E Commerce Explained – A Research Paper

E-Commerce

Introduction

An e-commerce solution for a business is the incorporation of all aspects of the business operation into an electronic format. Many well-established businesses have been selling on-line for years. For example, Dell Computers Corp., has been selling computers directly to end-users for years. Currently, Dell is selling excessive of 1 million dollars worth of computers everyday on the World Wide Web (WWW).

When a business has incorporated an e-commerce solution, the business will experience a lower operation cost while at the same time increasing its profit. The e-commerce solution will allow businesses to eliminate unnecessary paperwork. All paperwork and data can be transformed into an electronic format. Thus, it will eliminate valuable shelf space and data can searched and accessed in matter of seconds. E-commerce will also automates the sales process. Customers can “point & click” on the products they wish to purchase, fill out the customer information, and the product will be shipped and received in a matter of few days. The administration department does not have to fill out any paperwork because the customer had done it already. Thus, the efficiency will be greatly improved. With an e-commerce solution, the business will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People from anywhere in the world with an Internet access will be able to visit the site at any time. They will not be restricted to the “normal” business operating hours. A “brick + mortar” business is normally limited to serving the customers in its local geographical location. With an e-commerce solution, that business will not be limited a geographical restriction, rather it opens itself to the global on-line market. Essentially, the business’ market exposure will be greatly increased.

In conducting my study, I have researched extensively on the Internet for resources. I chose the Internet as my primary research medium because e-commerce is still a fairly new technology. Since it is technology related, the Internet will provide the most recent data available. Printed publications will not be able to adapt to changes as fast and efficient as electronic publications. I researched many e-commerce related web sites along with some companies that conduct statistical studies. Some of the e-commerce web sites that I looked into are E-Commerce Times, eRetail, and eMarketer. The statistical research firms that I researched are Forrester Research and Jupiter Communication. Both firms provided valuable statistical data that shows the rise of consumers shopping on-line and the predicted dollar amount that will be spent in the coming years.

Methods

In conducting my study, I completed the following tasks:

– I searched extensively on the Internet for sites that are e-commerce related. Upon visiting the sites, I evaluated each sites for the contents, thoroughness, and objectiveness. There are literally hundreds of sites that are devoted to e-commerce. However, after my careful examination of most of them, I narrowed down to four sites that I will research for this report.

– I have also researched many firms that conducts statistical researches. The two firms that I will be utilizing for this report are Forrester Research and Jupiter Communication. Both firms are known for their preciseness, non-objectiveness, and thoroughness. The statistical data I collected from these two firms will support my recommendation that every business should have an e-commerce solution implemented.

Results

From my research, I have developed twenty reasons why every business should incorporate an e-commerce solution into the business operation. They are listed below.

1. To Establish A Presence

There are approximately 70 million people worldwide that have access to the World Wide Web (WWW). No matter what industry or business one is in, one can not ignore 70 million people. To be part of that on-line community, one would need to be on the WWW for them. Because if one doe not do it, one’s competitor definitely will.

2. To Network

A lot of what passes for business is simply nothing more than making connections with other people. Every smart businessperson knows, it is not what one knows, it is whom one knows. Passing out one’s business card is part of every good meeting and every businessperson can tell more than one story how a chance meeting turned into the big deal. Well, what if one could pass out the business card to thousands, maybe millions of potential clients and partners, saying this is what I do and if you are ever in need of my services, this is how you can reach me. One can, 24 hours a day, inexpensively and simply, on the WWW.

3. To Make Business Information Available

What is basic business information? Think of a Yellow Pages ad. What are one’s business hours? What does one do? How can someone contact the business? What method of payment does one take? Where is the business located at? Now think of a Yellow Pages ad where one can have instant communication. What is today’s special? Today’s interest rate? Next week’s parking lot sale information? If one could keep one’s customer informed of every reason why they should do business with them, doesn’t one think one could do more business? One can on the WWW.

4. To Serve The Customers

Making business information available is one of the most important ways to serve the customers. But if one looks at serving the customer, one will find even more ways to use WWW technology. How about making forms available to pre-qualify for loans, or have one’s staff do a search for that classic jazz record one’s customer is looking for, without tying up one’s staff on the phone to take down the information? Allow the customer to punch in sizes and check it against a database that tells him what color of jacket is available in one’s store? All this can be done, simply and quickly, on the WWW.

5. To Heighten Public Interest

One won’t get Newsweek magazine to write up about one’s local store opening, but one might get them to write up one’s Web Page address if it is something new and interesting. Even if Newsweek would write about one’s local store opening, one would not benefit from someone in a distant city reading about it, unless of course, they were coming to one’s town sometime soon. With Web page information, anybody anywhere who can access the internet and hears about one’s site is a potential visitor to one’s Web site and a potential customer for one’s information there.

6. To Release Time Sensitive Material

What if one’s materials need to be released no earlier than midnight? The quarterly earnings statement, the grand prize winner, the press kit for the much anticipated film, the merger news? Well, one sent out the materials to the press with “The-do-not-release-before-such-and-such-time” statement and hope for the best. Now the information can be made available at midnight or any time one specifies, with all related materials such as photographs, bios, etc. released at exactly the same time. Imagine the anticipation of “All materials will be made available on our Web site at 12:01 AM”. The scoop goes to those that wait for the information to be posted, not the one who releases one’s information early.

7. To Sell Things

Many people think that this is the number one thing to do with the World Wide Web. However, I have made it number seven to make it clear that I think one should consider selling things on the Internet and the World Wide Web after one has done all the things above. Why? Well, the answer is complex but the best way to put it is, does one consider the telephone the best place to sell things? Probably not. One probably considers the telephone as a tool that allows one to communicate with one’s customer, which in turn helps one sell things. Well, that’s how I think one should consider the WWW. The technology is different, but before people decide to become customers, they want to know about one, what one does and what one can do for them. Which one can do easily and inexpensively on the WWW. Then one might be able to turn them into customers.

8. To make picture, sound and video available

What if one’s widget is great, but people would really love it if they could see it in action? The album is great but with no airplay, nobody knows that it sounds great? A picture is worth a thousand words, but one does not have the space for a thousand words? The WWW allows one to add sound, pictures and short movie files to one’s company’s info if that will serve one’s potential customers. No brochure will do that.

9. To Reach a Highly Desirable Demographic Market

The demographic of the WWW user is probably the highest mass-market demographic available. Usually they are college-educated or being college educated, making a high salary or soon to make a high salary. It is no wonder that Wired magazine, the magazine of choice to the Internet community, has no problem getting Lexus and other high-end marketer’s advertising. Even with the addition of the commercial on-line community, the demographic will remain high for many years to come.

10. To Answer Frequently Asked Questions

Whoever answers the telephones in one’s organization can tell one that their time is usually spent answering the same questions over and over again. These are the questions customers and potential customers want to know the answer to before they deal with one. Post them on a WWW page and one will have removed another barrier to doing business with one and freed up some time for that harried phone operator.

11. To Stay in Contact with Salespeople

One’s employees on the road may need up-to-the-minute information that will help them make the sale or pull together the deal. If one knows what that information is, one can keep it posted in complete privacy on the WWW. A quick local phone call can keep one’s staff supplied with the most detailed information, without long distance phone bills and tying up the staff at the home office.

12. To Open International Market

One may not be able to make sense of the mail, phone and regulation systems in

all the potential international markets, but with a e-commerce solution, one can open up a dialogue with international markets as easily as with the company across the street. As a matter-of-fact, before one goes onto the Web, one should decide how one wants to handle the international business that will come one’s way, because one’s postings are certain to bring international opportunities to one’s way, whether it is part of one’s plan or not. Another added benefit; if one’s company has offices overseas, they can access the home offices information for the price of a local phone call.

13. To Create a 24 Hour Service

If one has ever remembered too late or too early to call the opposite coast, one knows the hassle. Not all businesses are on the same schedule. Business is worldwide but one’s office hours aren’t. Trying to reach Asia or Europe is even more frustrating. However, Web pages serve the client, customer and partner 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No overtime either. It can customize information to match needs and collect important information that will put one ahead of the competition, even before they get into the office.

14. To Make Changing Information Available Quickly

Sometimes, information changes before it gets off the press. Now one has a pile of expensive, worthless paper. Electronic publishing changes with one’s needs. No paper, no ink, no printer’s bill. One can even attach one’s web page to a database which customizes the page’s output to a database one can change as many times in a day as one needs. No printed piece can match that flexibility.

15. To Allow Feedback From Customers

One passes out the brochure, the catalog, the booklet. But it doesn’t work. No sales, no calls, no leads. What went wrong? Wrong color, wrong price, wrong market? Keep testing, the marketing books say, and one will eventually find out what went wrong. That’s great for the big boys with deep pockets, but who is paying the bills? One is and one doesn’t have the time nor the money to wait for the answer. With a Web page, one can ask for feedback and get it instantaneously with no extra cost. An instant e-mail response can be built into Web pages and can get the answer while its fresh in one’s customers mind, without the cost and lack of response of business reply mail.

16. To Test Market New Services and Products

Tied into the reason above, we all know the cost of rolling out a new product. Advertising, advertising, advertising, press release and advertising. Expensive, expensive, expensive. Once one has been on the Web and know what to expect from those who are seeing one’s page, they are the least expensive market for one to reach. They will also let one knows what they think of one’s product faster, easier and much less expensively than any other market one may reach. For the cost of a page or two of Web programming, one can have a crystal ball into where to position one’s product or service in the marketplace.

17. To Reach The Media

Every kind of business needs the exposure that the media can bring, as I touched on in reason #5 “To Heighten Public Interest”, but what if one’s business is reaching the media, as a newswire, a publicist or a public policy group. The media is the most wired profession today, since their main product is information and they can get it more quickly, cheaply and easily on-line. On-line press kits are becoming more and more common, since they work with the digital environment of more and more pressrooms. Digital images can be put in place without the stripping and shooting of the old pressrooms and digital text can be edited and outputted on tight deadlines. All these can be made available on an e-commerce solution.

18. To Reach The Education and Youth Market

If one’s market is education, consider that most universities already offer Internet accesses to their students and most K-12’s will be on the Internet within the next few years. Books, athletic shoes, study courses, youth fashion and anything else that would want to reach these overlapping markets needs to be on the WWW. Even with the coming of the commercial on-line services and their somewhat older populations there will be nothing but growth in the percentage of the under 25 market that will be on-line.

19. To Reach The Specialized Market

Sell fish tanks, art reproductions, flying lessons? One may think that the Internet is not a good place to be. Well, think again. The Internet isn’t just for computer science students anymore. With the 70 million and growing users of the WWW, even the most narrowly defined interest group will be represented in large numbers. Since the Web has several very good search programs, one’s interest group will be able to find one’s company, or one’s competitors.

20. To Serve One’s Local Market

I’ve talked about the power to serve the world with a e-commerce solution. How about one’s neighborhood? If one is located in San Francisco Bay Area, the Raleigh NC area, Boston or New York, there is probably enough local customers with Internet access to make it worth one’s while to consider Web marketing. A local Palo Alto, CA restaurant even takes lunch orders through the Internet! But no matter where one is, if the big client has Internet access, one should be there too.

Conclusion

After detailed analyzing and studying of the effects and benefits of incorporating an e-commerce solution to an existing business, it is clear that an e-commerce solution will benefit the business in every aspect.

The implementation of an e-commerce solution will generate a brand new revenue stream, expand the market exposure, and decrease the operation cost. Many Fortune 500 companies, such as Dell Computer Corp., have already adapted e-commerce into their business operation. As I have mentioned earlier, Dell Computer Corp. is currently generating over 1 million dollars in revenues from their web-site. Many well-known “brick & mortar” businesses are starting to establish their presence on the web. For example, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, the top book retailer in North America, has just launched their web-site earlier this year following the success of Amazon.com. Amazon.com, the top book & music seller on the web, has been referred to have one of the most efficient business operation in the world today.

Recommendation

Based on the conclusion of this study, I recommend the following:

– Every business should implement an e-commerce solution into the business operation.

Works Cited

“E-Commerce Times: Everything You Wanted to Know About Doing Business Online.” E-Commerce Times. 1999. (9 August 1999).

“E-Marketer, Where Business Begins On-line.” E-Marketer. 1999. (9 August 1999).

“E-Retail, News and Information for Internet Retailers.” E-Retail. 1999. (9 August 1999).

“The Electronic Commerce Guide.” Internet.com’s Electronic Commerce Guide. 1999. . (9 August 1999).

“Forrester Research: Helping Businesses Thrive on Technology Change.” Forrester Research. 1999. (9 August 1999).

“Jupiter Communication: Market Research on the Consumer Online Industry.” Jupiter Communication. 1999. (9 August 1999).

Doctor Mike Cooper has been a college level instructor since 1986. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems and a Master’s Degree in Data Communications. He is a retired Army Officer and a veteran of 33 months service in Vietnam. Dr. Cooper has lived in Thailand, Belgium, Germany and still travels extensively.

Doctor Mike Cooper writes research papers for http://www.termpaperadvisor.com and http://www.termpapersmadeeasy.com [http://www.safe-papers.com]. Many of his papers are ecommerce related.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Michael_Cooper/14550

 

E-Commerce and Drinking Water

Safety, Convenience and Customer Service Combine for Customer Satisfaction

E-Commerce is coming of age with millions of new customers from internet sales for a wide variety of products. Advances in web site design, payment mechanisms and delivery systems have met the increased demand for online ordering.

With the advent of on-line ordering firms like Amazon and E-Bay, what started out as a small business has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry. The key to success in the field of E Commerce is the offering of high quality products coupled with state of the art technology to ensure ease of ordering , convenience of delivery and secure payment mechanisms.

The bottled water industry is an ideal beneficiary of e-commerce technology because of the large number of customers served and the frequency of transactions and purchases.

E-commerce Defined

E-commerce is similar to other forms of commerce except that it involves the buying and selling of goods over the Internet. E-commerce sites range from a simple web page highlighting a single item to dynamic fully developed on-line catalogs featuring thousands of products. The common theme and benefit in e-commerce sites is instant purchase, instant payment (if desired) and instant gratification in terms of fast, accurate delivery, for the customer.

Over the years, the e-commerce web has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry yearly, with significant growth projected over the next 5 years. A defining characteristic is that all e-commerce web sites accept a type of online payment, whether through a third party or directly with a merchant account..

E-commerce: The Wave of the Future

The internet is changing world view of shoppers. Instant gratification is a reality Utilizing e-commerce allows customers the ability to quickly take delivery of the goods they require and desire. In addition, the Internet is perhaps the best sales tool ever invented as it allows customers to browse endlessly in privacy. They can return and order again and again without ever leaving their home.

Most experts agree that it is only a matter of time before all sales-oriented companies will have some sort of e-commerce presence in order to remain competitive and the development of software and tools to improve the productivity of e-commerce sites remains strong. As more and better technology is developed, e-commerce will greatly expand.

Secure Payment and SSL(Secure Socket Layer): The Heart of the System

SSL(Secure Socket Layer) has been the de facto standard and heart of the system for e-commerce transaction security, and it’s likely to remain so well into the future.

SSL is based on encryption. SSL encrypts data, like credit cards numbers (as well other personally identifiable information), which prevents unauthorized use. An SSL protected page is identified when the address begins with “https” and there is a padlock icon at the bottom of the page.

SSL Certificates

The SSL certificate resides on a secure server and is used to encrypt the data and to identify the Web site. The SSL certificate also helps to prove the site belongs to who it says it belongs to and contains information about the certificate holder, the domain that the certificate was issued to, the name of the Certificate Authority who issued the certificate, the root and the country it was issued in.

In general, e-commerce users are urged to avoid sites that fail to use and display proof of SSL Certificates.

The Bottled Water Industry and E-commerce

The bottled water business is actually two lines of business: Local delivery water and private labeled water and each is an important subset of the total business.

Local delivery water is defined geographically and usually comprises rental or sales of coolers and delivery of 5-gallon and small package (12, 16.5 and 20 oz.) bottles to customers located within a limited distance from the water source. This business includes a customer base of consumers and businesses in the defined geographic area who take periodic delivery of water. The key to success in this line of business is the production and efficient delivery of the highest quality pure water.

Private label bottled water involves the development and production of high quality custom labels with a clear branding message. This line of business is national in scope and includes a strong element of branding and advertising. The key to success in this line of business is the design and production of a label of the highest quality with a clear branding message.

Each line of business has different requirements for e-commerce. For the local delivery business, establishing and meeting delivery schedules is critical with the most advanced sites offering delivery programs that offer the customer choice of delivery schedules and the ability to modify deliveries as conditions warrant.

For the private labeled line of business design flexibility in the form of interactive tools for the development, proofing and production of labels is critical. Another critical aspect of the private labeled line of business is fast and cost effective delivery through national carriers with low negotiated volume freight rates..

A Culture of Customer Service

The best e-commerce site will not produce results without support of an effective customer service organization. E-commerce tools and capabilities must be complemented by a customer service culture that includes rapid customer feed back, human (as opposed to voice mail and e-mail) interaction and clear communication. It is presently impossible to totally remove the human element from e-commerce and the human element is a critical part of the customer satisfaction process..

Best and Powerful Features

There are many varieties of e-commerce sites ranging from the simplest static site that offers very limited features to full featured dynamic sites based upon the latest database technology and access. No matter what the level of technology however, the site should combine ease of use with the most powerful features available. An effective bottled water e-commerce site should include the following minimum features.

General Features

o Multiple-Recipient Ordering (allows multiple user shipments in a single transaction)

o No Shopping Cart “Shoving” (gives the user maximum flexibility before check-out)

o Login Systems for Wholesale and Retail Customers (with remembered billing and recipient party data)

o Code Maturity (provides for reliability and stability of the site)

o Future Arrival Date Provisions (mandatory for scheduling deliveries and shipments)

o Order History and Fast Loading of Orders

o Automatic Shipping for Retail and Wholesale Accounts

Private Label Features

o Interactive and Customer Friendly Label Configurator (allows for user development of labels and artwork)

o Proofing Capability (allows the user to repeatedly review label design before purchase)

o Multi Layered Design ( allows for choice of color, shading and label features)

E-commerce lends itself to rapid fulfillment of orders and increased customer satisfaction when the site utilizes powerful state of the art tools and features coupled with a culture of customer satisfaction. On a user friendly powerful site, water orders for both local delivery and private labeled business are safe, convenient and fast. E-commerce vendors that maintain a culture of customer service will guarantee customer satisfaction.

Jon M. Stout is Chairman of the Board of Element H2O an Ultra Pure bottled water company located in Chantilly, Virginia. For more information about bottled water, private label bottled water [http://www.elementh2o.com/Store] and bottled water delivery [http://www.elementh2o.com/local] go to the Element H2O website.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Jon_M._Stout/37406

 

Preparing For E-Commerce Success: How To Ensure Your E-Commerce Website Will Work

Despite consumers’ familiarity with purchasing products from the Internet, and the prevalence of website developers eager to work on e-commerce projects, developing a successful e-commerce website is no trivial matter.

Certain key factors must be considered before your website is built. Failing to consider these issues first invariably results in failure. Use the following 7 points to check whether your business is ready to benefit from e-commerce.

1. How Suitable Are My Products For An E-Commerce Website?

Not everything is suited to online selling and so it is vital that you understand whether consumers are likely to buy your products directly from a website. Suitable products tend to share common features:

  • Homogenous – branded products are identical, irrespective of where they are purchased, and these are often good candidates for an e-commerce website. A consumer is more likely to purchase an item from your website if they understand exactly what they are buying. Books are a good example: a novel bought from one website is identical to the same novel bought from any other and so, in the consumer’s mind, there is no uncertainty about what they are purchasing. Conversely, personalised or unique items (or products that need to be tried on or tested) are not so well suited to online selling. Shoes and spectacles, for instance, are difficult to sell from an e-commerce website because the consumer is more uncertain about whether the item is exactly right for them.
  • Shippable – the fulfilment of online orders is often the area of e-commerce that causes website owners most difficulty. Small, light-weight items are easily shipped and do not involve a high delivery cost that may deter online sales. To this end, many website owners will incorporate the actual delivery cost within the price of their products so that they are able to offer “free delivery”, which can help to stimulate online orders. Bulky, heavy items can pose website owners some problems when it comes to delivery. If a product is fairly low-value item, will a £10 or £20 additional delivery charge be acceptable to the consumer?
  • Inexpensive – consumers’ propensity to purchase online is strongly related to the perceived risk of making that purchase. A normally cautious consumer might adopt a more care-free “why not?” attitude when purchasing a book for £6.99. The same person would be far more reticent when spending several thousand pounds on an electrical product. Although high-price products do sell on the Internet, you have a natural advantage if you sell lower value items.

2. What Is Your Target Market?Any Internet enthusiast will tell you that you can sell to customers anywhere in the world as soon as you have an e-commerce website.

If you run a conventional business that supplies to customers in a specific geographic area, the prospect of being able to sell across the world can be very enticing.

However, fulfilling an overseas order can be quite onerous: should you charge VAT to customers based outside the EU? Do you have to pay excise duties if you send an order to America? How much will it cost to deliver an order to New Zealand?

With this in mind, many business owners choose to restrict their website to accepting orders from the UK only, particularly while their e-commerce site is in its early stages. The downside of selling to a more confined market can sometimes be a sensible price to pay.

3. Payment Processing – Real-time or Offline?

Many websites complete online transactions at the exact time of purchase, while the customer is still viewing the website. This is real-time processing and it uses a Payment Service Provider (PSP) – an online service that provides:

  • A secure environment in which the customer can safely enter credit / debit card details;
  • An automated connection to the banking system, so that the card transaction can be verified and checked;

Secure Trading and WorldPay are two well-known PSPs.Alternatively, off-line processing means that your website will simply collect the customer’s card details and store them securely on the server. The transaction is processed manually at a later date, usually by the website owner using a PDQ machine (credit card swipe machine).

Real-time processing requires no intervention on your behalf. As the website owner, you will be notified when a transaction is processed (although you will not see the customer’s card details) and you will then fulfil the order accordingly. Because this is an automated solution, it is hassle-free although it can be more costly, as your bank and the PSP will both take a percentage of the value of each transaction.

Off-line processing is dependent on your involvement, which can prove time consuming but it does provide you with the opportunity to vet customers’ orders before you accept their payments.

4. How Will You Attract Customers To Your Website?

If you run a conventional retail outlet, you will be familiar with the adage that the three most important factors in retailing are “location, location, location”. Retailers know that a good location, with a steady stream of passing traffic, guarantees a high level of footfall.

Passing traffic is equally important for an e-commerce website. The most beautifully-designed, functional site will not generate revenue from online sales unless it receives visitors. An effective, well-planned approach to driving traffic to your website is a vital component of a successful e-commerce site.

Your immediate thoughts about generating visitors may involve Internet-based marketing. A prominent listing in Google, Yahoo and other leading search engines will invariably produce visits, so a well-optimised website may well be important. Similarly, a marketing campaign based on Google AdWords(TM) can also direct prospective customers to your website.

However, just because your shop exists online, you should not overlook off-line marketing as an effective means of generating visitors. Press releases, word-of-mouth referrals, magazine advertising and PR all have a part to play in your overall marketing strategy.

Many website owners focus too much on their site’s functionality and “look and feel” and then find that it is the lack of traffic that causes their website to fail. Understanding how you will generate visitors to your website is the most important factor in your e-commerce plans.

5. Do You Understand The Legal Issues?

Using your website to trade online introduces legal obligations that may not apply if you have a brochure-style website.

E-commerce website owners cannot trade anonymously. Your e-commerce site should show your contact details, including a full postal address, as well as details of the legal owner of the site.

You should also be aware that customers have the legal right to return a product bought from your website within 7-days of delivery. A customer does not need to provide a reason and you cannot refuse to accept the returned item (unless your products are exempt, as is the case with food retailers and businesses that sell personalised items).

Data protection, copyright and accessibility are other key legal issues that apply to online trading and you should consult the DTI’s website or talk to a solicitor to get suitable advice.

6. How Will You Choose an Appropriate Website Designer?

Website designers broadly fall into one of three categories:

  • Graphic design firms offer print-based design services in addition to designing websites
  • Multimedia artists create sophisticated design work, often involving 3D animation and sound
  • Web developers have more of an IT bias and their technical skills are well-suited to building web applications as well as website design

E-commerce websites are particularly suited to web developers, as their technical expertise means that they are well-positioned to build secure, dynamic websites.Choosing a new website designer can be difficult so ensure that you check the following before you make your choice:

  • Have they developed e-commerce websites before? Ask for addresses of other clients’ websites and visit each site to check that it works well
  • Are they knowledgeable about key e-commerce issues such as payment processing and website marketing? Ask them to explain how they would approach this for your website
  • Do they follow a structured approach to their work or do things appear somewhat haphazard? A successful e-commerce website will require careful planning and you do not want to suffer just because your website designer is anxious to get the job done

7. Will Your Website Be Sufficiently Flexible?It is important to check that your website will include e-commerce features that give you sufficient flexibility and control:

  • Product updates – ideally, you want to be in control of your website once it is developed, so you will need the facility to update product details as and when you wish, without needing involvement of your website designer
  • Stock control – retailers and distributors who can source products with a short lead-time can use their website to sell unlimited stock. Other businesses may need their website to enforce stock control, which allows the website owner to specify how many items are available at any time
  • Discounts and offers – you may wish to apply a discount to certain products or place an item on special offer. Buy-one-get-one-free, x% discount and free delivery are typical special offers that you can apply
  • Selling overseas – if you are selling outside the UK, how well will your website cater for overseas customers? Can you show product prices in different currencies, for example? Can you apply a different delivery charge depending on whether the customer is buying from the UK, Europe or the rest of the world?

Whether your e-commerce site is a new website or an upgrade to your existing brochure-style site, it is a major step for your business. The details involved are complex and the whole process can feel overwhelming. However, a successful online presence can produce a profitable new revenue stream, which will help you to grow your business and set you apart from your competitors.E-commerce is no longer a fashionable buzzword; nor is it the latest IT fad. E-commerce is a permanent part of everyday business and you should plan your e-commerce website to ensure its long-term success.

Iceberg Internet provides successful e-commerce websites for clients in a variety of industry sectors. Contact us at http://www.iceberginternet.co.uk for more information or to discuss your e-commerce requirements.

Jeremy Flight runs Iceberg Internet, a web development business in Derby, and he works with business owners in the East Midlands who want their website to contribute effectively to their business. Jeremy regularly writes articles relevant to running a successful business website and has undertaken various speaking engagements about website design and search engine optimisation. He graduated from Brunel University with a first-class honours degree and is a qualified Search Engine Marketer.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Jeremy_Flight/29314

 

E-Commerce – The Grounds Of Who Sells Online

For companies that produce goods or services, electronic commerce, through the creation of e-commerce websites, represents an opportunity to develop a new sales channel. This has already happened in the past thanks to the combination of opportunities offered by technology and organizational solutions based on the availability of the sales force and money.

This new electronic channel has two exclusive features in respect to the previous channel:

a) It is global, and can reach potential customers who are anywhere in the world.
b) It has relatively low development costs and it is therefore also accessible to smaller businesses.

E-commerce is global

Electronic commerce means that the company should start to think in terms of global trade policies. The prices on web sites and promotional offers are visible on the web to customers in each country.

If this kind of globalization becomes too frightening, it is possible to fall back on Web sites dedicated to specific markets, in local languages, but a skilled customer would notice any differences in the offers on the different websites online.

E-commerce Web sites are an opportunity for SMEs

It must be underlined that this new adverting channel has lower costs than existing ones, and especially it is able to cope with growing volumes of contacts without the need to increase advertising spaces or staff.

The low cost investment required to develop this channel is a great opportunity for the small to medium sized companies to compete with bigger ones. To enter in the business market you don’t need to have vendors, branches or shops, except what is strictly necessary to maintain physical contact with customers. The development of electronic commerce will eliminate protective barriers represented in the past by geographical distance.

E-commerce enhances the business intelligence

If the products are either digital or easily transportable (ie, parcels, or packages), it will be almost irrelevant to buy them from your country or a distant country dealer. In fact these products can be sent easily real-time via the network, in the case of digital products, or within a few hours via shipping companies in the case of physical products.

The dismantling of these barriers will emphasize the importance of business intelligence and creativity in promoting their own products and services. Since we can easily buy English books in discounted international websites, why should we waste time to sort through a library locally, where they cost more and not be available until much later.

E-commerce Web sites cancel the distance between firms and markets

Many companies, through the E-commerce web sites, may establish a direct channel with their end-customers. It bypasses the traditional distribution chain and tries to grab a portion of the product’s value that was previously left to intermediaries downstream.

Direct contact with end customers can significantly reduce the costs of product’s marketing. Some of the savings are retained by the company, with obvious profit advantages, and other savings can be transferred to the market in terms of selling price reduction.

Even with suppliers, electronic commerce may be conducted to bypass intermediaries and go directly to producers (in this case we speak of e-procurement website). Even in this case the benefits are obvious:

– The company would have more choice.
– They would probably pay less for components or raw materials.
– It would be possible to reduce the lead time of replenishment by automating the relationship with the supplier.
– The reduction of lead time would result in a reduction of safety stocks.
– The stock reduction could prevent the requirement to increase storage space and physical infrastructure.

E-commerce increases the quality of communication and service

One of the clearest advantages of an electronic channel, represented by e-commerce websites, is the ability for the company to get in touch with their end-customers without an intermediary.

This means the ability to recognize and treat each customer individually in a personalized way (mass customization). Many bank websites ask to their customers to specify their needs or interests; for example, a customer might be interested in financing services, others in asset management services and so on. The result is a customer “profile”, which produces a corresponding profile for the commercial offer: consequently the website reconfigures itself on the basis of the interests declared by the customer and shows only offers that are presumed to be compatible with his needs.

Direct contact with the market also allows companies to provide better technical information about the product or service. This relieves sellers from having to answer to customer’s questions and permits the product’s features and functionalities to be properly presented to customers, something which was not always assured when product illustration is done through intermediaries, due to wholesalers and shop assistants.

Through e-commerce, websites marketing messages are presented correctly, the strengths of the products are clearly highlighted to customers and different features compared to competing products can be adequately emphasized.

An important advantage of direct contact with the customer is that the company can receive real-time feedback from the market.

By studying online purchases made by customers, the website pages most frequently accessed by users or e-mail messages sent by customers, the company will immediately realize how the market has seen a new product. They can react with a new advertise campaign. The collection of this information can be used to quickly correct any errors in marketing. Instead of using the old information channels, companies should expect to have more opportunities to catch weak but worrying signals.

E-commerce reduces flows and response times

Through e-commerce Websites trading operations can also be performed more quickly and effectively.

A price change, if approved, can be seen by all at once, avoiding sales clerks or sellers mistakes. A commercial campaign, published on a website, becomes immediately operational for the entire market, without spending time to align the sales forces to the new directives.

In the case of digital products, the electronic channel ensures the immediate delivery of goods without the need to produce a physical copy of the product sent to the customer. Even in the case of physical products sellers can achieve considerable benefits if you take orders using the web. Requests on the internet arrive in real time to sales management, which alleviates the need for one or more central warehouses, saving in the storage of goods in periphery warehouses.

An extreme effect of electronic commerce can be represented by the reorganization of the commercial sector, with the disappearance of some figures like commercial intermediaries and the restructuring of the supply chain upstream from the manufacturer.

A computer company that receives orders from customers only by an e-commerce website could easily get replenishment orders of computer components to its suppliers and taking delivery of what is only required to meet its commitments to customers. This would generate a very efficient supply chain by reducing inventory and work-in-process.

E-commerce means flexibility

A digital commercial network allows for greater flexibility with respect to a physical network. A crowded shop can not attract other customers, who will keep away from it.

The web sites, if properly dimensioned, can handle spikes of visitors without visible degradation of response times (websites such as Microsoft or Yahoo handle several million hits a day).

The e-shops can also stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, answering questions from all over the world without worry or timetables or holidays. Flexibility is also in terms of ability to respond to marketplace. Using information gathered in real time through its websites, the company can modify its proposals, promoting products that have difficulties, making more attractive deals if users indicate weakness in respect to competition. Compared to a conventional commercial network in which the company proposes more products than the market’s demand, for e-commerce it is the opposite. The market “pulls” and the company follows, trying to stimulate demand, but only from the inclinations observed in the market.

The e-commerce also brings new business opportunities

The ability to sell directly online to a wide audience of customers can potentially generate new areas of business. It is, for example, the case of financial information in the evolution of financial markets (stock exchanges, foreign exchange, etc.). There are several Internet providers who joined this business that sell quotes, financial news in real time, or offer opportunities to work online through the stock exchange. In general it’s possible to develop many information selling services, which customers are disposed to pay. Currently you can subscribe to a market research firm in order to receive studies and research reports from their Web sites. One area where new services are developing rapidly is tourism. In this area, there are numerous Information Providers that allow you to get information about tourist destinations and make reservations at hotels. For example, the subsector for skiing holidays is developing a very strong competition on the Internet between French regions, Swiss cantons and Italian valleys, with very interesting opportunities from tourist point of view.

Finally, e-commerce can give rise to entirely new sales processes compared with the old ones. For example, many airlines have adopted e-commerce solutions for their tickets. On the new websites of flight companies, the customers book flights and obtain tickets directly, so the process can be completed by many different people, travellers, but it is no different from the traditional one in which travel agents make bookings. But some flight companies have thought about an innovation. When the flight date is near and there are still empty seats, the company will “auction” the seats on the Internet at very attractive prices without a reservation, thus, selling them to the first customer who is willing to buy them. Through its websites the company maintains, in addition to the traditional “virtual store”, a parallel “store” for sales or specials. This economic activity has contributed greatly to raising the number of the travelling public thus improving the economic performance of flight companies.

Andrea Pizzolitto is the owner of priceandoffer.co.uk [http://www.priceandoffer.co.uk] website. You can learn more about e-commerce and price comparison service on his website at [http://www.priceandoffer.co.uk].

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Andrea_Pizzolitto/587354

 

Affiliate Marketing Vs E-Commerce Small Business: Pros And Cons Of Each

An e-commerce website can be a great way to create an extra income or full time income. Many people have taken a hobby or found a product they liked and then created a successful e-commerce website.

Likewise, people who get into blogging, have turned their passion into a viable business with affiliate marketing.

What’s the difference between e-commerce and affiliate websites?

An e-commerce site sells products directly to a customer. An affiliate site refers website visitors to an e-commerce website (or membership site – something that does the selling). When you operate an e-commerce website you’re either selling your own products or drop shipping products. Drop shipping is an arrangement with a manufacturer or warehouse where your orders are sent and then the product is shipped.

Most e-commerce website owners are ultimately responsible to their customers. This is why many people choose not run an e-commerce website. Sure, you can easily outsource the customer service, but at the end of the day, if it’s your business, you’re responsible.

Cons to an e-commerce website in relation to an affiliate website

1. If there are returns or complaints, or even lawsuits, you’re likely involved. Yes, affiliates could be implicated in a lawsuit, but the affiliate relationship to the product/service vendor is much further removed from the e-commerce website owner. If you have affiliates selling your product, you could be liable for any mis-steps they take in promoting your product.

2. You have to build up your marketing presence from scratch. Your product may be new or not recognized in the market and so it may take time to generate sales. You can, however, sell existing products if you enter an arrangement with the manufacturer, wholesaler, or drop-shipping company that provides you products already recognizable.

3. You have to be cognizant of inventory levels and ensure customer service is delivered. As an affiliate, it’s not your responsibility to take care of anything other then sending referrals via links and/or codes.

4. Generally, you enjoy a lower start up cost with being an affiliate. You don’t have to create a product or service. Sure you can drop-ship or create a digital product to sell which is cheap or free – but generally it’s less money starting with an affiliate website than e-commerce (depending on the type of e-commerce you go into).

Pros of an e-commerce website over an affiliate website

There are benefits to being an e-commerce website owner that you don’t enjoy as an affiliate. They are as follows:

1. You control whether the product remains available. If you’re an affiliate, you’re at the mercy of the products you promote. Any day a website you’ve built dedicated to a particular product may have to be completely revamped because the product/service is no longer available. Even worse, if you create a site dedicated to a particular product/service, and that product/service is discontinued, you’re site if is useless unless you find something comparable to promote.

2. You get all the profits with an e-commerce site. This is a no-brainer; you set the price and get to keep all the profits (unless you have your own affiliates who you pay a percentage of the sales they refer to you).

3. You can do vendor affiliate marketing. In other words, you can set up an affiliate program and pay affiliate commissions to affiliates who market your product. This is a huge advantage to running an e-commerce site because you can get loads of links to your site and a great deal of non-fixed-cost advertising. It’s a non-fixed-cost because you only pay for the advertising when a sale is made.

4. You control the customer service and quality. This is more work, but can result in better word-of-mouth and lower refund rates. If you’re an affiliate marketer, you can have the greatest pre-selling website, but if the vendor messes up the customer service, it can affect the affiliate marketer’s sales beyond the affiliate marketer’s control. Of course the affiliate marketer can stop promoting that product/service if returns/refunds are too high.

At the end of the day, if you get a high-demand product, there’s probably more money in running an e-commerce site. However, it’s not easy creating a successful product and you may launch a few duds along the way – which can be costly or is a huge loss of your time.

I run affiliate sites and two e-commerce sites. I like doing both, but overall I prefer affiliate marketing over running an e-commerce site. I like writing and promoting and doing SEO more than doing customer service. This means I’ll keep my e-commerce sites going of course, but I do invest more time in affiliate marketing.

Next, if it’s affiliate marketing you’re interested in doing, check out these WordPress themes for affiliate marketing [http://www.websitetemplatereviews.com/affiliate-marketing-wordpress-themes-by-internet-marketing-strategy].

Or, if it’s e-commerce you’re interested in, check out these e-commerce website templates [http://www.websitetemplatereviews.com/my-list-of-the-best-e-commerce-website-templates-a-big-chart] to get your online store built quickly and easily.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Peter_Lawlor/511898