then it must accept Indian rupee credit cards. There
were some sites that accepted only dollar credit cards. Sites where the
person placing an order could be different from the person receiving it are
better off.

Customer support comes next.
A site must respond quickly to all customer queries. So, sites that replied
to our queries within 12 hours got higher marks than those that replied
later. Sites that didn’t reply at all didn’t get any points.

Security is a major issue
when it comes to online shopping. All sites must have a secure server
whether they’re accepting credit cards, or asking a customer to fill in
their profile or have them enter their login name and password. It’s
unsafe to shop on sites that don’t have a secure server.

best online superstore

In the supermarket
category, came out to be the best e-commerce site. This
site was ahead of the rest by a wide margin. It has a lot of
products with about 20 product categories and about 20-30 products
in each. Delivery of products doesn’t take more than two days, and
the site has an online chat facility whereby you can directly get
answers to all your queries. Response time for e-mails is also very
quick and we got responses in less than three hours.

best focused e-com store

In the focused e-com
category, where a Website dealt in one or two product categories, emerged the best. The site deals in books and music, and
has excellent product variety in both segments. It design in really
good and easy to browser through. The search facility is great, and
you can find books/music albums based on title, singer/author, etc.
The site is prompt in delivering anything you order. We got our
order after three days of placing it. You can track the status of
your order from the site itself. 

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