Ask Mike: How Best to Use E-Commerce for Your Website
Last Friday during Ask Mike on the Move, our topic of the day revolved around the wonderful world of e-commerce. The question for Mike was:
What is E-Commerce, and What Can We Do With It?
Basically, e-commerce is the selling of products and services online. As for what you can sell, the options are nearly endless. You can sell just about anything online, whether physical or digital: products, services, subscriptions, memberships, e-courses, and pretty much anything else you can think of. And, as for what we can do with it... well, that's where the fun comes in.
Automating the Process
You can have your e-commerce system set up in a wide variety of ways. If you're targeting customer satisfaction and usability with your buying process, you can make different amounts of information available to them. This can range from information regarding their one-time payments to a more complex customer portal, in which your users can access their order histories and other aspects of their user profiles.
If you have a subscription service, you can make it so your users can maintain their subscriptions online or simply see when they're going to be billed next.
Discounts and Coupons
You can also incorporate limited-time specials, like discounts and coupons, in your e-commerce website and set individual parameters for them. For example, you can allow discounts depending on the specific user or product. Or, if you're working within a product category, you can set the discount for a different percentage or dollar amount. These can also be incorporated into coupons, so that your e-commerce system can handle coupons codes and either make them available for a distinct number of users or set them to expire on a specific date.
If you have both your business website and an e-commerce website, it's recommended to consolidate the two entities into one location, so that you're conveniently maintaining one website instead of two. This is a perfect job for open-source tools, like Drupal, to carry out. In using Drupal or a similar tool, you can add an e-commerce section to your website relatively easily. You can then set your administrators and roles so that the only people who have the ability to access your e-commerce section's management system are the individuals you grant the access to. By using open-source tools, like content management systems, to maintain and upgrade your website, you can continually build out your online presence while keeping it all one entity. This also helps avoid confusion for your users.
Third-party integrations go right alongside website consolidation. The goal is to maintain all of your website and online business tools through one central location. This helps to further automate your business process and make it easier on you and whoever's maintaining your online store.
A lot of convenient capabilities call for third-party integrations, and the resulting ease and efficiency is worth every minute of the setup. Integrations can be the best solutions for situations like if you have different products listed somewhere else online; if you want to maintain your products' inventory through another system; if you're selling on a third-party website such as Amazon; or even if you have Quickbooks Online you want to maintain more easily. You can integrate your website with any of these third-party services so that they're all maintained from a central place, in which you can do anything from updating your stock to keeping track of the creation and disbursement of orders.
Payment and Shipping
There are about a dozen or so payment gateways that you can use and incorporate into your website, including Paypal, Stripe, Authorize.Net, and CyberSource. The recommended payment gateway for any business depends on the size of its store, the volume of its sales, and any automated processes it requires, like recurring billing and monthly subscriptions.
E-Commerce shipping can also be done in a variety of ways. If you're shipping a physical product, it can be integrated with UPS, FedEx, or you can even use a flat-rate shipping method. The shipping process can also be integrated and maintained through your website, and you can achieve various levels of automation with it.
That's e-commerce in a nutshell! Basically, it allows you to sell things online, either physical or digital, including products, services, subscriptions, memberships, and more. Within your e-commerce environment, you can maintain your payments, the shipping of your physical products, provide specific coupons and discounts, and integrate your store with other tools, such as bookkeeping and UPS shipping tools.
If you have any questions regarding e-commerce systems, whether about their setup or maintenance, the best payment and shipping methods for your company, or any consolidation or third-party integration from any kind of entity, we'd be more than happy to help. E-Commerce is one of our specialties at Trail 9. Depending on what your business is and what you're trying to sell, we can help you sell it online. We excel in setting up e-commerce systems for various types of products, whether general or unique, and whether you require a simple process or more specialized configurations.
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