The term e-commerce refers to buying, selling or ordering goods and services on the Internet. It is a subset of e-business.

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1 Enabling e-commerce

2 Creating an online store The term e-commerce refers to buying, selling or ordering goods and services on the Internet. It is a subset of e-business. So e-commerce happens when any commercial transaction is facilitated by the Web or . The transaction may simply involve a customer ordering an item from your online shop and paying for it by cheque when it is delivered. The more sophisticated e-commerce systems allow users to pay immediately via credit card for items purchased online. Websites or can be used to allow customers or clients to order, purchase or pay for things such as: products and services information in the form of papers, images, video or audio clips - perhaps held in a database on the site membership subscriptions rates, licences and taxes subscription to specialist services, newsletters etc for which you normally charge specifically requested research conducted by the organisation s staff bookings and tickets venue/facilities bookings. E-commerce does not have to be an expensive or sophisticated function or process. It is simply a tool that makes it easier for customers and suppliers to do business with you, and you with them. What to do If your e-business plan involves selling products or services online (via your website or , or both) then you need to consider a range of issues before the website is built. The following section assumes that you want to provide the e-commerce solution via your own website or system. An alternative to doing it yourself is to join an e-marketplace where someone else puts your catalogue online and handles the e-commerce solution for you. If you want to explore that alternative, look at this e-marketplace resource. Assuming your plan is to include e-commerce on your website, it is important to resolve a number of issues before going online because the approach you adopt for each will affect the way the web developer builds the site, what e-commerce software is employed and it will help to ensure that the solution is right for you and your customers. Consider each of the following issues: What products and services are to be sold online? Not all products or services are suited to being sold online. For example, CDs and books sell very well online but it is more difficult to sell life insurance over the Internet. Perhaps only a selection of your products or services should be offered for sale online. Are there any business partners to consider? Before making these products or services available online, consider that once online, anyone, anywhere can see and purchase them. Is this an issue for you and your business partners? For example, do you have re-sellers or fellow franchisees who would regard your e-commerce activity as treading on their territory or even taking business away from them? Enabling E commerce 2

3 What price to charge and what pricing model? Should the pricing/fees be the same as that charged to face-to-face customers? You may want to offer a discount for purchasing online to encourage people to purchase online. Determine how much to charge for freight and handling for the various quantities that can be purchased online. How to present your products and services? What will be the means by which users see and select products and services? Will you provide images, video clips, animations or samples of your products or services? If there is a range of products and options, how will these be presented? How will the prices/ fees be displayed? How do you want users to be able to make selections and edit their choices should they decide before paying that they want to change their selection - referred to as a shopping cart solution? How are the products or services to be delivered? Directly online, by post, courier, or collected in person by the purchaser. Payment method and timing: Do you want to be paid by credit card, cheque, money-order, cash? When is it best to receive payment, given the type of product or service being purchased online? Instantly, at the point of sale, or is it sufficient to take an order via the website or and invoice the customer at the point of delivery or at the end of the month? Security and reliability: What level of security of your e-commerce solution is required or appropriate? How dependent will your business be on the security and reliability of the system? eg if a significant amount of your turnover is to be put through the website then it needs to be secure and very reliable. Fulfilment: What is the availability of the goods and services for sale? If you require instantaneous payment but then cannot supply the goods, you may then waste time crediting their money and you may lose the goodwill of the customer. Inventory/catalogue: Does the e-commerce solution need to be linked to your product catalogue and/ or stock and inventory system, and to what extent? If you have only a handful of products and you don t expect to sell high volumes through the website then this may not be an issue. But if you expect a high volume of sales, and/or the number of products and options being offered online is large, and/or has to be updated constantly, then you may need to have a direct link between the website and the catalogue systems on your office computers. Maintaining the e-commerce solution: How often will you need to add, delete or update the details of products and services on the website - eg prices, availability? If it will be necessary to update the e-commerce catalogue regularly, then an efficient and effective solution will need to be provided by the web developer. You will need to balance the need for efficiency and ease of updating with the cost of the proposed maintenance solution. Managing risk: Providing an e-commerce solution carries with it some risks. In order to limit the risks, and to ensure that you mange the expectations of your online customers, you should develop and then explain clearly on the website your policies covering: privacy - what you will and will not do with their details returns policy - under what circumstances you will accept returned items and how will they be returned? shipping policy - freight costs, insurance, import duties, where you will not deliver goods fulfilment policy - what you will do if an item/service is purchased but you cannot fulfil the order in reasonable time security - of their personal details, their payment records, credit card or account details if given. Enabling E commerce 3

4 There are numerous e-commerce solutions available from Internet Service Providers, web developers and specialist third-party suppliers. Probably the overriding consideration for an organisation in deciding which solution to adopt is its integrity, security and the bona-fides of those organisations that are selling it and supporting it. If you want to offer instantaneous payment by credit card, you will need to arrange it with your bank and obtain a security certificate from a registered issuer so that your website is secure for people providing credit card details. When choosing an off-the-shelf solution or accepting one developed by your web developer, ensure that the solution is supported by a reputable bank and that it is deployed on websites of organisations you recognise and respect. It is recommended that once you have developed the appropriate policies and the accompanying explanations, you have them examined by an appropriately experienced lawyer before placing them on the website. For more information on e-commerce and security issues, you might like to look at these two fact sheets developed by DCITA as part of their publication, Trusting the Internet: Trusting the Internet Fact Sheet - How do I tell if I m completing a secure transaction? (187 kb) Trusting the Internet Fact Sheet - How do I set up a secure website? (82 kb) Setting up eftpos and credit card facilities Virtually all e-commerce sites accept credit cards as their primary form of payment. To accept credit cards, you need a merchant account with a bank. A payment gateway is simply a service which connects your Web site with the bank. While there s a bit more to it than that, in essence that s all it is a way to take payments online. Typically, when a customer enters credit card details on your Web site, those details are sent to the payment gateway, which then does some hard work in the background and processes (or rejects) the transaction. It then tells your shopping cart whether the payment was accepted or rejected. All this happens in a few seconds while the customer is waiting. The money is then transferred to your bank account when that happens depends on the terms of your service. It s a diverse industry and the description above is the most common scenario, but there are many variations on it. There are three basic types of payment gateways. The first is an API (Application Programming Interface). This means that the customer never sees the payment gateway Web site your shopping cart talks to it seamlessly in the background. This is generally the best option as it s a transparent experience for the shopper, rather than being transferred to another site at the crucial moment of taking the money. APIs sound a bit scary, but your shopping cart vendor should have done the hard work to support it, so there s very little work for you, the shop owner, to do see below for more. The only catch with this option is you ll need a secure certificate installed on your server. These start at around $100 per year and work their way up quickly. The second type is a third-party payment gateway. The customer starts the checkout process on your site, but completes payment on the payment gateway site. While this can be simpler to setup in some cases, the experience is unsettling for the customer, and you ll probably lose a few sales. Some thirdparty payment gateways allow you to customize the page design. Enabling E commerce 4

5 There are also integrated payment gateways. In this scenario, you don t need a merchant account from your bank the payment gateway does everything for you. For start-up businesses, this can be an easy start. Generally the fees are higher for an integrated service, but the trade-off is simplicity for the shop owner. The best known integrated gateways are PayPal and 2Checkout. How to Choose a Payment Gateway? The first thing you need to know about a gateway is whether your shopping cart supports it. Unless you want to do some programming, you need to check for support. Most shopping carts support at least a dozen gateways, so check the list on your shopping cart vendor s Web site. Different payment gateways support different features. The most common features that you might need include: Fraud detection: If your business is susceptible to a lot of fraudulent transactions (for example, you sell digital goods or mobile phones) then you should ensure your chosen gateway has fraud detection technology. You may pay a little extra for this, but it could be worth it. A shop selling women s fashion will have far fewer fraud problems, so the extra cost (if there is one) may not be worth while. Additionally, if your business is classed as high risk especially adult sites many gateways won t take your business. Virtual terminal: This is a place where you can log in and manually process transactions among other things. For example, if you do phone orders, a virtual terminal may be important. Recurring fees: If you have a service that takes regular payments a monthly subscription for example make sure your gateway supports this. Fees: Of course, the fees the payment gateway charge are important. Be careful as there are a range of fees, and some services can get pretty imaginative on how to charge you. Fees might include a setup fee, monthly/yearly fee, fee per transaction (fixed or percentage), withdrawal fees (getting charged to get paid amazing!), chargeback fees (these can add up quickly), fraud detection fees and possibly more. You ll need to have an estimated number of transactions per month before you start to work out the best service for you. There are many other issues to consider, such as accepting foreign currency, so you need to look at your individual requirements. Setting up a Gateway Generally, setting up a payment gateway is easy. When you sign up, they ll usually give you a customer ID, API key or similar. You go into your shopping cart, choose the payment gateway you ve signed up for, and enter the details provided. That s it! There s usually a test mode. This means the shopping cart will be integrated with the payment gateway, and will talk to it, but won t actually process the transaction. Sometimes they have a special credit card number for test mode (Visa card is a popular one) check with your payment gateway for more details. Choosing a payment gateway can be tricky. But apart from sign-up fees (which can often be waived if you ask nicely), it s not too hard to switch to another if your service isn t performing well. With easy integration and low barriers to switching, it s a buyer s market out there. An Introduction to Payment Gateways By Mark Baartse Enabling E commerce 5

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