Friday, August 3, 2012

Ecommerce - Going Beyond the Shopping Cart

When your business first opened its doors, times might have been simpler.  The door chime rang, the customer strolled in, grabbed their items from the shelf and handed you the cash. Have a nice day, see you next time.   Over time things have changed.  You adapted to make doing business with you easier - credit cards, gift cards, phone orders and so on. These became musts for your business. The rise of Ecommerce is no different.

Here at Terrapin providing Ecommerce websites has become a large part of what we do.  At least a few times a month we are meeting with someone who wants to sell something online.  Typically these potential customers know they need a shopping cart, but beyond that haven’t given any thought to how everything will actually work.

Let’s take a look at some questions you should be asking yourself if you are considering an ecommerce website.

Product Catalog

  • How many products do you want to initially offer online?
  • How often does your product offering change?  How many products typically move in & out of your offering?
  • Do you have your product information in a database or spreadsheet?
  • Do you have high-quality digital photography of your products available?
  • How do you organize your products internally?  Would you use the same categories for your online customer?
  • Do your products have special ordering options or are people just keying in a quantity and adding to a cart? i.e Different sizes, colors, etc.
  • Are all the information & ordering options the same for all products?


  • What shipping carrier (UPS, FedEx, USPS) do you want to use?
  • Do you want to provide real-time shipping rates (from carrier) or create a fixed shipping cost model?
  • How are your products typically packaged?
  • Do you have the weights for all your items & packaging materials?
  • What is the turnaround time for you to ship an order?
  • Does the website need to communicate with 3rd Party shipping system?

Payment Options
  • Do you have an existing Merchant Account to accept payments by credit card?
  • What credit cards do you accept (Visa, MC, Amex, Disc)?
  • Do you want to offer other payment options (check, money-order, purchase order)?

Processing Orders
  • Are you currently set up to handle small quantity orders?
  • Is the person who manages order processing / shipping comfortable with computers?

System Management
  • Will a single person or team of people be managing the system?
  • If more than one person, will access to management tools need to be restricted based on who is logged in?

By carefully examining your product offering, the way customers purchase those products and how you process incoming orders, you can develop an Ecommerce website that is built around your business - not the other way around.