eCommerce Basics: Modern Sellers Rejoice!
by Darren Talley on 8/24/22 8:24 AM
Do I need eCommerce?
eCommerce is a hot topic on every business owner’s mind, and with good reason. The ways that consumers (B2C, B2B, hybrid models, and even services) interact with sellers has changed and shows no signs of stagnating now. The data is in: people want to interact with your brand online. They want to:
- Research a purchase
- Check reviews
- Compare pricing
- Place and manage orders
- Track shipping
- Pay invoices
- Set recurring orders
And anything and everything else. A great eCommerce infrastructure will streamline the buying process for your customers. It’s not rocket science: easier buying means more sales.
Your company is not immune to this shift. NASDAQ estimated that by 2040, 95% of purchasing will occur online. Milestone IS works with a lot of beauty industry manufacturing companies and the benefits there are obvious, for both B2B and B2C companies.
eCommerce for B2C
B2C companies can benefit from creating robust online storefronts, managing marketplaces, creating automated email follow-ups for customers and websites visitors, and creating portals where customers can manage their accounts. As a likely consumer yourself, it’s easy to see the benefits that your company can provide to your customers by offering an online buying solution.
eCommerce for B2B
If you think you’re off the hook because you sell B2B, think again. In 2020, the global B2B ecommerce market was valued at $14.9 trillion — over five times that of the B2C market. B2B health and beauty companies (such as cosmetics formulators, dental laboratories, and more) can provide their accounts with self-service portals, making quoting, purchasing, and order tracking a breeze. B2B eCommerce is beginning to “mimic” the way B2C online selling operates.
You can’t afford to lose out on a piece of a multi-trillion dollar pie.
Getting Started with eCommerce
You likely already know what ERP is; your Enterprise Resource Planning software is the backbone of your financial processes, and ideally more than that. A good eCommerce solution will integrate into that software seamlessly (and hey – a good ERP will ALLOW a seamless integration. More on that later). Let’s look at other important eCommerce terms and why they matter to you.
Basic eCommerce Terms
A marketplace is a web-based platform where sellers can display and sell their products to buyers. This is an external partner – not internally hosted. Sellers create profiles, add their products and specifications and pricing, and fulfill the orders themselves. Examples include Amazon, Walmart.com, eBay, Overstock, etc. Many enormous retail chains are beginning to establish their own marketplace – Home Depot and Lowes, for example.
When we say “eCommerce platform,” we are referring to the software systems used to build unique online stores for individual companies, which display and sell their products. Companies like BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce are examples of eCommerce platforms.
Some of them are hosted, some of them are open source.
An eCommerce platform differs from a marketplace the way a standalone storefront differs from a bazaar: the former is typically used to display a single brand’s items, while a marketplace is owned and controlled by one company, hosting products from countless other companies (your competitors).
Omnichannel is a slightly vague and misused term. The real definition of the omnichannel refers to the integration and unified experience between all the various “channels” or interactions with your brand.
For example, a person visits your store, scans a QR code to see a video on your website of a product they’re considering. They need to sleep on it, go home and check comparable pricing on Amazon, but in the middle of the night, decide to commit and place an order on your website. The product arrives in the mail (they’re watching the tracking info like a hawk!) but it doesn’t fit! They then return it in person to your retail location. That's an omnichannel experience – quite a few different moving pieces but all attached to your business processes.
The omnichannel is a very important theme because customers expect this kind of experience now, but that experience needs to be both seamless for them, and transparent for you. A modern ERP (like Acumatica Cloud ERP) can unite and streamline all these processes.
You already know what the shopping cart is: a page on your eCommerce website where the buyer can see the list of products that they intend to buy, the quantity that they're about to purchase, and the checkout options. Here your customer will enter the information for their shipping and billing addresses, chose shipping options, and add their payment information.
This is yet another place where an integrated, modern solution is of paramount importance. Not only do you need to ensure you’re collecting and managing contact and shipping information accurately and quickly, but customers need to feel secure relinquishing their payment information.
PCI compliance refers to complying with Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council’s rules for organizations that handle branded credit cards. The standard was created to increase controls around cardholder data to reduce credit card fraud. Adequately protecting your customers’ information is an essential concern when building and hosting a safe and secure eCommerce website.
There are several barriers to implementing a successful eCommerce strategy but the most common is a discordance with a company’s current technology. Legacy systems (like Dynamics GP or Sage products) often can’t handle the additional stress placed on them by the added software and processes involved in online selling. The increase in data collection bloats servers and adding yet another disparate system can wreak havoc.
So if you need to embrace eCommerce (which we think you do), but your legacy ERP system can’t handle it (which we’d argue that it cannot), what’s the solution?