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Let's talk about the elements of e-commerce. What we want to do here is overview the concept of e-commerce. Many of you may have been web designers for sometime, making a transition to web developer, developing an e-commerce site, we need to get our heads around the concepts involved. So in order to get a better idea of what e-commerce store is all about, let's make a comparison to a regular bricks and mortar Store or a regular retail outlet. If we look at the two, the processes are pretty much the same. Now what that means is a lot of the elements involved in a regular shopping experience where you go down to your department store and pick things out, choose what you like, buy them.
A lot of the process is exactly the same online. Now actually it's done with a click of mouse instead of walking down a location or walking down the hallways and looking at things, but it's pretty much the same and really if we look at the online process and compare to a mail order business, the process is pretty much identical. They look through the catalog, whether it's printed or in this case online, decide to buy and place the order either by an order form or by phone in a catalog. In this case, they do it online but the processes involved for the customer and for the retailer are pretty much identical in that.
So it helps us to understand what's going on by making that comparison. All the elements in a real world store or a catalog store have counterparts in an online store. So let's look at the process based on that scenario. So the first thing we will look at is the Store or the Catalog. The Store or the Catalog is important element of e-commerce. This is where your customer shops, looks around and decides to buy. This is where they browse the merchandise. This is where they want to see it. They want to learn about it and you want to tell them all they need to know about it, where they can make an informed decision.
Importantly they would want to know the price, and we don't want to bury that where they have to dig for it. That should be right upfront, just as it is in a retail location, the tag should be right there. Many people decide on price. Many people decide on the look and the feel or the information or the quality of the product. We want to give them all that information. So setting up a good display is extremely important. You want to encourage them to buy. It's important that you know your customer, whatever market category you are in and present your material in such a way that encourages them to buy. After they have selected an item they are interested in it, then they want to take it with them.
They place it in a Shopping Cart or in a basket. Again, this is pretty much the same online as it is in a regular bricks and mortar store. They decide to buy the product. So they want to take then with them while they continue to shop. We don't want to force them to buy it right now or have to go back and look for it later. They want to have that accessible to them. Now, while they shop they may want to look at the items to make comparisons. This happens all of the time. You want to make that as easy as we can. So that they can compare the items and this is all part of the buying process in the customer's mind. So it's important that we make that easy for them.
Now, eventually they decide that they want to make the purchase and take the items with them or put them back. We want to make this easy as well. We never want to frustrate our customers. We always want to make the process go smoothly and help them make decisions as they go and lead them ultimately to the check out. Now this is important part of the process, especially online because online it's more complex than it is in the bricks and mortar. In regular store, they walk up to the cashier and make their payments. But on online they need to total up the merchandise including tax and shipping.
Make that easy for them to see. You need to decide whether there is tax and how much the shipping is going to be and make that very transparent, very easy for the customer to see what's going on there and what their charges will be. If they feel in doubt at this time, this is where a lot of people will bale out of the sale. So, you definitely want to make sure, they see what's going on here. Paying the cashier. Online, this means using credit card 99% of the time and you want to make that again as easy and as self explanatory as possible and you also want your customer to feel safe about giving you this information.
Taking the merchandise home or having it shipped. Naturally if it's online, it will be shipped. Again, you don't want to leave your customer in the doubt or in the dark here. You want to let them know when they will be getting their merchandise or how it will be shipped or how much it's going to cost. From the merchant's point of view, if we look at the e-Commerce store, again all the elements are basically the same. There are counterparts online to bricks and mortar Store. There are a lot of advantages to online stores that they don't have to have 10,000 square foot display area for their customers to shop.
It's all done online and that's why a lot of your retailers are moving to online stores. Now from the merchant's point of view, an e-commerce store has all the same elements basically as a bricks and mortar Store. There are things that we have to remember the merchant does everyday and that is first of all stock and price merchandise. They track inventory, it's important to know what's selling well. What isn't selling? When did we re-order? We track and ship and fulfill orders and all this are basically the same as for online store as it is a bricks and mortar Store. Except for online, perhaps it's a little easier. You don't have to have a large store display area for your customers.
It's done through the web browser but a lot of the back-end functionality is the same. Another important element is tracking customers. This is important to the merchant because the easiest customer to gain is one you already have and so you want to make that information available to the merchant so that they can do resales and track their customers. Then it is the part that everybody likes, to deposit sales in the bank. This is what makes the wheels go around. It should be an easy, transparent process and we will talk about how that works online and how that gets done. Now the important thing is before you jump in to developing your e-commerce site, is go out on the web and look at examples that you like, and if you are designing this for someone else, that your client likes.
There are a number of retailers that have made the transitions from bricks and mortar and done that very successfully such as Lands End or REI. There are also ones like Amazon.com that started out life as an online sales and have really perfected the art. So you want to take a look at these examples. Apply what you can to your store, depending on the size of it and make the choices that will make your e-commerce store work the best for you. One of the best exercises to do in order to accomplish this, is to find examples you like. Make notes and transfer this into your site.
So that's the overview of the elements of e-commerce to give us an idea what we are dealing with. Now let's discuss some of the important aspects of developing an e-commerce site. One of the ones that's most important is security, and in fact, it's probably the most important and so our next topic we will be talking about SSL or Security Socket Layers. What are those and what do they mean to us.
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