Evaluation of E-commerce customer interface design
Everything is going online, and so is global trade. Where before business owners need to call each other and ask about offerings, entailing a series of time-consuming and effortful paperwork, today trade is just some mouse clicks away—literally. Two global trade websites, Alibaba and Tradexpro, are fast becoming the chosen site by global traders. Not only are these websites user-friendly, they also have the larger membership share and thus a bigger repository of trades for members to choose from. On a more technical note, there are some things to consider for these global trading websites to prosper.
This is where the 7 Cs Framework come in. The 7 Cs are commerce which is the selling and buying of products, community which is the engagement of users to interact within the website, communication which is the response system between the website and the users, connection or the website’s capability to link into other websites, content or the specifics that the website contains, context which is the aesthetic value of the website, and customization or the ability of the website to be changed or modified to suit the differing needs of clients or users.
These factors determine the competence of a website in its
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Alibaba, Tradexpro, and the 7 Cs Commerce Commerce refers to the selling and buying activities that may be done through a channel, in this case through the website. Alibaba and Tradexpro are mainly focused on this activity in their websites. They are geared to helping suppliers sell their products, and helping buyers find the products that they need. In a sense, these two websites works like an online trade fair where businesses meet and discover each other. (Johnston, 2003) Alibaba and Tradexpro are examples of business-to-business websites.
They are different from ordinary trading or shopping websites because their market is mainly manufacturers, distributors, and resellers. In these sites, products are sold and bought by bulk. There are very minimal opportunities to buy products per piece, or to have products dropshipped, although some traders also agree in these arrangements. Both websites cover international trade, making it possible for member businesses to reach buyers and suppliers globally. This exposes users to a diverse array of contacts to choose from. At the same time, businesses who are members of these trading sites increase their visibility online.
As it accepts memberships from both big and small businesses, the commercial possibilities of these websites are endless. Community An important characteristic of business-to-business website is the ability of traders to interact with each other. This is widely practiced within Alibaba and Tradexpro. The members become intangible units of a community. Here, each member benefiting each other and the website itself. In Alibaba, the community is flourished by private messaging. However, members have the option to not disclose their contact information from free members.
While this is a security practice for traders, this lessens the community spirit within the users. The same private messaging capability is used in Tradexpro. Yet an interesting feature of Tradexpro is the business directory, a user-friendly listing of all members which is not at all exclusive to members. Thus, even non-members can access a company’s contact information without signing up for the site. The community also enjoys a page of news from around the world. Alibaba does not have a definitive directory of members, but it is also serious about keeping the community alive.
It offers forums for members and articles for members to read. Alibaba also issues safe trading journals and tips to its community members. (Alibaba, 2008; Tradexpro, 2008) Communication In relation to community, the communication among members is likely important. With trading websites, companies need not have to rummage through tons of printed letters. Because everything is online, a company just needs to check messages from the website or from the company email client and choose to do two things: respond to clients or block and delete spam messages.
Technology has made communication between businesses easier. However, it has also brought about issues on proper business correspondence. As it may seem impersonal, many businesses are corresponding online without the standard correspondence procedures and etiquettes. To aid this, Alibaba offers templates that users can use in their inquiries. Both Alibaba and Tradexpro also make private messaging exclusive to members to initially filter out bogus messages and spammers. (Alibaba, 2008; Tradexpro, 2008) Communication is the backbone of business. It is the only way the companies can interact and negotiate.
Callahan (2007) points out that at this day and age, more and more people are becoming email-savvy. People prefer to send the free and fast electronic mails than go through all the trouble of writing, enveloping, stamping, and posting the mail. Businesses, thus, have to adapt to this new trend to avoid being pushed over by businesses that are willing to take on the new correspondence trend. Connection Connection is the link outs, and link ins, that a website provides. Both Alibaba and Tradexpro link into internal pages. Alibaba, in fact, gives their members a free page to serve as their website.
Tradexpro offers the same, though calls it catalog instead of webpage. Alibaba links to trade shows, which are great information tool for the members of the sites, and sponsored advertisements from members. These links are likewise internal pages. Tradexpro, on the other hand, offers internal link ins to trade show announcements, but links out to advertiser websites. Tradexpro also has advertisements fed by Google which is a revenue tool for the website. (Alibaba, 2008; Tradexpro, 2008) Content Ferraro (2003) states that content is the top two component of good websites. Content spells the value for the website.
This is where the level of usability of the website to the user lies. Alibaba and Tradexpro pretty much have similar contents. They have buying leads, selling leads, member information, sign up and log in services for members. In each lead, information about the product desired or featured and the member who posted the lead is shown. The difference between the content of the websites lie in the product descriptions. While Alibaba offers very detailed information about leads, with price ranges, packaging, shipping, origin, and certifications applicable to the product or the manufacturer.
Tradexpro takes the descriptions more easily by featuring just the name of the product, origin, classification and description, leaving members free to contact each other to discuss arrangements about the trade. (Alibaba, 2008; Tradexpro, 2008) Content serves as the parameter which will measure how long a user will stay with the website. The more useful the contents of the website are, the longer the user will stay around. The better information there is, the more the user will come back. Like with Alibaba and Tradexpro, electronic commerce websites should mainstream the content of their sites with the purpose of their domains.
Thus, while Alibaba and Tradexpro sells a variety of products—from electronics to undergarments—they are still able to pull together an interesting and useful website for their target markets, which are the traders. Context At first look, Alibaba and Tradexpro are strikingly similar. The color scheme of orange and blue will remind one of the other, though Alibaba’s logo is more creative than the technical font style of the Tradexpro logo. The layout is also similar for both websites. The top-of-page search bar and the scrolling images give users quick access to information from the websites.
The use of pictures by each also resembles the other. Evaluating this, it may be said that the layouts used by Alibaba and Tradexpro are similar because it is a more effective way to present large volume of information. However, it may also be considered as a competitive technique by Tradexpro, who came later in 2003. Alibaba holds its copyright since 1999. (Alibaba, 2008; Tradexpro, 2008) Aesthetics is an important factor for any electronic commerce website. In fact, it is the third top component for a trade website to be successful. (Ferraro, 2003) The look and feel of the website contributes to the ease of its use.
Likewise, aesthetics create the total impression that the website aims to get from the users. Customization In terms of customization, Alibaba and Tradexpro are both very limited. Alibaba users can search through the thousands of products and companies using filters on region, country, category, business type, and export market. Tradexpro is more limited with no filters that can be applied to searches. These limitations make it difficult for users to scan through the database to find a fitting product or company for their requirements.
Yet this does not affect the overall functionality of Alibaba and Tradexpro. With the content straightforward and the context professional and fitting, users should not mind the lack of customization on the use of services.