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Online Marketing and E-Commerce
If you have established a website with e-commerce options and most of your sales are derived from your online business, you may want to think about integrating the online shop with your in-house processes such as inventory, accounts payable and accounts receivable.
Having a more complex Web presence means you also need to be prepared to deal with the following by integrating your web system with your business:
• Purchase approvals
• Purchase orders
• Shipment tracking
• Shipment delays and other delivery problems
• Integrating your back-end computer systems with your online system
Shipment service providers may offer advanced methods for electronic tracking. You will be able to give your customers the tracking number of their purchases and even provide it for them online by entering it into their purchase record.
Many online shopping systems are not set up to handle the communication necessary between purchaser and vendor in case something goes wrong with the delivery of the product. You will have to extract the information from your online shopping system and deal with these cases in the usual way.
A complete online shop will usually send out an automatic invoice to customers. This invoice will probably be quite different from your standard invoice and will have different numbering. This can be an issue for your accounting and inventory systems.
Payments made to you online may end up in a different account than your offline payments do.
You may have to consolidate these sources and the information on your buyers and the products sold in one place to fulfill your accounting and record keeping obligations.
Some businesses rely heavily on daily prices of natural resources or exchange rates for their foreign bought supplies.
It may be difficult to continually update your prices and make sure that your online prices are in line with your offline prices.
Customer disagreements about payments can happen online and offline. Credit card companies, like Visa, Mastercard and AMEX have improved their online security checks in order to keep fraudulent purchases to a minimum.
The online information you have about your customers (e-mail address, IP number) may need to be used in a dispute.
Integrating back-end computer systems with web system
There are a number of technical options for integrating your back-end systems with your online system. If you are at this stage, you should consult with an e-business service provider for advice.
Online Ordering System Considerations
There are a number of things to consider when setting up an online ordering system. These considerations include:
• Is there an online market for your products or services? (Think beyond the local market.)
• What are your competitors doing? How are your products different? Do your competitors have an online ordering system? How do they market their products?
• Will you need to develop an online catalogue of products or services?
• How will you process payments?
Online Ordering System Options
Manual payment processing is appropriate when you expect a small number of orders from your website.
With respect to credit card payment processing, you will have to apply for a merchant account through the bank or through a company contracted by the bank. It is not always easy to get an account, particularly if you are not an established company. In addition to setting up a merchant account, you will also need to obtain the software to allow for credit card processing.
Debit payment processing is an option that allows your customers to pay for goods and services online, directly from their bank account.
A popular approach is to process payments through a third-party online service provider. The service provider collects payments, processes the transactions, and deposits the payments into your account. The service provider charges you a transaction fee for each transaction. It is critical to consider security and privacy issues when considering the use of a third-party online service provider. For example, how does the system protect customer information?
Integrated e-commerce platforms for payment processing are increasing in popularity. Companies such as Shopify, Magento and Big Commerce provide the whole range of services needed to start an online store, including a secure shopping cart. An integrated e-commerce platform also helps you develop and then hosts your e-commerce store, including a range of services for store design, marketing, and administration.
The term “shopping cart” is used to describe software that allows a user to select items from a catalogue and to add them to their cart.
A shopping cart normally includes:
• A database that stores information such as product details, customer data, order information, etc.
• A storefront that displays this information to visitors.
• An administration area for managing your store.
There are hundreds of shopping carts available. They range from simple solutions-which can be customized to meet your needs-to complete e-commerce solutions.
Shopping Cart Options
There are a number of options regarding shopping cart solutions. These are:
• Licensed shopping cart software (involves a one-time fee). The fee does not include a web hosting service or maintaining the software.
• Hosted application leased from an Application Service Provider (ASP), which, typically involves monthly payments. The ASP installs and maintains the software.
• Open source shopping cart software (freely available). Obtaining adequate technical support can be an issue.
• Consider your current customer needs. Who are your potential future customers?
• Will the software be able to handle increased orders and product lines?
• What features does the software include?
• What do the shopping carts of your competitors look like?
• What are the security features of the software?
• What kind of technical support does the software include?
• What are the commission fees?
Turn-Key Operations for Online Shopping
Some service providers specifically focus on offering a full suite of flexible, feature-rich services for shopping sites - i.e. providing the storefront and the administrative functions required to run an online store.
Examples include shopify.com, magentocommerce.com and bigcommerce.com. These companies specialize in turn-key operations so that setting up a store is simple, easy and suited for small businesses.
When to Use
When to choose a turn-key solution? When you...
• Are selling for the first time (it’s easiest).
• Need complete content management system (CMS) (including blogs and page publishing).
• Need a mobile store (turn-key solutions will optimize your store for mobile devices).
• Need many features on your site (such as third party integration and apps).
• Want a beautiful store (there are great paid and free theme collections available).
• Want an unmetered bandwidth (to publish and promote as much as you want).
• Need technical expertise and support.
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