The more cautious companies take themselves online in stages.
1. A start is a simple online catalog, from which customers can order by telephone or email. The personal contact fosters confidence, and customers can check product details with a knowledgeable salesperson. 2. Then may come a website with page information automatically supplied from a linked database, ensuring that stocks, prices and specifications remain up to date.
3. Only with online payment does ecommerce proper arrive, and even then there are sub-stages which companies may pass through.
a. Rather than process credit cards in realtime, emerchants will commonly take payment by one or more of these approaches: 1. Online checks. 2. Wallet systems. 3. Credit card details taken by encrypted email.
b. At the next stage enters the payment service provider, where the mix of options and misleading terminology almost guarantees confusion. At their simplest, the options are: 1. An all-in ecommerce system supplied by the webhosting company. 2. An Internet payment service bureau that handles all aspects of payment, sending customer details back to the emerchant for order fulfillment. 3. A secure order form on the emerchant's site, which transfers customer details via a payment gateway to a credit-card processing company. 4. An application programming interface on the emerchant's server that allows more direct access to the merchant account, though still through a payment gateway.
The devil is in the details. These are the common complications: The all-in ecommerce hosting system may:
1. Allow or not allow a range of shopping carts to be used. 2. Allow or not allow emerchants to find or use their own merchant accounts. 3. Some shopping cart programs are only sold through registered partners or hosting companies, which effectively makes their use an all-in ecommerce-hosting system.
Internet payment service bureaus differ widely in: 1. Rates and