E-Commerce :: Guide to E-Commerce

What is E-Commerce?

e-com·merce n.

  • Commerce that is transacted electronically, as over the Internet.
  • The buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet.

The ideas are simple; buy and sell, transfer funds. But how is it done over the Internet? Where do you start? At Internet Research and Development (I-RaD) we can help your business or company make the jump from “brick to clicks” effectively and painlessly.

Here are a few more definitions to words or phrases you will hear on the topic:

  • Payment Gateway: A service to handle the transfer of funds from an end-users account to the store account in real-time processing. Gateway providers charge based on the number of transactions your site does per month and will typically charge more for additional transactions beyond a specified number. This system is very similar to the way cell phones work.
  • SSL Security (Certificates): Secure socket layer (SSL) security requires the purchase of a certificate that will encrypt data on your site. This is required whenever critical information is taken on-line such as credit card or social security numbers. The purpose is to deter “sniffing” of the data while it is being passed to the site. “Sniffing” is similar to someone listening in on a phone conversation. SSL encryption works so that even if someone is listening, all they will hear is garbage. I-RaD offer 2048-bit certificates as well as a secure shared environment.  When we work with PayPal, certificates are generally not needed as PayPal handles the security of the information.
  • Encryption: The method by which readable data such as numbers or addresses are modified in such a way as to be unreadable. This allows for critical data to be transferred and stored in a way that removes the dangers of data theft. Typically, there will then be a decryption process which requires a security key that will then return the unreadable data back to its original format for viewing by authorized personnel.

Shopping Carts

Electronic shopping carts are the applications that make E-Commerce possible. The main purpose of a cart is to collect an order from the user, tally all costs including associated fees for shipping and taxes, collect payment information, and provide both the store and the customer a record of the transaction.

What differentiates different applications is the feature set that they offer beyond the basics. Some features include customer tracking, advanced shipping options, bulk discounts on items, inventory control, payment processing methods, etc… It may seem a daunting task to find the right solution, but we at Internet Research and Development are committed to working with our customers to simplify the process without sacrificing the results that are required.

Security

Processing transactions on-line can be risky if your site design team doesn’t provide top-notch security. This typically requires a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate to encrypt the data that is transferred from the end-users browser to the server. To secure the data on the server requires a second level of encryption to remove the threat of data theft.

At I-RaD we take your sites security seriously. We staff a number of experts in the field and work with only tier-1 providers to ensure that your site will offer the same guarantees on customer privacy and reliability that your store or business offers when they walk in your doors or call on the phone.  We are a premiere PayPal integrator so offering solutions to fit your budget is always in our mind.

The Right Solution

Helping your business or company find the E-Commerce solution that is right for your situation and getting your site ready to take transactions is where we begin. We start with a few important questions you need to ask that help guide you to the correct solution:

  • Do you expect to have tons of transaction per month initially or will the transactions gradually grow?
  • Do you want to collect payment information on-line?
  • Do you require inventory control in your cart application?
  • Do you want to automate the payment processing?
  • Do you currently have a database of you inventory?
  • Do you currently have images or digital pictures of you inventory?

These questions will help us understand your business and its needs, the critical first step in opening an on-line store.

Processing Methods

Processing refers to the act of taking payment for goods or services and the verification of the payment. At I-RaD, we break down these methods into three categories, each with their own advantages to allow our customers a range of options. See the chart below for more detailed descriptions.

Offline Processing

Offline processing is perfect for a small business that wants to keep overhead as low as possible while still maintaining the ability to present goods and services on their site. A site using the offline method simply presents items for end-users and expects them to call or email regarding purchase. The cost advantage to this approach is that site security and the shopping cart application are unnecessary since no transaction information is being taken on-line.

Online/Offline Processing

Online/offline processing is typically the method of choice for most small to medium size businesses and the best solution for organizations that can handle the bandwidth of orders they receive, but are simply looking for a way to offer service 24 hours a day. This solution can be thought of as two parts, the end-user places orders on-line where they are stored, and then the store owner collects those transactions from the database and processes the payment off-line, typically through a touch pad. SSL security and a shopping cart application are requirements of this method.

Realtime Processing

Realtime processing is a fully automated solutions for sites that have a large bandwidth of end-users making purchases. This method requires the greatest investment for SSL and a shopping application as well as on-going charges for payment gateway services. However, the benefit is that this solution handles itself. The site will process payments, and the gateway will transfer funds. All you need to do is handle shipping if applicable.

PayPal Processing

Many people think using PayPal requires that their clients need a PayPal account.  This is not true.  Even the free version of PayPal will allow you to accept all major credit cards without requiring a PayPal account.  PayPal currently offers 2 popular solutions which offer realtime processing – Standard and Pro.

Processing Method Chart

Offline Online/Offline Realtime PayPal
Takes transaction information online No Yes Yes Yes
Processes transactions realtime No No Yes Yes
Requires offline processing No Yes No No
Requires SSL security No Yes Yes No
Requires shopping cart application No Yes Yes No
Requires payment gateway No No Yes No