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Ecommerce - FAQ

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I wish to put up a web site that would allow online transaction of goods and services my company offers. How do I go from here?
The most important point when starting such a venture is the business idea. You need to determine what you want to do, who would be your customers, why would they buy from you and not from a physical store or from a competitor and how you can bind those customers to your site. Determine the probable size of the market, how you plan to deliver the goods or the services and how best to collect the payments.
The easiest and cheapest way to do online sales is to join one of the shopping malls that are already operational. Different malls offer different services. But in general, you can enter your products into a database, you can enter your prices and you can collect money through a online payment system that uses a common merchant account that is already set up. The money that is due to you will be paid to you from the operator of the mall. In this case you do not need to worry about buying hardware, getting it connected to the Internet. All this are done for you.

How do I make sure that people are aware of my web presence?
The main techniques for that are the presence in search engines and the references from other web sites. In order to be picked up by the search engines you can connect your website to their websites and fill out the appropriate forms that they provide for this purpose. Alternatively, there are available services that is chargeable for a fee. References from other websites are probably more effective. This means that you will cross-link to your web site with those of others.

Where do I find the skills needed for eCommerce?
Very probably, you may not have the skills necessary to setup and run such a shop front yourself. If your company is big, you may want to consider hiring the appropriate skills. However, another option is to ask a system integration company or ecom consulting to set up the whole system for you. In this case you can avoid the long-term obligations of hiring your own staff. The system integrators or ecom consulting will charge you for the service. If you determine that you need a rework of the site, you can ask for a quotation. If you are happy with how things are going (or you determine to give up the service), you have no further cost.
If your company is big and established, you may want to consider a bigger project where the shop front is directly talking to your back-end system, e.g. an MRP/ERP system. This way changes in prices and products offered are immediately available on the web site without further maintenance. Also, using this back-end integration, the stock status can be checked before promising delivery dates. If your project is of massive scale, even if you want to use external ecom consultants services (which might be very advisable if your IT-department has no eCommerce experience), you will probably need some in-house skills so as to monitor and interface with the team from the integration company.

How much cost is involved in starting an Internet venture?
Well, that ranges from a couple of thousands dollars (such as sharing a shop front with others) to multi-million dollars (such as competing directly with big corporations like Amazon. COM). There is plenty of venture capital available in Europe and the U.S. Such companies are constantly looking out for promising business ventures. If your business idea is promising, funding on the order of several millions can be available.

What options do I have for payment services?
There are several options that include:

  • Credit card payment.

    Credit cards are the obvious choice in many cases, though they may not be the only and best option.
  • Cash-on-delivery.

    This is the PizzaHut method. The person who delivers the goods also collects the money. Very safe option - goods delivered, money collected.
  • Conventional invoice-based billing scheme.

    This is feasible in all cases where you already have a business relationship with the buyers. You send out the goods and you send out invoices separately.

    In this case, the web is just a different way of receiving orders which otherwise would have been accepted via fax.
  • Inclusion of amount in other bills that you send out.

    This is for companies that already have an ongoing regular billing implemented, e.g. utilities, phone companies, other regular services.
  • Subscription schemes with up-front payments.

    This is a very good method. You collect money up front and then you supply goods as you go along. Very suitable for regular services.

    This can also be implemented using Giro deductions.Cash card.
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