Invasion of the Amazons

Invasion of the Amazons

The last few months have witnessed a bloodbath in tech stocks coupled with a frantic re-definition of the web and of every player in it (as far as content is concerned).
This effort is three pronged:
Some companies are gambling on content distribution and the possession of the attendant digital infrastructure. MightyWords, for example, stealthily transformed itself from a “free-for-all-everyone-welcome” e-publisher to a distribution channel of choice works (mainly by midlist authors). It now aims to feed its content to content-starved web sites. In the process, it shed thousands of unfortunate authors who did not meet its (never stated) sales criteria.
Others bet the farm on content creation and packaging. Bn.com invaded the digital publishing and POD (Print on Demand) businesses in a series of lightning purchases. It is now the largest e-book store by a wide margin.
But Amazon seemed to have got it right once more. The web’s own virtual mall and the former darling of Wall Street has diversified into micropayments.
The Internet started as a free medium for free spirits. E-commerce was once considered a dirty word. Web surfers became used to free content. Hence the (very low) glass ceiling on the price of content made available through the web – and the need to charge customers less than 1 US dollars to a few dollars per transaction (“micro-payments”). Various service providers (such as Pay-Pal) emerged, none became sufficiently dominant and all-pervasive to constitute a standard. Web merchants’ ability to accept micropayments is crucial. E-commerce (let alone m-commerce) will never take off without it.
Enter Amazon. Its “Honour System” is licensed to third party web sites (such as Bartleby.com and SatireWire). It allows people to donate money or effect micro-payments, apparently through its patented one-click system. As far as the web sites are concerned, there are two major drawbacks: all donations and payments are refundable within 30 days and Amazon charges them 15 cents per transaction plus 15(!) percent. By far the worst deal in town.
So, why the fuss?
Because of Amazon’s customer list. This development emphasizes the growing realization that one’s list of customers – properly data mined – is the greatest asset, greater even than original content and more important than distribution channels and digital right management or asset management applications. Merchants are willing to pay for access to this ever expanding virtual neighbourhood (even if they are not made privy to the customer information collected by Amazon).
The Honour System looks suspiciously similar to the payment system designed by Amazon for Stephen King’s serialized e-novel, “The Plant”. Interesting to note how the needs of authors and publishers are now in the driver’s seat, helping to spur along innovations in business methods.

How To Choose A Shopping Cart Vendor For Your E-Commerce Site

How To Choose A Shopping Cart Vendor For Your E-Commerce Site

E-commerce has exploded on the internet and many successful businesses exist solely on the web. And why not? With a virtual storefront, the overhead costs of running a business are greatly reduced. Therefore, with effective marketing, these businesses can hang on during the difficult early stages of a new business and are less dominated by cash flow while trying to stay afloat.

One of the major reasons for the surge in online purchasing has been the convenience and security of the shopping cart feature on e-commerce sites. The virtual interface of putting things into a ‘cart’ has, at once, a comfortable familiarity and whimsy. It really is an elegant system that has won the confidence of the online shopper through its proven security.

There are many different vendors of shopping cart services. So how does one go about choosing the right one for their e-commerce site?

The very first thing you have to do is to decide exactly what, and how much product you are going to be selling. Are you selling 1 item? A line of similar items? A catalog full of many different products, and if so, then how will your site present this catalog?

What will be your volume of sales this year? Next year? In five years? Some shopping cart services are great for lower volume sales with less product variety and no catalog. Other shopping cart services allow for complex, high volume sales and catalog features.

In terms of cost of the cart service, you need to find the shopping cart option that matches your selling volume.

PayPal offers a fantastic, free-to-set-up shopping cart that is great for lower volume sales. Your fees to them are a percentage of each of your sales. In addition, you can automatically take major credit card payments without setting up credit card merchant services. This saves you $300-$400 right off the bat.

For high volume sales you may pay less going with a shopping cart vendor that charges you a monthly fee rather than a percentage of your sales.

You also need to look at the purchase process the shopping cart service offers. Potential customers abandoning the purchase because they weren’t shown the shipping costs before they were required to give their credit card information, for example, can be devastating to sales. The simpler, clearer and shorter the process from cart to sale, the better. At no point should the potential ciustomer feel that there is a surprise ahead.

Finally, the look of the shopping cart needs to fit the visual theme of your site. Most shopping cart services have several variations on a basic look. Make sure one of those variations works.

Basic services will range anywhere from $10 to $30 per month. Remember to add in the cost of credit card merchant services if you want to accept credit card customers. And this is highly recommended. The downside of online purchases is that the customer must wait for the item to be shipped. Having to wait even longer for a money order to be received, or worse, a check to clear, on top of shipping time reduces the convenience of online shopping to the point where sales could be lost.

Critical Steps In Building A Profitable Online Business

Critical Steps In Building A Profitable Online Business

Want to create a profitable online business but have no idea where to begin? Want to create an online business and eliminate the unnecessary expenses. An e-commerce business certainly can be profitable and very rewarding. It can also be very frustrating. There is so much hype and outrageous claims of wealth. It is more about building relationships than instant wealth. I wanted to share a website that I found really refreshing and provides a wealth of great content without the hype and expense.
This website teaches many of the marketing techniques that I paid more than $500.00 to learn and offers if for free. Not only does it teach the important techniques of building a profitable e-commerce business but it also teaches you how to develop a website, eliminating the cost of having somebody else develop it for you. I was amazed at how much information this website revealed.
One of the biggest obstacles that most people face when starting an e-commerce business is thinking of an idea, service or product that they can offer online that will actually make them a profit. I really enjoyed how this online audio course helped take away most of the guess work in thinking of ideas. Some of the initial sources recommended in searching an idea for a product or service is visiting affiliate marketing services to discover what products are listed in level of popularity, visit magazine racks and notice ones with multiple copies of the same target market, visit general directories, visit online groups to see which ones have a large population of members, listen to infomercial for ideas and try to offer this online as a cheaper alternative. This is just scratching the surface as to what this course teaches.
One of the most important lessons in the course is teaching you about the tools available to do product research. Once you have finally thought of an idea, you are now ready to research if it is indeed a viable one. I can’t stress the importance of this step. If you eliminate this step your could waste precious time and needless amounts of money.

eCommerce development for Microsoft Great Plains

eCommerce development for Microsoft Great Plains

Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains, former Great Plains Software Dynamics and eEnterprise was designed in earlier 1990th as ERP, which can be easily transferable to the winning Database and OS platform and it was originally available on Mac and PC – Mac OS and Microsoft Windows respectively. Graphical platforms battle is pretty much over and now with eCommerce demands, we should look at Great Plains Dynamics tables structure:
Naming Convention. Great Plains was designed to be ready to move to the winning database platform and probably this is why we see this a bit complicated naming convention in place: SOP10100, RM00101, IV00101 – these are samples: SOP header, Customer master, Inventory master. First – we see module prefix: SOP – Sales Order Processing, RM – Receivables management, IV – Inventory control, etc., then 0 stays for the master files, 1 – so-called work files (before transaction being posted), 2 – open files (after transaction is posted) and 3 – historical files (when you close the year in General Ledger – transactions are moved from open to history files). So as you see – logic is present and structured, but it is not friendly to the developer, who never seen and worked with Great Plains Dynamics.
Tables Groups. Great plains was designed to first serve mid-size businesses and then with the availability of third party modules – the intention was to compete on corporate ERP market with Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP and others big players. This is why we see the whole cluster of tables to store, say Sales Invoice: SOP Header, SOP Lines, SOP Distribution, RM Key file, etc.
From the Forms side (or screens) you can see more human-readable names: SOP Entry, RM_Customer_Maintenance, POP_Entry or the like. But these legacy Great Plains Dexterity names do not help eCommerce developer – only probably as the reference on which table works with specific screen.
Let’s take a look at the tools available:
eCommerce – together with eOrder, and other eXXX products it should be considered as legacy and phase out product, based on Microsoft eCommerce server and ASP technology, today Microsoft has new paradigm – .Net and ASPX World
eConnect – was specially created for eCommerce developers, who integrate Microsoft Great Plains with eCommerce web interface. This tool covers a lot of Great Plains objects creation and retrieving functionality, however it does have restrictions, because it was not intended as replacement to Great Plains Dexterity shell. For example – if you create Orders in SOP via Web interface/eConnect – it is difficult manipulate these orders (transfers to Invoices, backorders, reallocations, etc.). Another issue with eConnect – developers are kind of used to the fact that Microsoft provides free SDK to its products, Microsoft CRM for example has freely downloadable Microsoft CRM SDK. For eConnect you have to pay license and be on Microsoft Business Solutions annual support to get version upgrades. Also if you are ISV and develop your GP integration to your customers – you have licensing issue with Microsoft.
Custom SOP/AR stored procedures. Microsoft Business Solutions partners in their practice usually have several Great Plains integration projects implemented where integration is realized on the stored procedures level and transactions are created and manipulated in Great Plains SOP. So – you may end up seeking this type of help
Good luck with implementation, customization and integration and if you have issues or concerns – we are here to help! If you want us to do the job – give us a call 866-528-0577 or 630-961-5918! help@albaspectrum.com

Ecommerce: Ensuring Delivery

Ecommerce: Ensuring Delivery

In the early days of ecommerce it was more likely that you would have direct interaction with an online business. Before the advent of shopping carts and online credit card transactions you might have been advised to call the online business phone number and place your order over the phone. Packages may have arrived with a hand written mailer and a note of thanks enclosed. As a customer you might have even been saddled with the task of sending a check and then waiting for the product to arrive once payment cleared the bank.

As ecommerce business has expanded, so too have the methods of payment. With the payment issues moving toward an automated accounting system we have seen the fulfillment of orders move toward a more automated function as well.

This is the typical order of product fulfillment with major online companies today.

1) Product ordered through online store using standard shopping cart.
2) Autoresponder used to confirm order placement and payment information.
3) Order added to a fulfillment database.
4) Autoresponder used to alert customer to the successful shipping of the product.
5) Tracking information provided to allow customer to follow the delivery of their product.

There may still be room for human error, however this type of product fulfillment takes into account the needs of the consumer, the advantages of current technology and a more efficient means of follow through with customers.

Defining your shipping policy in your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section may be a very positive way to help customers know what to expect from your ecommerce store.

It could be your online store provides customized gifts or services that may find benefit from personal interaction with your clients. In some cases it may be wise to adopt a positive human touch when working with your clients. However, as your business grows you may discover it is time consuming to keep up with every order personally. This is when a more automated delivery system may be in order.

Customer service is a prized component to any ecommerce business. If a customer has to remind you to make a delivery it is possible you have lost that individual as a customer.

I had a situation where a software product was ordered, but was not delivered. The company found the information, discovered the shipping error, and sent the product to me overnight and added bonus software. Their response to the issue was what allowed me to feel comfortable returning to their ecommerce store for additional software purchases.

If you make a mistake – make it right – make it better than right – and do it quickly. A reputation is hard to gain and easily lost.

gging – Popular Blog Media To Choose From

Blogging – Popular Blog Media To Choose From

Blogging is hitting the Internet by storm. Its popularity has paved the way to various blogging celebrities and even innovative posts that are remarkable on the Internet. It has transcended more than a niche to share one’s thoughts and expertise. It is now a medium for providing various information of products and services from businesses that cater to various fields like travel, fashion, gadgets, and more. It is no wonder that having a blog today is as important as having your own social media account.

With the popularity of blogging, many are slowly embracing this form of media. To date, there are already many blogging sites that one can consider. One of which is Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. These three have been the most notable ones and fairly has vast number of blogs and accounts. If you have been contemplating in making your own blog and having difficulty choosing which blogging platform to use, perhaps the notes below can help you.

1. Blogger. Blogger is the Google’s blogging platform. If you have a Gmail account, creating one would be easy since you can use your existing account for the blog. Once you already have an account, you can just setup the address of your blog or your blog’s domain. Then you can start creating your own posts. What makes Blogger unique is that you can easily incorporate ads and earn from it through Adsense, also from Google. Blogger has its own ads niche that you can just drag and drop in your blog’s layout. It will automatically appear on your blog’s page once it goes live. Blogger also has a great blog analytic program called Google Analytics that gives data on your blog’s hit, market reach, and audience.
2. Wordpress. This has always been a popular blogging platform. What made it so famous is the use and incorporation of widgets. These are external programs that you can install to make your blog more appealing. Aside from that, these widgets even allow easy incorporation of social media links and more. You can even create your own widget if you know how to program using XML and JavaScript.
3. Tumblr. Tumblr is considered the blog for the youth. The reason being is that with Tumblr, you can easily follow and share a post that you want. In return, these posts will be shown on your Tumblr account. If you prefer easy sharing of posts, then Tumblr would be ideal for you. You can also be able to track your number of followers.

To date, there are already quite a number of blogging platforms available in the web, apart from these 3. These three are perhaps the most popular and most preferred by a lot of people. Regardless of choice, the most important thing is that you can start blogging.

Effective Web Page Design for E-Commerce

Effective Web Page Design for E-Commerce

The widespread availability of high-speed Internet access has resulted in ever-greater numbers of consumers making online purchases. This means that business owners of all stripes – from individuals working from home to big box mass merchandisers – can reach more buyers and can generate exponentially greater revenue than ever before.

There are many theories about and tips for marketing and advertising your online store, and marketing and advertising is certainly a consideration. But in focusing so much attention on marketing, many business owners neglect a fundamental aspect of successful e-commerce: web page design.

If you don’t have a professional webpage design, it doesn’t matter how much traffic you generate to your site because those visitors won’t convert to customers. It’s crucial to have a website that is compelling and that makes visitors want to stay long enough to buy. Here, then, are six tips to help your web design transform visitors into customers:

1. Keep it Clean. A professional web page designer will tell you that to keep your virtual storefront clean and free of clutter. It should be immediately clear to the visitor the types of items you sell without overwhelming them with dozens of hyperlinks, fonts, and flashing buttons and words. You can certainly incorporate a flash introduction in your web design, but if you do, give the visitor control. He or she should be able to bypass or pause the flash so that the annoyance factor is kept to a minimum.

2. Intuitive Navigation. Your website designer should think like your customer and design a navigation system that easily takes your customer from your home page to the product or products of interest. The fewer number of clicks it takes to get from point A to point B, the more likely it is that your visitor will make a purchase.

3. Search Functionality. Customers need to be able to find what they need quickly and easily. Allowing customers to search by keyword or product number is a great start. Going one step further and allowing “fuzzy” searches that will also return matches for common misspellings is even better.

4. Seamless Shopping Cart. Many e-commerce sites lose customers at the critical juncture between selecting items and committing to buy them. An intuitive and easy-to-use shopping cart is essential to the online shopping experience. Again, your web page designer should think like your customer and utilize a shopping cart that makes checkout a breeze.

5. SSL Certificate. If you’re an online merchant, there’s simply no getting around the need for an SSL certificate. With the problems associated with identity theft, your customers need to have confidence that your website is secure.

6. Leave it to the Professionals. When it comes to web page design, don’t succumb to the temptation to do it yourself. Even if you have a web design program, you should hire a business web page designer to create your web site. Professionals have a variety of tools that will help your business succeed online, and will act as your partner in developing e-commerce solutions that will encourage visitors to stick around and purchase your products.

Buying Diamonds: Selecting the Best Company

Buying Diamonds: Selecting the Best Company

Diamond shoppers today have more choices than ever on where to buy their diamond engagement ring, diamond earrings and other diamond jewelry items. However, with greater selections come bigger potential risks and rewards. You need to do your homework and understand how to select the best company for your diamond purchase.

The retail diamond market is comprised of three broad categories of diamond sources; jewelry stores, ecommerce diamond companies and diamond brokers.

Jewelry Stores
Until recent years, jewelry stores were the only option for most diamond shoppers. This was especially true for smaller towns and rural areas. These stores had a monopoly, much like Ma Bell with the phone systems during most of the 20th century. Jewelry stores were the only game in town and could set their prices at whatever markup they wanted.

Jewelry stores depend on impulse buying so they focus on having a selection to pick from, name recognition through extensive advertising, and being convenient so shoppers can walk in and make a purchase with no education or knowledge of the product. If it looks nice to an impulse buyer, they will pull out the credit card and have it gift-wrapped. To attract the impulse buyer, jewelers built elaborate stores with polished marble floors, expensive display cases, and lighting that makes everything in the store sparkle.

To pay for the stores, the decorations and all the expensive advertising, jewelry stores must maintain high markups on the items they sell. The more expensive stores have bigger inventory, higher rent and more advertising, which dictates the higher markup necessary to pay for all that overhead.

E-Commerce Diamond Retailers
The online shopping cart of hundreds of jewelry retailers has been one of the big growth areas for e-commerce. Shoppers can shop from the convenience of their home or work computer, look at the pictures of thousands of jewelry items online and place their order without ever talking to a human. E-commerce diamond retailers provide a list of diamonds owned by groups of wholesalers and let the shopper pick the diamond they want based on the specifications in the list. The shopper pays for the diamond in advance and then the wholesaler or the retailer ships the diamond to the consumer.

The online jewelry retailers offer the advantage of much greater selection than you can find in a jewelry store and the ability to ship the items all over the country, which provides greater options for shoppers in small towns and rural areas. Due to low overhead costs, online jewelers can provide lower prices than most jewelry stores. The disadvantage of the online jeweler is that there are few safeguards in place to keep the consumer from making a mistake. Picking the least expensive diamond from a list of options often means there is something less desirable about the diamond. Without an expert adviser to help, the consumer is mostly on their own to make their selection.

Diamond Brokers
There is a third type of diamond retailer, the diamond broker, that differs from the jewelry store or e-commerce retailer. Like most e-commerce retailers, brokers do not own inventory and have low overhead, but they differ in that they work as diamond consultants for the shopper to find the best diamonds meeting the consumer’s requirements.

To attract new clients, diamond brokers rely on word of mouth advertising. They typically have a website focused on online education and shopping advice instead of a list of inventory and the online shopping cart. Diamond brokers work with their client to find the best diamond on the wholesale market and present it to the client in the broker’s office or ship the diamond to the client to examine before they purchase. The result of the lower overhead and personal consultant service is that clients usually get a better diamond at a lower price than with jewelry stores or online retailers.

To determine which company is going to be the best supplier for your diamonds, know what retailer characteristics are most important to you then ask many questions. Be sure the company you select is going to be able to provide the personalized service, expert advice, high quality diamonds and low prices you deserve.

Buying Diamonds

Buying Diamonds

Diamond shoppers today have more choices than ever on where to buy their diamond engagement ring, diamond earrings and other diamond jewelry items. However, with greater selections come bigger potential risks and rewards. You need to do your homework and understand how to select the best company for your diamond purchase.
The retail diamond market is comprised of three broad categories of diamond sources; jewelry stores, ecommerce diamond companies and diamond brokers.
Jewelry Stores
Until recent years, jewelry stores were the only option for most diamond shoppers. This was especially true for smaller towns and rural areas. These stores had a monopoly, much like Ma Bell with the phone systems during most of the 20th century. Jewelry stores were the only game in town and could set their prices at whatever markup they wanted.
Jewelry stores depend on impulse buying so they focus on having a selection to pick from, name recognition through extensive advertising, and being convenient so shoppers can walk in and make a purchase with no education or knowledge of the product. If it looks nice to an impulse buyer, they will pull out the credit card and have it gift-wrapped. To attract the impulse buyer, jewelers built elaborate stores with polished marble floors, expensive display cases, and lighting that makes everything in the store sparkle.
To pay for the stores, the decorations and all the expensive advertising, jewelry stores must maintain high markups on the items they sell. The more expensive stores have bigger inventory, higher rent and more advertising, which dictates the higher markup necessary to pay for all that overhead.
E-Commerce Diamond Retailers
The online shopping cart of hundreds of jewelry retailers has been one of the big growth areas for e-commerce. Shoppers can shop from the convenience of their home or work computer, look at the pictures of thousands of jewelry items online and place their order without ever talking to a human. E-commerce diamond retailers provide a list of diamonds owned by groups of wholesalers and let the shopper pick the diamond they want based on the specifications in the list. The shopper pays for the diamond in advance and then the wholesaler or the retailer ships the diamond to the consumer.
The online jewelry retailers offer the advantage of much greater selection than you can find in a jewelry store and the ability to ship the items all over the country, which provides greater options for shoppers in small towns and rural areas. Due to low overhead costs, online jewelers can provide lower prices than most jewelry stores. The disadvantage of the online jeweler is that there are few safeguards in place to keep the consumer from making a mistake. Picking the least expensive diamond from a list of options often means there is something less desirable about the diamond. Without an expert adviser to help, the consumer is mostly on their own to make their selection.
Diamond Brokers
There is a third type of diamond retailer, the diamond broker, that differs from the jewelry store or e-commerce retailer. Like most e-commerce retailers, brokers do not own inventory and have low overhead, but they differ in that they work as diamond consultants for the shopper to find the best diamonds meeting the consumer’s requirements.
To attract new clients, diamond brokers rely on word of mouth advertising. They typically have a website focused on online education and shopping advice instead of a list of inventory and the online shopping cart. Diamond brokers work with their client to find the best diamond on the wholesale market and present it to the client in the broker’s office or ship the diamond to the client to examine before they purchase. The result of the lower overhead and personal consultant service is that clients usually get a better diamond at a lower price than with jewelry stores or online retailers.
To determine which company is going to be the best supplier for your diamonds, know what retailer characteristics are most important to you then ask many questions. Be sure the company you select is going to be able to provide the personalized service, expert advice, high quality diamonds and low prices you deserve.

Foretell what’s in 2006 E-Commerce Web Development

Foretell what’s in 2006 E-Commerce Web Development

Will it be a better year or worst than the exiting year? It remains to be seen. Nonetheless, let me present my predictions as well…

1. The giant among the search engines will purchase additional technology start-ups. It will also contemplate on purchasing an older company and let go of its product for free.

2. Another is that web-wide video search will be developed into something big. It can now be found both in user-uploaded files and web videos.

3. A major revamp will happen on major search engines indices. As a result of this, numerous sites will be kicked out of the engines.

4. Internet Explorer 7 is soon to be released. This version includes several features.

5. Google will release Google Talk. This new feature can be used by chatters in their browsers.

6. Consequently, Microsoft Windows will suffer a little because of the E-commerce latest web developments.

7. Yahoo will again release a new email client. This can trigger the change of heart among Gmail users. The change will be by reason of the formers look and feel.

8. New translation tools will be introduced to the web. This way, just anybody can search in any language they prefer.

9. Bloggers will still be given attention. In fact, additional search engine features will be made for their enjoyment and easy access to other blogs.

10. Google will increase the frequency of their updates. Those who rank high in its PageRank will be made more accessible.

11. Google will also introduce graphic ads and do away with old features. This can trigger the user’s angst.

12. Yahoo and MSN will contemplate on focusing on its search and do away with their so-so features.

These are the foreseen future of E-commerce web development. Other predictions may mark a good leap while others may mark a horrible downfall. Let the future clear the clouds of ambiguities and make certain out anticipations. Let the days of the year 2006 be our guiding torch…