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Back-End Issues in E-Commerce
Web sites have to be eye-catching, easy to use, and functional. This allows
customers to make the most of your site and entice them to purchase your products
or services. Building a customer-oriented site is difficult enough without
considering the back-end issues of running an e-commerce web site.
The front-end aspects of your e-commerce site are essential to making a sale
and, therefore, have to be carefully planned and designed. It usually takes
even more careful planning, design and hard work to get the behind-the-scenes
elements operational, and even more to keep them working.
Integrating Internet sales with the rest of your regular business operations
can allow your business to run more efficiently and help avoid certain problems
that might arise from selling products online. For example, if your inventory
systems for online sales and store sales are not linked together, you might
run into a challenge if you sell a product online and then discover that you
do not have any left in stock. If you have guaranteed a delivery time to your
online customer, now that deadline will not be met. This leads to dissatisfied
customers — the one thing all businesses cannot afford. If e-commerce
will be playing a major part in your business, integrating online operations
with day-to-day operations is essential for smooth running,
The most important behind-the-scenes activities in a well-built e-business:
Inventory and resource management - showing what you have
to offer; ensuring you have the products when you need them; and dealing with
supply and demand factors.
Customer and order management - Nurturing the customer relationship;
providing prompt reply to inquiries; moving revenue-generating information
through your system.
Delivery and payment tracking - Making sure that goods or
services are delivered on time and to the correct location; and ensuring that
the money owed is received promptly.
Monitoring - Trading site performance; trends in order/transaction
activity, fulfillment, staffing costs.
Resource management in e-business is almost identical to that of traditional,
brick-and-mortar options. Your e-business resources may include:
Physical Stock - Whether books, medical supplies, or beef
jerky. You may have an electronic stock management system already, or you might
do everything by hand. Either way, it's often necessary to have an inventory
database on the web site that is linked to your back-office environment.
Staff and Service Resources -You need to be able to schedule
your staffing to provide the correct amount of person-hours per project. This
can be automated or left to human planners. You will need to let your customers
know your delivery times.
Be Choosy - Avoid putting everything online. Restrict your
inventory to products that will be most attractive to visitors and most profitable
to you. That way, you can ensure that the inventory you have on hand meets
Customer and Order Management
If you are moving from a paper-based system or not, you should have comprehensive
customer and ordering information. This information is important to your e-business
and it is imperative you keep it live at all times.
There are numerous software packages to help you do this; any system is satisfactory
if it gives you access to:
- Customers’ personal details
- Ordering history
- Details of individual orders and their status
- Financial details
- Account status, etc.
You need this information before you can adequately deliver anything.
Delivery and Fulfillment
Depending on the size and nature of your e-business, delivery can be a large
or small part of the job. In either case, it is necessary that you take care
of it. If products are not delivered on time (or at all), there is little chance
the customer will make a repeat purchase.
Getting paid is just as important. On the Internet, watch out for expensive
payment methods (foreign checks can be tricky). Stick to simple methods such
as online credit card payment.
Key research findings include:
- Only 26 percent see Internet integration into their business among their
top three priorities.
- Almost 50 percent do not have a clearly defined Internet integration strategy
at this time.
The Local Commerce Monitor, an ongoing study of 600 small businesses, found
that small businesses are integrating Internet and e-commerce technologies
with their offline operations in order to streamline customer interactions.
While much of the focus of small-business Internet use has been on e-commerce,
the study found that small businesses have shown an interest in using the Internet
to enhance operational efficiencies.