Understanding Ecommerce and Merchant Services

I recently spent half-a-day on the telephone with a website customer who was concerned that, when she purchased her website, she was told that the site would be “fully e-commerce enabled” and that this was included in the cost; however, she was surprised to learn that she would need to pay additional fees for credit card processing.  Let’s clarify, because this misunderstanding is not uncommon.

Often, the term “e-commerce” is incorrectly understood to mean the process by which a merchant collects payments over the internet.  In actuality, e-commerce (or electronic commerce) typically refers to only the logistics and mechanics involved in the creation of transactions over the internet or through a customer’s website.  When we develop a website for a client, if they desire to conduct commerce through that site, then we will create all of the functionality necessary to allow for these transactions to occur.  This can include the create of items within a catalog, catalog pages within the site, and shopping carts that will allow customers to identify the items they wish to purchase and prepare an item or group of items for a check-out process.

However, these e-commerce functions do not include the actual collection of payment or the processing of credit card transactions.  This is a different service we refer to, in general, as “merchant services.”  Typically, this actual processing of credit card transactions and the collection and appropriate distribution of funds is done by financial institutions such as banks, for example, though there are other companies that provide merchant services as well.  The important thing to remember is that merchant services will always carry additional costs for the ability to accept credit cards, which is typical whether the credit card is being accepted in person or online, as well as specific predetermined fees associated with each and every transaction.

The combination of E-commerce and Merchant Services, when properly designed and implemented into a website, provides a great deal of advantages and allows for business to often be conducted more efficiently and in an equally secure manner.  And e-commerce is not limited to solely “selling items online.”  Here are just two examples of our “nontraditional” e-commerce website customers:

1.  A refuse collection company services over 11,000 individual households and receives 11,000 pieces of mail every quarter, each containing a $19 check.  The mail must be received, opened, processed, and then taken to the bank for deposit.  By accepting payment through their website, we have reduced the mail and associated processing costs, and we also were able to automate the website e-commerce system to communicate with the accounting software and automatically record the payments and update the accounts.

2.  A non-profit organization established a donations section of their website to accept online donations.

These are just two examples of the countless ways that an e-commerce enabled website can provide great service to your business.  Contact us today to learn how we can quickly design your e-commerce enabled website!

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 4:20 PM  Comments (8)  
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Accepting Credit Cards Online

Everyday, more and more consumers become comfortable with the idea of making online purchases. Even still, there is a significant segment of the population that stays in resistance of this trend. Most often, the resistance is due to a concern about online security. So the question we are most often faced with, as online retailers and Internet marketing consultants, is one of the proper level of security that we should provide on our sites.

Anytime a consumer sends information (name, address, or credit card number, for example) this is “data” that is being sent via your website. Security provided by the website to assure privacy of the information sent is essential to prevent pirating of your customer’s banking and personal information. The security of data is provided through a process of encrypting (jumbling or scrambling) the information prior to it being sent over the world wide web, and the level of the security your site provides is based on the extent to which the information is encrypted. In simple terms, and as a basis of information that you should understand as the website owner, a minimum level of encryption that your site should provide to your customers is “128 bit,” with additional levels of protection being provided by “256 bit encryption.” When discussing your website solution with your developer or provider, be sure that the security that will be provided by your site is “128 bit encryption” at a minimum.

As a website owner, it is essential to assure that data you collect from your customer is encrypted and, additionally, to determine the level of encryption necessary to assure your customer’s level of comfort with conducting online transactions with you via your website.

Published in: on February 17, 2008 at 12:07 AM  Comments (1)  
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POTW chosen for National Directory

Commensurate with the publishing of his book, “Website 411 – Business Survival in an Internet Economy,” author Thomas M. Elliott has also launched his National Directory of Web Solution Providers, for which Power On The Web has been chosen for inclusion as a respected website developer in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area.

Tom has been developing websites and working in the internet marketing, e-commerce, and search engine optimization fields for several years, and the publishing of his book (available at http://www.website411book.com) is only the latest example of his committment to educating today’s business owner on the power of the internet and the value of web presence and internet marketing. To anyone considering the impact a website and internet marketing can have on their business, Website 411 is a must read.

Along with the publishing of the book, Tom has also launched the Website411 book Website. Included in this website is not only access to purchase your own copy of Website 411, but also numerous special features – some available only to those that purchase the e-book version – as well as the National Directory of Website Solution Providers. POTW is proud to announce that we have been chosen for inclusion in the directory.

Published in: on January 5, 2008 at 5:15 AM  Comments (1)  
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“But I don’t use a computer!”

All too often, a business owner makes the mistake of assuming that, because (s)he does not use a computer, a website is not a good way to market his/her company.  Of all the concerns I hear when calling on small and medium sized businesses to dicuss their internet marketing and web solution needs, this is one of the most common among companies that have been around for a while.  Let’s face it…fifteen years ago, they probably did not need a computer to run their business, and they did not need a website to market their business either, right?  But what we must also face is that the world is changing.  As Thomas Friedman would say, “The World is Flat,” and computers and technology have put instant information at our fingertips while also making it AS easy to make a purchase from the store down the street as it is to make a purchase from the store on the other side of the globe.  And as more and more people use computers, companies make the daily discovery that these people are their customers.  So, business owners are forced to ask themselves, “Does it MATTER if I use a computer, when so many of my customers do?”  And, of course, the answer is no…it doesn’t.  As I always say, “If you aren’t selling where your customers are buying, then they are buying from someone else.”  Frankly, your web-savvy customers could care LESS whether you use a computer or not.  What they DO care about is finding the product, service, or information they want as quickly as possible.  And if you aren’t there to give them what they want, they will get it elsewhere.

So you don’t use a computer?  No problem.  POTW not only will assist you in developing and designing your web site, but as part of our web solution services, we also offer discounted rates for preferred customers to continually maintain and update your site without breaking your pocketbook.  And as part of every website we develop, we commit tutorial hours to educating the interested and willing customer on how to use POTW’s extremely user-friendly web design interface software.  In a matter of a few brief hours, we will have you tech-savvy….at least when it comes to your website.