The Internet is great at leveling the field for businesses. Where else can you put up a site and immediately compete with huge companies on an international basis?
What It Is
E-commerce, clearly termed as web commerce, basically means selling of merchandise or services over the Internet with electronic transactions and also through a secure network. E-com is not merely buying and selling or providing services but it is also a method of advertising and marketing through an electronic system as well. E-com also means facilitating the progress of commercial transactions electronically. Right now e-com is a well-established technology in all major countries. In most cases internet marketing requires you to have your own E-commerce store for maximum return.
Requirements of an E-commerce Store
Building an online store is not an easy job. Software is required that can manage customers as well as their needs. E-commerce software should be able to handle inventory, shipping and handling costs, taxes, dispatching and payment processing of client's orders. You may encounter many options when setting out to build an e- commerce store. Before choosing any of them it is important to have a clear view of your requirements. Technical requirements might include coupons, tracking systems, customer login options or any number of other things. Other requirements include what type of impression you want to provide to your valuable clients.
Study the Sales and Marketing Cycle to Determine Your Needs
Before you opt for any of solutions for building e commerce store, study the basic model of e commerce that represents the entire sales and marketing cycle. The first building block of this cycle is audience in which you define what type of customers you will target. Second are commodities, in which you characterize the types of products you will put on the market. Third is customer support where you will answer the questions and offer solutions to clients' or potential clients' problems. Next are advertising, marketing and endorsement where a business promotes the products or services. Then there is transaction processing, the most important technical phase of the cycle, which will handle orders, taxes, payment processing and order delivery. Transactions may be automatic or manual. In manual processing you have to enter credit card information manually through an offline terminal. In the case of automatic processing a client's order form will be setup with a program that processes and charges the credit card for you. After that there are post-deal services regarding how you provide solutions and services after the sale. Last but not least is brand name with which you will create a distinctive business image to correspond with customers. Nobody is going to pay attention to your online store unless something catches their eye.
Research Your Options
Once you have defined your needs, you can then begin researching your options. There are two basic paths you may follow when building an e-commerce store - either buy ready made software or build a custom system with components and parts according to your requirements and budgets.
Some business firms offer gifts and well placed impulse products for better marketing approaches. This requires an e-com solution to be flexible enough to allow various give-aways, coupons and promotions. Also, if your product comes in a variety of models or styles, with different options and different prices then you must communicate these factors and portray them distinctively in your online store. A true businessperson will certainly follow the patterns of his or her usual clients as well as those who directly visit the site. Web statistic tracking tools can be a great help to this end.
Ease of Use
Some e commerce stores are very easy to use and require only a few minutes to learn while others are more complex with so many features that they can be overwhelming. Being able to see a demonstration of software before buying it is a great help to determining ease of use.
Being able to grow with your company is very important. If you choose a very simple solution now, then require a more robust solution down the road, you will lose time converting your store. If the URL structure of your store is not consistent, you can also lose search engine rankings by changing e commerce solutions. Therefore, it is important to choose an e commerce solution that can grow with you. For example, some stores owners may not want coupons in the beginning but then down the road decide it is a good idea. Some stores may also have limits on number of products, inventory control and tracking that down the road will be very important.
Of utmost importance to online stores is transaction security. The priority for any business firm should be secure transactions. Thanks to Netscape for introducing SSL (secure socket layer), data can be protected by online store owners. SSL is an encryption technology that encrypts a message and the receiver decrypts it by using RSA security. To enable SSL on your web server you need a digital ID (a form of identification that will recognize you). Many web hosts provide SSL installation for anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred bucks per year.
Overall, you want flexibility, ease of use, security and scalability in your store. Research your options before you make a final choice, and whenever possible, get a free trial of your solution before you buy.