Sep 6, 2012

Who’s minding the store?

Just like a bricks-and-mortar store needs somebody behind the counter, an E-commerce web site requires somebody behind the scenes to make things run smoothly.

Your E-commerce site is never going to be a fire-and-forget operation. Somebody has to process the orders. Somebody has to insure payment has been made. Somebody has to manage inventory and pricing. Somebody has to handle fulfillment and shipping.

In a fairly standard small business scenario for E-commerce, a living, breathing person at your operation has to keep up with all those tasks (and usually more). It’s a lot of work that too frequently gets overlooked when people first sit down to develop their E-commerce concept. Very few things in E-commerce happen ‘automatically’. The Easy Button for it hasn’t yet been invented.

Most of the popular ‘stock’ E-commerce engines are designed to a fairly simple operational model. You (or your staff) access an administrative control panel to view and process orders, manage inventory and keep the site’s catalog up to date. Most of them assume a single ship-from point (your business or warehouse). The best ones integrate shipping tools that allow your customers to get live shipping rates from standard carriers like US Postal Service, UPS and FedEx – and some even provide admin tools that let you generate shipping labels and handle other details.

Remote inventory takes work too

Here’s an important point: The theme that successful E-commerce should be run like a ‘real’ business holds true regardless of your order fulfillment scheme. Even if you’re planning to use a drop shipping service, that only provides one link in the E-commerce chain – the handling and shipping of inventory. Your site still needs to have somebody minding the store.

In some ways, using drop shipping can be more complex – simply because you (and your web site) are physically remote from your inventory. A lot of additional communications is required. Are payments working correctly and are your orders being transmitted properly to your drop shipper? Does the inventory in your online store match the inventory available at their warehouse? Are prices on your site updated when the drop shipping service updates?

An experienced E-commerce development company can modify a stock engine or build custom programming to handle almost any special requirement you may have. The trick is to engage a proven developer early enough in your planning process so they can help you avoid common problems and unnecessary expenses. An investment in planning can provide considerable return in time and money by the time your E-commerce project is ready to launch.

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