Why do I need an eCommmerce system?
"With an increase in Internet experience, consumers gain confidence and subsequently spend more minutes and money online." Datamonitor (19th July 2000).
As a business you can not ignore this survey finding by Datamonitor1. As more consumers are exposed to online shopping, the proportion of online sales will increase compared to more traditional methods of sale. Another phenomenon is that online shoppers have come to depend on the services offered.
One example amongst others is food shopping for mothers of young children. The dependency becomes very apparent when families move interstate from an area where the major food retailers offer online shopping to a suburb where "mum" must drag toddlers and infants to a shopping center. The service is sorely missed.
If your business does not offer online shopping the unearned income will only increase as time goes on and to the extreme could even totally cut off part of this "internet dependent" population as potential customers.
Further more, according to Datamonitor "eCommerce consumers are extremely brand loyal". The figures put forward by Datamonitor are staggering "90% of shoppers said they intend to reorder from a site they had used previously". So what does this mean for you as a business? This means that time is of the essence. Your competitors will, for lack of a better word, "hook" consumers on their eCommerce site and it will be difficult for you, as a late comer, to recapture these customers.
OK, I have a business but no an online presence, what do I do ?
Having established that an online presence is necessary to grow your business and that you need it "yesterday", you must choose an adequate eBusiness software package or service. You must first establish whether you will be running the software from your premises or outsource the hosting. For most businesses the lack of in house IT support makes it impractical to host their own eCommerce website. Further more, the cost can be prohibitive, a quick look at the minimum expenses required will show this:
This is only a very conservative and short list of minimum requirements. Proper eCommerce sites run SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) accelerators which cost in excess of $20,000.00 (eg: Cisco Content Services Switch - CSS11501S-C-K9) to secure and speed up their customers connections. They also have database servers that cost in excess of $100,000.00 running Windows Cluster Server to ensure redundancy and fail-over capability (eg: www.mssql.com.au).
OK, I get the point. I need to outsource my eCommerce site, so will I have 2 separate systems?
"Many smaller businesses retype or import their electronic orders into existing stock and financial systems" 2, but there are many drawbacks. Double entry increases the risk of errors and slows down order processing. As your business grows these drawbacks will inevitably become problems and require a solution to integrate all systems. An integrated online system has many benefits, one being that your stock levels and availability will immediately be reflected on your site. An integrated online system will not only improve your business processes but also allow better communication with your customers. As stated by Angus Kidman2 "If growth is your goal, then integration will eventually have to be a major strategy.". According to Angus Kidman an option worth serious consideration is software as a service (SaaS). Cost control is easier and more predictable, a fixed cost per month being the ideal and allowing you to better plan your budgetary requirements. If IT is not your business then this makes sense, you have to minimise your exposure to risk and the more your IT needs are outsourced the less you need to worry about. Unexpected IT costs (hardware failure, data corruption, software upgrades etc...) are also minimised by shifting the responsibility of hardware maintenance to a third party.
OK, I understand the need for integration but what solution do you propose ?
There are many different solutions available, but a vital requirement is to develop "a co-operative relationship with your provider"2. Such systems are so complex and critical to your business that pre-packaged off the shelf solutions will not do and good communication with the IT solution provider is necessary to ensure the software is suited to your needs. DBIZ can cater for all eCommerce requirements from the "Turn Key" solution to the highly customised - high perfomance internet application.
2Dynamic Business, February 2007 edition. "Integrating I.T. Systems" by Angus Kidman.