Ecommerce Ecommerce simply means electronic business Break ecommerce down into e and business, and the definition is clear. E simply means anything done electronically, usually via the Internet. Business means business that you already understand.

The ecommerce process explained Ecommerce is the means of selling goods on the Internet, using web pages. This involves much the same processes as selling goods elsewhere, but in a digital format.

Presentation, placement, display, stocking, selling and payment are all familiar concepts, ecommerce demands that all this be done on screen, and as an automated process.

  • Creating a catalogue To sell goods, you must display them. Ecommerce approaches this in much the same way as a catalogue. Goods are presented as images with text descriptions, prices and product options.

    The main difference is in the way that goods are stored and placed. Any ecommerce definition would have to include an understanding of databases. Instead of "printing" each product web page uniquely, only one page is made, and filled in by a database.

    This means that instead of a thousand pages for a thousand products, one page only is used - called a template. The template has empty places in it (like a picture space, a price space, a description space etc.) that are filled in from the database.

    The information needed to call the right information into the place holders is contained in the link to the product. For example, the link might have an ID number in it: In this example, product.asp is the template page, and id=10 the number of the database record to be called.

    The links themselves are usually generated from a database. If you have a cutlery product line on a site selling tableware, then a piece of hidden code calls all the record sets in the cutlery section of the database until it has built links for them all. If there are twenty, it will build twenty links and then stop.

    In this way, you only have to edit the database to change your product lines on the website. Add a new piece of cutlery to the database, and next time the links are called there will be twenty one instead of twenty.

    Laying the catalogue out Obviously you cannot turn the web pages over like a printed catalogue, so it is necessary to create a navigation system. Typically the first set of links will be product categories and will build a list of individual items in that category, as links. These links in turn will call the exact product within the template page. This system is called drilling down.

  • Shopping cart or basket When a visitor clicks the buy button, the product id number is placed in her shopping basket. This is a space in the computers memory created especially for this user. Additional commands can add or delete numbers in this space (dimension) until the visitor is ready to purchase.

    When the visitor proceeds to the checkout, her details are moved from the temporary memory space into an empty part of the database, along with a list of what she is buying, the prices, options etc.

  • Online Payments
    There are several methods of taking online payments, all involve a secure socket layer (SSL). When it is time for the customer to enter her credit card details, precautions must be taken to prevent the information falling into the wrong hands.

    When it is transferred from her computer to the web server hosting the credit card form, it is encrypted, or scrambled so no one else can read the information if they intercept it. Once captured, the credit card number is stored for retrieval later to be processed through ordinary PDQ facilities (swiping machine or telephone), or cleared over the Internet by a specialist clearing house who contact the visitors bank.

    Billing and Receipts
    Generating a receipt When a payment is actually cleared online, the clearing house will send your website confirmation (or the dreaded card declined message!) so that a receipt and/or order confirmation can be automatically generated for the customer. This is done by writing an online programme that runs on the web server.

  • Collecting the order The final part of our ecommerce definition deals with alerting the website owner that an order has been placed and needs to be dispatched immediately! This can be done by providing a control panel on the website where new entries in the database are displayed, or simply by sending an e-mail with the information on it to a regular inbox. If the information is going to include a credit card number, then a control panel page on a secure socket layer (SSL) must be used as e-mail is not secure.

  • Order tracking: The website owner may want to provide his customer with order tracking facilities. This is done by simply adding a message to the database record and sending the client a unique id number that allows her access to only her record set.

  • Ecommerce needs e-business Ecommerce is only the definition of a mechanical process. E-business is the art and science of bringing that process to the attention of the right people, and persuading them to take it. Without e-business, ecommerce is like a car with no petrol or with no road. To ascertain the elements of a good website venture, please read our section on website business plans.

    Taking the next move is as easy as you want it to be You can read the many informative pages on this web site and fill in the simple email contact form if you like what you see. Alternatively you can ring Roger on 01242 678437 and ask your toughest questions directly. This will not obligate you to anything and frankly, the tone of a person's voice and the lucidity of their answers will tell you more than web pages ever can.

  • Guide 2018