e-Commerce Basics

Normally, e-Commerce requires that a business obtain its own Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection (SSL ensures the secure passage of information, such as credit card numbers and bank accounts), the licence for which averages $500.00.

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A Guide to E-Commerce

The hottest game on the Internet right now is e-commerce, which has a lot of players and few BIG winners. One of the biggest challenges in developing a successful online storefront is choosing the right approach for your site, which can make the difference between making money and losing money on the Web. If there was one magic solution, we'd sell it to you. Since there isn't an e-commerce panacea, we put together this guide to help provide you with an overview of how to go about making the best choice for you and your company.

On-Line Store

An electronic commerce business is no less demanding than any other type of business operation, but it is also quite different. Instead of the traditional brick and mortar storefront, everything happens in the form of bits and bytes flowing over the Internet and what makes it tick is e-commerce software. To engage in e-commerce, a company needs to develop a Web site and fill it with Web pages that can inform customers, display products, conduct purchase transactions, and provide feedback and results.

Where do I start?

With all these options, a common question is "where do I start?" We suggest deciding what kind of e-commerce business you want -- consumer, business to business, or both. The consumer side of e-commerce is the retail trade, where companies offer products for immediate purchase. (This distinguishes e-commerce from sites that merely promote products.) The business-to-business side of e-commerce can involve both wholesale purchasing and electronic data transfers (payments, invoices, etc.) between business partnerships.


  1. Get to a computer and visit the World Wide Web; look around and see what's out there.
  2. Identify the goals for your web site.
  3. Register your Domain Name now. This gets you the address that your clients will go to, to shop in your store.
  4. Create a budget for your web site development.
  5. Set up Merchant Bank Account.

Building an E-Commerce Business

So what's involved with building an e-commerce business? While there are vast differences between a consumer and business-to-business site, there are similarities. Each requires a product catalog (where the online customers select what they want to order), a shopping cart (where product selections are collected), transaction security (credit authorization and other payment methods), and order processing (shipping, taxes, inventory, etc.). All of these elements combined give the store a personality and the end users a true shopping experience.


  1. Gather your promotional materials
  2. Gather your logos and photos.
  3. Meet with a web developer with e-commerce experience, and discuss what your site will look like.
  4. Write or gather the copy for your web site.
  5. Submit all graphic elements to your web developer.
The All Important Catalog, whether browsing or buying, from the customer's perspective is the most important part of e-commerce. It's similar to the printed mail-order catalog with respect to the basics: products, pictures, and prices. However, a web catalog can be a fully interactive shopping experience, including video, sound, and a lot more. Collecting and incorporating images, sounds, and other trimmings for hundreds (or thousands) of catalog products is both a major organizational effort and a complex job for the e-commerce storefront developer.


  1. Identify and compile a database of items for the catalogue.
Processing Orders
As a customer shops in your online store, catalog selections are usually put into a "shopping cart." Cart selections are then stored in a database so the customer can review what has been selected before check out. Again, this is not much different from ordering in a regular store, but there can be some wrinkles. There can be many details involved with shipping and taxes. There are many other kinds of calculations associated with orders. They include discounts, coupons, volume breaks, and connections to accounting systems. You should check your short and long range goals for your store at the outset. This ensures you do not build a store that will need a major renovation in a few months.

Security and Payment
Because they're impersonal, Internet transactions can get downright touchy. You need to establish a sense of security. Customers must be able to select a mode of payment. You or your web site must verify their ability to pay. This can involve credit cards, electronic cash, or purchase orders. Specialized software can verify the purchaser and the purchase and should work with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transfer (SET) technologies for encryption of data transmissions. You will need to set up a special account to handle on-line transactions with your bank.


  1. Establish connection with netCheckout.
  2. Determine shipping method
  3. Determine currency to be accepted
  4. Determine tax implications
Minding the Store
Managing customer information is a crucial part of an e-commerce operation. Inevitably you will maintain a great deal of customer data, name, address, buying habits, where they go in the site, and make this information available in the form of analytical reports. You can use the customer's information to customize page contents to their tastes on subsequent visits.


  1. Gather customer information.
  2. Analyze customer data for future revisions of your web site.
Building an on-line store can be as simple as presenting a form for your customers to print, list the items they wish to purchase, and fax, phone, mail or e-mail to you for verification. Or, an on-line store can feature a complex, but easy to use, set of automated applications good enough to run successful web sites such as Dell Computer (www.dell.com) or chapters.ca that bring in millions of dollars each day.

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