Online retailers face a range of important issues, including many of the same issues as most businesses, such as legal, financial and practical hurdles. There are also several specific ecommerce issues which are unique to online retailers.
Security is arguably the most important of all ecommerce issues. Any website which accepts online payments has both a moral and legal responsibility to do everything possible to make sure their customer’s card details are protected. Smaller firms may find it easier to use an external payment handling system. This means that during the payment stage of “checking out” the customer is redirected to an independent firm which verifies their card details and takes the payment. This will cost the retailer a fee, usually a commission based on the sale price, but can save stress and hassle.
On a similar note, online retailers must take particular care to avoid their site being infected with viruses and other malicious software. Even though it isn’t necessarily the fault of the retailer, a site which harms the computers of customers could be devastating for customer relations. One point which is a particular risk area is when a site carries external advertisements and affiliate links which could carry infections.
Delivery is another important issue. If an online retailer chooses an unreliable delivery method, the customer will likely hold them, rather than the delivery firm, responsible. Retailers must also decide on a delivery charge policy which can include offering free delivery, charging a flat fee, charging by weight, or charging the customer the actual fee paid to a deliver firm.
One of the lesser known ecommerce issues is that of site visitors with disabilities. Depending on the retailer’s location, they may be subject to laws on disability discrimination; this is much more likely to be the case with an ecommerce site rather than a purely information-based site. It’s also a matter of both courtesy and good business sense to make a site as accessible as possible. This includes making sure the site can be customized by accessibility technology. It’s also important to have text alternatives to photographs and graphical text such as Flash animations so that the content can be handled by screenreader technology for visually impaired users.
Many ecommerce issues arise from the fact that online retailers sell goods across state and even international lines. This can bring up complex situations with the collection and distribution of taxes and duties, both in the jurisdiction of the retailer and that of the seller. There may be export restrictions which prevent or limit an online retailer from shipping goods to an overseas customer. For some products, the minimum legal age of customers can vary from state to state and country to country.