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E-commerce FAQ

  1. What is E-commerce?
  2. How does e-commerce differ from traditional commerce?
  3. So, what are the main elements of e-commerce?
  4. Well, is e-commerce just an online selling?
  5. I just don't understand why there's so much buzz about e-commerce?
  6. What are the benefits of e-commerce?
  7. Will it be costly for my company to set up an e-commerce website?
  8. So, what are e-commerce solutions?
  9. What e-commerce solutions can you offer?
  10. What's the difference between an online store, a virtual store, a Web store, a virtual storefront, and an online business?
  11. How many products can I sell?
  12. Is it safe to order online?
  13. What is a Secure Commerce Server?

What is E-commerce?

This is any kind of commerce that takes place electronically - doing business online or selling and buying products and services over the Internet.

In the wide sense e-commerce has been defined as 'any business activity utilising electronic communication channels for data transfer'.

But in most cases people now use the term e-commerce whenever there is an online exchange of money-for-goods.

That is, a buyer gives a credit or debit card number to a seller authorizing him to take the appropriate funds. In fact the whole exchange takes place electronically.

E-commerce is also called electronic commerce, EC or e-Business.

How does e-commerce differ from traditional commerce?

The difference is quite obvious. To give an answer to this question we have to remind what "commerce" is. Quite simply, this is the exchange of goods and services, usually for money. Commerce usually involves several different players:
  • Buyers - people with money who want to purchase a good or service.
  • Sellers - people who offer goods and services to buyers.
  • Producers - people who create the products and services that sellers offer to buyers.
In an e-commerce you find almost all of commerce elements, but they change slightly.

So, what are the main elements of e-commerce?

The following elements are necessary to conduct e-commerce:
  • A product
  • A web site as a place to sell the products
  • A way to accept orders - usually an on-line form
  • A way to accept money - normally credit card payments. This element requires a secure ordering page and a connection to a bank. Or you may use more traditional billing techniques.
  • Facilities to deliver products to customers.
  • A way to accept returns and handle warrantee claims if necessary
  • Customer service (often via email, on-line forms and FAQs, etc.)

Well, is e-commerce just an online selling?

No, it is not limited to only purchase and sale of products online.

E-commerce has its broader meaning as a marketplace. You can open a Web store and take online orders from clients, but you'll also be able to find the supplier of goods and your competitors online and compare your prices and strategies.

E-commerce also allows you finding accountants, payment services and government agencies on the web. Moreover, you can have inter-organisational e-mail; directories; trading support systems for commodities, products, customised products and custom-built goods and services; ordering and logistic support systems; settlement support systems; and management information and statistical reporting systems.

I just don't understand why there's so much buzz about e-commerce?

E-commerce is a reality of the XXI century. Even the smallest business may benefit from it. Businesses not in touch with the technology will not keep pace with competitors. Nearly 70% of users access the Internet from their homes, and almost 60% out of them shop online. It is likely that with time consumers will even be more eager to use the Internet instead of common physical means.

All this rush can be applied to a wide range of products, such as: computer products (hardware, software, accessories), books, music, financial services, entertainment, home electronics, apparel, gifts and flowers, travel services, toys, tickets etc.

What are the benefits of e-commerce?

  • Lower transaction costs owing to the automation of processes of taking orders and customer services;
  • Integration into the business cycle, so now you can offer the customers more information than previously. Sitting at home, they can easily compare prices between several suppliers and search large catalogues of products;
  • Saving your money on hiring the staff to take orders via phone and also printing and mailing catalogues. E-commerce allows you to create a completely new business model at low cost. You can have such a large catalogue on your website that would never fit in an ordinary mailbox;
  • Improvement of your customer relations with the help of e-mail, forums, message boards, chat rooms, FAQ's, guestbooks, knowledge bases, etc. Integration of these features will also help you to differ from your competitors and make your website recognisable. A satisfied customer will be more likely to purchase something else from you.

Will it be costly for my company to set up an e-commerce website?

It needs to be customised to the size of your enterprise and your individual needs, of course. But here you can find some major requirements:
  • Hardware and software to connect to the Internet
  • Creation of the website
  • Staff to maintain the website
  • Web hosting and Internet service provider charges
  • Online communications facilities, such as phone lines, ISDN lines, cables
  • Support staff for online order taking and customer care
  • Marketing of website
  • Credit card processing
First you should have a well-balanced business plan to know how much you are ready to spend. Of course, you can build a simple website to allow contact and orders by email. On the other hand, if you really want to attract thousands of website visitors, you'll need to invest more.

Help4Hosters? can help you with the design of your website, web hosting, IT outsourcing, successful marketing strategy at really affordable prices.

Remember, you can enrich the interactions with customers at nearly no cost with the help of automated tools - special e-commerce solutions

So, what are e-commerce solutions?

You can use the Internet to simply advertise your products or services, but you can also offer your clients a special means to make online orders/purchases. Your choice of the means will be your e-commerce solution. There are B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer) solutions.

B2B model is actually the fastest growing sector of e-commerce. It includes electronic transactions for order, purchase and administration using secure Internet protocols between vendors and customers.

What e-commerce solutions can you offer?

  1. Order form. Customer can order any products from the website they like by simply filling in the order form. Customer can easily calculate the cost of the selected purchase by filling in the required fields on the order form. They'll have to include their credit card details. By submitting the form with all the details is gets e-mailed to you. And after you receive it, you can process the order. No payment is made until you receive the order form and process it as it would happen when the order is made over the phone.

    It will be the best solution for you in case you have a small range of products.

  2. Online Store with Shopping Cart (osCommerce). Shopping Cart is used for an online shopping process. When you go shopping in a supermarket you put into a shopping cart all the things that you want to purchase, and then you pay for them at the check-out. When someone goes shopping online he can put all the items into a shopping cart by selecting the ones he wants. The computer "remembers" the choices made and keeps them together in a virtual shopping cart. In the end the computer will tell the customer which items were selected and the total cost and then e-mails the order to you with the credit card details. Once you have it in your e-mail, you start processing the order. No payment is made until you receive the order form and process it as it would happen when the order is made over the phone. This solution is most widely used when you have a various assortment of products of different categories.

    Online Store is a shopping cart with the facility to make a payment online. Once a customer has the list of selected items and the total cost, he can make a payment with the credit card directly to your account. So you receive the order via email and payment at the same time. In other words you do not need to process the credit card details with the order, the payment is already made. Please, just make sure that the customer receives the product or service they've paid for.

  3. PHP Auction is an online auction for selling of your goods with an ability to accept credit card payments in real time.

What's the difference between an online store, a virtual store, a Web store, a virtual storefront, and an online business?

There is no difference. These are different terms for the same thing: a Web site that offers products for sale.

How many products can I sell?

It's up to you. That depends on the size of your store, so you can have one product or as many as 1000.

Is it safe to order online?

Security is the key issue of today's electronic commerce technology. The data you enter on your checkout pages, including credit card information, is encrypted while travelling the Internet so it cannot be intercepted for fraudulent use. You'll know your transaction is secure when a "complete key" icon appears in the lower-left hand corner of your Netscape Navigator screen, or a "lock" icon appears in the lower-right hand corner of your Internet Explorer screen.

What is a Secure Commerce Server?

All web pages are stored on a server and all commerce information is kept on a secure server. This is a server for which extra security measures have been taken and are updated regularly, to absolutely ensure no-one but you can access your files.

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