Article: Ecommerce is Not Just a Shopping Cart

Even now, many people tell me they have Ecommerce on their website and are not happy with its performance, yet all they have is a basic shopping cart and although most web sites with just a catalogue/shopping cart are now slick enough to ensure a satisfactory experience for consumers at the point of purchase, few of the companies behind those sites can execute the rest of the transaction with the same degree of efficiency.

After all, a shopping cart is just a payment mechanism, similar in function to the cash point in a store. A customer has selected an articles/s from the store and now wishes to purchase and leave with their selection. Yet, Ecommerce is all about acquiring and retaining customers on-line and means providing complete satisfaction from initial promise to delivery at their door while making a profit.

Yes, profit. Poorly managed inventory, costly deliveries and a high number of product returns can quickly turn profits into losses, yet so many companies focus on their direct sales to the virtual exclusion of fulfillment and channel connections.

Every on-line ecommerce website, large or small, faces seven main challenges; it presupposes you have successfully marketed your products directly, via channel resellers and your website; a planned merchandising program is in place; the online store has a high degree of sophistication; controlling your customer data; integrating your on and off-line orders; plus a successful back-office fulfillment method delivering the goods cost-effectively and handling returns, or you will pay the price in lost customers and sales.

Indeed, on-line fulfillment forces you to do far more than enter orders, pick the stock, package it, and ship. As an e-tailer you must also answer the queries of your customers quickly and accurately (while learning their buying habits and preferences) and make good use of the data generated during transactions. Moreover, as an e-tailer you must integrate your on-line orders and returns with off-line ones, and do so in a way that makes household delivery of small orders economically viable.

At present, every single transaction challenges you as an e-tailer to deliver the goods quickly, cheaply, and conveniently. Making contact with the recipient is a trickier problem but one that must be resolved if the full potential of “e-impulse” orders is to be realized, for an impulse purchase loses its power to gratify if the product or service takes too long to appear. Most e-tailers ship orders within 48 hours, and they are also making greater and greater use of two-day shipping services via direct connections with shipping companies and/or fulfillment houses.

In theory, ecommerce is simple: a customer selects the product from your catalogue, buys it through your shopping cart and you deliver the product when, where, and how the customer wants it delivered. Making this happen, of course, is not simple. Therein is the difference between just a shopping cart and true Ecommerce. – John Shenton – January, 2003