Setting up of online store

By : |November 12, 2001 0

The benefits of business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce are
more than tangible. Increased revenues, improved customer satisfaction and
retention with reduced operating costs are among the benefits that entrepreneurs
have reaped. The most prominent example has been that of Amazon.com. They
actually taught the world that e-commerce can give an enterprise, the leading
edge. Merchants and Mercantile companies can indeed use this leading edge of
e-commerce to tide the downturn.

Getting it all up and running, of course, is not always such
an easy task. But all you need to do is find the right solution to make the
process smooth. There are a number of factors that merchants must consider
deploying a successful, customer-centric, electronic store.

Taking the electronic route

There are many e-commerce software packages currently
available in the market. The e-commerce explosion is nothing new, and vendors
have been busying themselves for the last few years, improving version upon
version to create the perfect solution. Furthermore, they are often flexible
enough to run through the ISP of your choice.

But how do you choose the right solution? First, let’s
consider the basic needs of a quality e-store. A merchant needs to launch a
professional online establishment, featuring an interactive product catalog,
electronic shopping cart, online ordering and payment capabilities. On the
back-end, you must also figure out how to efficiently and effectively deal with
incoming product orders, collect and use customer information, track and manage
inventory, and more. And above all, security, flexibility, and scalability are
key.

The ideal solution will ultimately merge all of the above
requirements into a single, elegant package that supports the three main
elements of selling on the Internet – placing your goods online, attracting
customers to your storefront and making and managing the final sale.

Preparing for the electronic cruise

Building for yourself a catalog is the first step. Find a
software solution that lets you import a previously existing catalog of products
if you have one, or that leads you through the development phase step by step,
letting you design and refine the structure as you go. Online wizards are a most
helpful and necessary tool in this scenario, and don’t forget to make sure that
the user interface is super user friendly.

A good software package should also allow merchants to
preview the catalog on-the-fly as you build your e-store. Features like the
ability to generate a set of HTML pages on your local machine that you can view
in your browser allow the merchant to easily make adjustments without having to
continuously connect to the Internet, saving valuable time and money.

Preparing the business scenario

In addition to the basic catalog structure, your online store
must be able to seamlessly support all the specific financial, legal, financial
and other details that will guide your customers through the buying process.
Many software packages allow merchants to set tax rates, select payment options,
finalize terms and conditions, and configure security features in a single step.

With online security being the number one concern of Internet
shoppers around the world, merchants are more aware than ever of the need to
reassure their customers that their sensitive credit card and other personal
information is completely secure. The best solutions include a bank-approved,
built-in security system, using a Java Applet to fully encrypt credit card
information in the browser, then save it to the web in an encrypted form.
Alternatively, merchants can run their online catalog on a secure server, or
configure it to work with one of a number of online credit card processing
services.

Publishing your catalog

Once you are happy with your catalog, you can upload it to
your web site. Your web hosting company should provide you with all the help you
need to get this process right. Many packages also come pre-configured, with all
the required settings already installed in the application.

During an upload, HTML is generated for the site and copied
up together with all the images and icons specified in the design templates. The
first upload always takes the most time, with everything being uploaded at once.
However, after this, the software will only upload the files that have changed
since the last upload.

The bottom line

The bottom line is: make sure your customers are happy. You
take care of all the back-end details, just let them shop. Customer satisfaction
has increasingly become the make-or-break criteria for success in the world of
e-commerce. And many online stores simply don’t measure up. To stay on top,
you’ve got to be able to give your customers a shopping experience they’ll never
forget. Otherwise, they may move on to the next e-commerce site, and you could
be history.

Shopper’s route map

Here’s how the online shopping experience should pan out:

  1. A customer arrives at your site, browses your catalog section by section,
    or uses the site-map to find a specific product.
  2. Once they find the product they want, they add it to an electronic
    shopping cart with the click of a button. This shopping cart can be viewed
    and added to by the customer at any time during the process, and will
    eventually accompany the customer to the checkout counter.
  3. The entire checkout process should be customizable, enabling you, the
    vendor, to decide which questions the customer is asked, and which ones of
    those are compulsory.
  4. Critical information, such as name, billing and delivery address should be
    stored as cookies to speed the process of making future purchases.
  5. Once the order is completed, the customer should be presented with a
    receipt or an e-mail message that can be printed out and saved.

Order Processing

With some packages, the vendor can download the waiting
orders at any time. Once downloaded, the orders can be processed using a
built-in order processing system. Good packages also support the creation of
payment histories, printing of packing-lists and invoices. To support ongoing
operations, be sure to have some kind of stock monitoring capabilities, so you
never have to disappoint a customer with low inventory or unavailable items. You
should also be able to seamlessly link your e-commerce software solution to a
variety of other desktop packages for accounting and other back-end functions to
support continuous growth and success.

Online stores could be an excellent business proposition if
there is sound technology backup and the businesses should serve up to the
growing expectations of the hi-tech shopper but whatever said or done the future
of shopping lies on the net.

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