What is e-Commerce?

 E-Commerce Framework

Simply put, e-commerce refers to the sell of goods and services over the Internet. With unlimited traffic from around the globe, the Internet is an ideal place to engage in 24/7 commerce. Each year, Internet merchants generate billions of US dollars in sales, boosting the desirability of e-commerce sites for businesses of all sizes. Even if business owners operate a traditional brick and mortar retail store or serve clients in a physical office, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to expand to the Internet to stay competitive. However, launching a successful e-commerce site is not simply a matter of setting up a website and taking orders. The following features are essential for establishing a successful e-commerce website.

The Storefront

The storefront is typically the first page that a customer interacts with when they visit a commercial website. Here, customers can look at the products that businesses offer and select to make a purchase of the products. Product pictures and descriptions are among the first images that a client views when they visit the storefront of an online business website. The storefront of an e-commerce website can be thought of as a products catalogue that lists the inventory that is available for sale. Through the storefront, the customer can browse through the available inventory and quickly select the products or goods that he or she wished to purchase. Even if a business does not sell traditional goods or products, every e-commerce site should have a storefront. The storefront is also where customers can learn about the services that a business provides and determine the price of their purchases.

E-Commerce Site Design

In e-commerce, first impressions are key. A poor site design and an excellent site design make the difference between making a sale and losing a potential customer. A well-designed commercial site will make it easy for customers to find the products or services they are looking for, make price comparisons, and make their purchases quickly. Yet, when entrepreneurs are first branching out on the Internet and establishing a commercial site, they make the mistake of using do-it-yourself templates and skipping professional advice. Don’t make this mistake! There are many best practices when it comes to designing a website that boosts sales, and an experienced professional can help businesses get over the learning curve. Nothing is worse than losing thousands of potential sales because of a design issue that is easy to fix.

The Shopping Cart

Surprisingly, many businesses still don’t have a shopping cart on their e-commerce websites. This essential feature allows clients to select items for purchase and continue browsing through the storefront until they are ready to make their final purchase. The advantage of the shopping cart is that it makes it easier for customers to order multiple items from the inventory with a click of the button. Shopping cart software also allows businesses to store payment and shipping information to make repeat purchases easier. Because of these benefits, neglecting the shopping cart is a surefire way to decrease potential sales. New merchants should consider the quality of their shopping cart software before making a commitment. A high quality shopping cart software will make it easy for customers to access their payment information on repeat visits, calculate the total of their purchases, and specify the number of inventory items they wish to purchase.

Merchant Account

With the shopping cart set up, there is one more step that businesses need to take so that it can accept payment from customers. Operators of e-commerce sites must set up a merchant account, which is a special bank-authorized account. Through a merchant account, businesses can accept major credit cards, electronic checks, and other digital forms of payment. First time vendors should carefully compare merchant accounts to avoid high fees and to obtain the best level of service. In combination with opening a merchant account, it is also advised that commercial website operators purchase payment transaction software. This allows businesses to instantly obtain authorization for credit card transactions that are processed through the commercial website.

SSL Security and PCI Compliance

Because the Internet presents a high potential for fraud, security is critical. Both SSL security and PCI compliance help businesses gain the trust of consumers through the establishment of business practices that protect consumer data. SSL security refers to a form of encryption that is made available to businesses that obtain a certification. A business can qualify for SSL certification by going through a process that verifies their identity. In return, they display their certification to consumers and utilize higher levels of data encryption that keeps confidential data of customers safe from criminals. Online merchants should also obtain PCI compliance, which establishes standards for the collection and storage of credit card information. When companies become PCI compliant, they signal to consumers that they are using the best industry practices for keeping credit card transactions confidential.

Customer Relationship Management Software

Now that the user experience is taken care of with the storefront and design, it is important to make the commercial website useful from a commercial standpoint. Customer relationship management, or CRM, software helps businesses collect data on their website visitors and customers and utilize this data to make better business decisions. With CRM software e-commerce sites can track the activities of their visitors and determine how customers interact with their websites. CRM programs also have powerful predictive capabilities and enable businesses to use customer history to make future predictions. Even small businesses should get into the habit of using CRM to guide their e-commerce decisions. In fact, it can be beneficial to learn how to expertly use CRM software while a business is still in the initial stages of growth.

Putting it All Together

As this review demonstrates, there are several components that go into establishing an e-commerce website. To start, businesses must create a storefront that is both enticing and user-friendly. An e-commerce website also uses software that improves the shopping experience for clients and helps businesses make better decisions, such as shopping cart software programs and customer relationship management software. Tying it all together, security software allows businesses to build trust among consumers and protect the sensitive data they collect through their website. Each of these components are essential for building a successful e-commerce website that generates sales.

Posted in: eCommerce Applications

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