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The Lure of E-commerce

One of the most important reasons for starting an e-commerce business is lower costs and a wider audience. Transactions costs are greatly reduced due to the automation of many business processes (purchase orders, receipts, order tracking etc).

All transactions take place directly on the website which enables saving on expenditure for storage, a warehouse or even a retail space. Users can surf your site at their own convenience, making your business available 24 hours of the day, 365 days a year.

A website is scalable: to the extent that it can hold a large catalog of product information which would be impossible to mail out using mail orders.

With automated tools it is possible to interact with a customer in richer ways at virtually (no pun intended) zero cost. For example, the customer might get an email when the order is confirmed, when the order is shipped and after the order arrives. However, if one were to buy from a retail outlet, it is not possible for a sales rep to follow up with every customer at so many stages of the sale.

E-commerce enables you to showcase your product(s) to literally millions of people. This means creating a system that works, so that YOU don't have to.

What Goes Into An E-commerce Website?

Ignorance can dissuade people from making the right decision. This section will help you overcome the ignorance barrier.


The Website:

E-commerce cannot exist without a website. This is the crux of the system. The website should be easy to navigate, search engine optimized and user-friendly so that the potential customers can access the product they are looking for with ease and speed.

Shopping Cart:

If you ever have been to or then you understand the concept of an electronic shopping cart. It is an application on your website which presents your products, prices, size and color options, calculates sales tax and shipping costs and collects credit card or electronic check information. A person essentially will have the ability to browse your products and choose the ones to purchase by ‘adding the product to the shopping cart'.

Secure Server:

It is necessary to ensure that your customer transactions are secure over the Web. A secure server runs software that establishes a secure connection with your customer's Internet browser using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology to encrypt transmitted information. You know you are on a secure server when your browser shows https:// on the browser address bar and a lock icon on the status bar. Most web hosts have a server wide secure server or you can purchase your own secure certificate from companies such as Verisign or Thwarte.

Merchant Accounts:

All businesses that accept credit cards need a merchant account. A merchant account allows a processing company to take credit card payments and electronically deposit the funds into your bank account. A merchant account can be acquired from a credit card processing company or your bank.

Payment Gateway:

This helps process your online credit card transactions in real time (at that moment). Without a payment gateway, you would have to process each credit card sale manually by calling up sales by phone. A payment gateway gives faster service to your customers with little to no overhead for managing the sale.

So, How Does Everything Come Together?

A customer visits your secure site and selects products to add to the shopping cart. At the checkout option they enter their credit card information. Once the order is confirmed, the credit card information and order details will be sent to your payment gateway for approval. After approval, the payment will be routed to the merchant account for processing and the funds will be electronically deposited to your bank account.

Your e-commerce effort is futile if it is not coupled with great Customer Service/ Technical Support (often through email, on-line forms, on-line knowledge bases and FAQs, etc.) and effective online marketing.

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