The challenges of operating an ecommerce based enterprise have become clearly evident during the last few years of internet business closings, and the overall market adjustment that followed. The need to establish sound business practices, and expectations for the internet based operation is as imperative in this venue as in the brick and mortar world.
One area of considerable import in the planning of your new enterprise is the means by which your company will accept payment for your featured product or service. Many methods exist in the online world for accomplishing this task, but few are as widely accepted as payment processing via credit card. This is not to suggest that other options are of no value, as creating a menu of possible payment opportunities will serve to ensure the satisfaction of all potential buyers.
Historically, many online organizations have chosen to retain a level of simplicity on site by offering only the most basic forms of payment processing. Although initially an acceptable means for the relatively low expectations of the internet user of the day, these forms no longer meet the growing need of the internet savvy shopper for quick, efficient location, selection, and payment for online purchases.
To accommodate the current realities, credit card acceptance is a virtual must, regardless of the nature of your enterprise. The growing popularity of this medium has resulted in a flourish of enterprising minds releasing softwares and services to enable the ecommerce oriented business starting up on the web.
There are a variety of processes involved in each ecommerce transaction at your property. Some providers offer services which manage all of these steps, while other services offer only specific portions of the process, for organizations that manage some aspects on their own servers, or wish to provide only partially automated services. Some of the aspects of an ecommerce ready web site include:
* Shopping Cart – the means by which a client indicates an interest in purchasing a specific item, and records and submits personal and financial information relative. The “buy” and “checkout” buttons seen on all ecommerce sites are part of their shopping cart system.
* Merchant Account – a necessity for credit card acceptance by all businesses, online or off. An agreement between the business operator, and the bank responsible for a given credit card, to provide funds to the merchant via the customer’s account, less fees outlined in the agreement. There also exist services that allow you to utilize their merchant accounts established with the bank, for an additional fee.
* Gateway Account – an aspect of “real-time” credit card processing, which means that the purchase is reviewed, and approved or rejected automatically, before the customer is advised that their order is complete. Non “real time” systems require that the operator manually process each order via either an online form, or terminal located at the place of business.
* Security Certificate – a digital tool incorporated into all sites providing “secure shopping” environments. The certificate indicates to both the transaction processor, and to the customer, that the site accepting the financial data from the client is known, and trusted. The digital certificate must be purchased, and installed on the server where the shopping cart system is located.
Prior to finalizing your organization’s ecommerce direction, it is imperative that you understand the role of each process, and the costs involved with the various services. It is also important to recognize the technical strengths and/or weaknesses of your design group, most especially if it is to be an owner developed property. Many of the software and security aspects of ecommerce applications must be carefully managed to ensure overall integrity of your system – an absolute necessity in today’s online shopping market. If a comfort level with these applications is not available within your organization, then consideration should be given to either selection of a simplified service, or the outsourcing of the project to someone experienced in such areas of development.
In the end, the learning curve associated with offering an ecommerce ready site to your clientelle is unquestionably worthwhile. The future of online shopping indicates trends of substantial growth for some time to come. Placing your site on the technological forefront of this movement today helps to ensure your online success for many years to come.