Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Outsourcing Your Ecommerce Order Fulfillment

When your eCommerce business grows to the point where you can no longer package and ship the orders yourself, it's time to begin outsourcing your order fulfillment. Although all order fulfillment centers offer the same basic services, their individual methods and costs will help you choose one over the other. When selecting an order fulfillment service, keep the following in mind:


Order fulfillment warehouses are located all over the country. It's more important to select a warehouse that is close in proximity to your customers than to select one that is close to your business. For example, if your warehouse is located in California, and most of your customers are located on the East coast, your shipping rates will be higher than if you had a warehouse located in Kansas. Fulfillment centers located in the middle of the country will be able to ship to both the east and west coast for similar prices.


Fulfillment warehouses range from small business with just a few employees to large companies such as UPS. Select a fulfillment service that can meet your daily order fulfillment needs. Do you have consistent orders each day or do your orders spike? If you have orders that spike, be sure to choose a fulfillment center that can handle the extra workload and still ship the orders within the agreed timeline.

Shipping Options

Most fulfillment centers offer a variety of shipping options. Make sure the fulfillment service you select offers all of the shipping options you currently offer your customers and the shipping options that you may want to offer in the future.

Turn-around Time

Each fulfillment warehouse has it's own policy regarding order processing. For example some fulfillment centers will ship all orders that arrive before 1pm on the same business day. If you miss the 1pm deadline, the order is shipped the next business day. This could impact your customers if a next-day order is placed after 1pm. In this case, next day shipping turns out to be two-day shipping.

Order Entry

Order entry methods can be very important when considering a fulfillment service. The most common methods include:

  • Forwarding individual order invoices to the warehouse

  • Entering each order on the fulfillment center's web-based system

  • Emailing an Excel spreadsheet with all order once a day

Each method has a different affect on your business. For example, you may save money by manually entering orders into a web-based application, but it can be tedious if your business grows to the point where you have more orders than you have time to enter. You may pay a higher price to automatically email each individual invoice to the warehouse, but it may be worth the extra costs to have orders may be shipped as they arrive. Same day shipping could give you the edge over your competitor. On the other hand, if you have a high volume of orders, you won't want to individually enter each order into a web-based system and may not want to pay the extra charge of having individual orders emailed to the warehouse. If you don't mind shipping the next business day, you can send an Excel spreadsheet containing all of your orders once a day. Choose a warehouse that offers an order entry method that meets your business needs and fits your budget.


Communication is an important part of every business. There will be times when you need to contact the fulfillment center to modify a customer's address or cancel an order. Select a fulfillment center that is available via phone and email. You should not have to wait more than a few hours for a return email or call from the fulfillment center.

Error Rate

Mistakes will happen. Some customers will receive the wrong items or the items will be shipped to the billing address rather than the shipping address. When interviewing potential fulfillment centers, ask about their error rate and their process for remedying the situation. For example, do they issue UPS call tags to pick up the incorrect item and pay to ship a replacement item? Will they ship the replacement item at a faster rate to compensate the customer?


Each fulfillment center operates under a different payment schedule. Some use sliding scales and require contracts while others charge per order or per item with no contracts. You will also be charged a base fee to store your inventory at the warehouse and an additional fee per pallet or per item. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the fulfillment center's costs and any contracts.

When choosing a fulfillment center, create a checklist of the features you would like. Interview a member of the warehouse staff, as well as, their references to make sure the warehouse will meet the needs of your growing eCommerce business. When you outsource order fulfillment, the time that you normally spend packaging orders, managing inventory, and dealing with returns, can now be focused on growing your business. Use this time to expand your product line, enhance your online image, promote your business or expand into new markets.

Copyright 2004. Danna Henderson. All Rights Reserved.

About The Author

Danna Henderson started ZIP Baby in order to provide parents with comprehensive breastfeeding information and a large selection of parenting products. For more information visit Breastmilk Banks.

Intranet Portals - Personalisation and Customisation

The key difference between an (old-fashioned) Intranet and a Portal

What typifies a modern intranet portal is that there is a standardised user interface ("UI") with a built in system for user authentication. In other words, the user signs in to the portal rather than simply accessing it. This brings us to the key difference; an intranet portal knows who you are, whilst with an old-fashioned intranet, the user is anonymous.

If the user authentication is properly linked to your employee data, then the portal will know things like (a) what grade the person is, (b) which department they work in, (c) what location they work at and (d) what job they do.

If the portal authentication is also liked to a metadirectory (along with the authentication for all the other systems the user needs to use in their job) then the portal will additionally know (e) which applications the user needs to do their job and (f) the rights the user has (from their security profile) to access different application functionality.

Finally, if an infocube-based web statistics package has been installed, the portal will know (a) which areas of the portal are accessed by the user and (b) the frequency and depth of that access.

The opportunity to personalise the portal experience

Clearly, given the knowledge above, it is possible to personalise the UI for each individual user. For example, if the user works in the sales function, then the homepage that greets them upon logon could be the Sales team homepage. If they work in Leeds, the facilities link on their homepage could be to maps, traffic, fire orders, etc. about the Leeds office (rather than anywhere else). If their specific job is as a field sales manager, then field sales performance graphs and management dashboard could be displayed on the homepage.

If the user is of a grade that places them on the company insider dealing list, then additional (price sensitive) real-time data might be displayed on the screen (which other users would not see). If statistics tell us that they are not reading important communications, then messages could be served to them that draw their attention to what they are missing. Finally, if they use functionality from three different (legacy) systems to do their job, then these could be brought together and surfaced via a portlet application on the portal page.

The prize is clearly a smoother and more integrated user experience, with key information "pushed" at the user in a way they can't ignore and always no more than a single click away.

The depressing truth about personalisation today

Many portal vendors have undertaken research with their existing customer base to explore (a) how many customers have made extensive use of personalisation and (b) how many surface key business applications via their portal. The results do not make encouraging reading (with less than 20% achieving much beyond what Plumtree call "the empty portal").

This prompts an obvious question. If the benefits to the user of personalisation are so obvious, why have companies not taken advantage of them? In fact, based on my experience, there are multiple reasons not to personalise, which I group into "bad" and "good" reasons.

Bad reasons not to personalise

There are a number of typical failings that tend to stem from a lack of courage, poor understanding or personal prejudice:

1) Failure to link through to employee data and/or a metadirectory

This can be due to a number of factors, including (a) the costs of software seen as too expensive, (b) a perception that implementation will be too difficult or prone to failure, (c) a lack of confidence in the quality of employee data and (d) realising too late that this work is important and having failed therefore to include in project scope or business case costs

2) Failure of vision and/or lack of confidence in personalisation benefits

Typical problems include (a) a lack of experience of using portals and thus a lack of awareness of the possibilities, (b) a nostalgia for the old-fashioned style of intranet navigation, (c) an unhealthy focus on the intranet simply as a communication channel, rather than as a business tool and - perhaps most interestingly - (d) a perception that personalisation is synonymous with (or otherwise encourages) individuals failing to observe and comply with single, enterprise-wide processes and policy.

Good reasons not to personalise

There are actually several valid objections to personalisation, which you would ignore at your peril. The two most notable are:

3) The whole is more than the sum of the parts

Many portal projects are built on the concepts of (a) increased knowledge sharing between teams, (b) better awareness of the "big picture" of what is happening in the company and (c) a sense of belonging to a single, enterprise-wide community. By personalising teams and individuals into "ghettos" where they only see information and applications directly relevant to them, the opportunity is lost to have them explore the intranet presence of other colleagues.

4) Log-in as a barrier to user adoption

A (valid) concern that requiring people to log-in each time they access the portal will act as a deterrent to them doing so, thereby reducing the portal benefits through a reduction in intranet usage. This has lead to some customers disabling the log-in feature! Of course, such problems can be overcome through the implementation of a single sign-on application, where rights to access the portal (without a separate log-on procedure) are granted when the user logs onto the network. However, companies often fail to plan or budget for such changes.

So is personalisation the right thing to do? If so, how can I make it happen?

On balance, of course, the benefits of personalisation, for most organisations, far outweigh the risks and costs. After all, why buy a Ferrari, then only use it to do the school run? If you were never going to use the portal for these advanced functions, why did you buy one? It would have been much cheaper to invest in your traditional intranet!

If you are looking to make it happen, however, you must recognise the organisational, financial and technical challenges inherent in the work. Firstly, you should ensure that your business case contains the full costs of integrating the portal with employee data and metadirectory capabilities. Ideally, you should also extend this to a single-sign-on solution if you can afford it. Secondly, you should showcase to sponsors what personalisation looks like, so that they can improve their understanding of the opportunity. Finally, you should not underestimate the technical grunt work involved in cleaning up your employee data and systems rights.

Do not neglect customisation

I define customisation as the ability for users to customise their own portal settings and appearance (as distinct from how I am defining personalisation, where the portal provisions information and applications authomatically, based on the user's profile). By letting users "do it themselves" you allow for the possibility that they may wish to share knowledge and collaborate with people outside their immediate role. You can also learn (by observing their behaviour in customisation) where you could improve upon your personalisation.

Some final thoughts

Personlisation should be a key element of your early visioning work with sponsors and drive costs and benefits in your business case. If you find at that stage that the return on investment (ROI) is not there, then you should perhaps question whether a portal investment is really for you! A mini is adequate, after all, for the school run!

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

Why Ecommerce is Not Ready for My Daughter or Me

As the mother of a teenage clothing fanatic I'm often at my local mall. It occurred to me that the shopping experience for my daughter is attractive to her not because she wants to spend my money, but because the experience of buying itself is so rich to the senses.

For example, when we enter her favorite stores the first thing that hits me is the music. If it's her kind of music, we're in the right place for her. If the signs near the front of the store have sale prices and notices about markdowns, we're in the right place for me. Immediately there are two user needs met. Mother's and daughter's.

Next, for me, is how products are displayed. I look for orderliness and logical groupings such as jeans in one place, the teeny tiny things she calls shirts in another place, "hoodies" in every possible color in another section. I also look for clean dressing rooms and clues as to how many items she can load up on before she meets their limit. Meanwhile, she's looking at colors, sizes, textures, and styles. She glides along in her beat up sneakers touching the items as she passes by. Her hands drift along piles of sweaters as if walking through a field of daisies. A certain texture will stop her dead in her tracks and I'll get that "Mom, look!" expression from her.

It strikes me that some of the stores she insists we stop into don't offer much for me to do or look at. The d้cor is dark, black, and limited to a few racks mixed with hanging things on the walls separated by posters of half naked teenagers standing next to cars they can't possibly afford to buy. Clothing prices are hidden inside sleeves. Sale signs are taboo. But the music is hip, the salespersons are scary-looking and the smell of leather mixed with hair gel is making my wallet itch. Their website, I bet, has but one click-path designed for teens and their parents must be blindfolded so as not to read the content before handing over their credit card.

Finally in a store where I feel welcome, my daughter is admiring the merchandise and starting to find what she likes in her size. I'm avoiding the mirrors and marveling at the sales personnel with their size 3 bodies, smudged eyeliner and 35 bracelets on each wrist. For my daughter, who looks just like them, this is confirmation she's in the right store. I, on the other hand, will stop holding in my stomach when we get back out to the parking lot, or when we grab our latt้s in Starbucks on the first floor.

While other mothers and myself are holding piles of clothes in our arms, or running back and forth to get something in different sizes, my mind drifts to all the ecommerce websites I find in search engines, but don't purchase from. For starters, most of them think I'm going to read 35 links in their navigation, plus their ads, before deciding which is the right path to follow. Some of them will tell me about one sale, but if I want to know more, I have to figure out where they stuck that stuff. There's nothing I can physically touch and the images are usually tiny. Sure, I can click to enlarge but how many times have I done that only to find a bigger view of the same boring, unattractive picture?

Most shopping carts don't give me shipping dates or availability information as I make my selections. (Just recently I ordered something, only to hear from the merchant via email that their software wasn't working and the color and size wasn't recorded, so they had to contact me for that information.)

We assume ecommerce have functional websites. We assume incorrectly. We assume they built them for many types of customers, but again, we've assumed wrong. We assume that the top 20 sites in search engine results are the best of the best based on our search keywords. That, I'm afraid, is the saddest shock of all. Top rank doesn't equal the best online experience once you click into that website.

That part of usability wasn't tested for you by the search engine or directory. That's not their job.

My daughter looks good in everything. So did I when I was a teenager. If I still had that body I could order from any lingerie site on the Internet and feel quite sure I'd look as fantastic and sexy as their starving models do. But, I never buy sexy lingerie on the Internet because quite frankly, they're not selling it to me. One look at their models, their poses, their ages and their airbrushed faces tells me their target market is men who dream of making their women look like that too, if they just buy that lacey thing for them.

Fortunately I have a levelheaded daughter who loves to hunt for bargains. The last time we shopped at the Mall together was because I wanted to get her a gift for making the Distinguished Honor Roll that marking period in school. She found something at her favorite teen store for under $20. We splurged at Starbucks on our favorite chocolate coffee fixes, which was the logical choice after doing so well at the clothing store.

Online, after a sale, I'd be alone staring at my monitor at a "Thank you screen" and likely not directed to go anywhere interesting next. This is another common ecommerce practice; dumping the customer off after the last screen of a shopping cart. Instead, they should try suggesting a related site (via paid sponsored link?) or a reminder to bookmark the site for later shopping or better yet, how about a quick "Did you find what you were looking for?" survey. One quick question, one button click is all it takes to say "We hoped you like your shopping experience but if not, please tell us how to make it better."

This is what the cute pierced nose sales clerk said to us when I handed her the $20 for my daughter's new shirt. I gratefully accepted the receipt from the nail polished hand attached to the 18 year old face with a pimple on the forehead, multi-colored hair and glittered eye shadow. You just can't get mimic that kind of user experience on the Internet yet.

Usability Consultant, Kimberly Krause Berg, is the owner of http://www.UsabilityEffect.com, http://www.Cre8pc.com & http://www.Cre8asiteForums.com. Her background in organic search engine optimization, combined with web site usability consulting, offers unique insight into web site development.

Expand Your Local Business Through the Internet

To obtain more local customers for your business,
consider expanding your local business through the
Internet. Here are some ways of doing so.

1. Online Directories

Even without a website, you can get listed in online
directories. Many times these listings are free.

For example, if you operated a restaurant, your being
listed in local Internet directories could result in
local residents and visitors to the area finding your

2. E-mail Newsletter

You could also collect e-mail addresses from existing
customers and regularly e-mail them about special events,
menu additions, and other promotions. This would keep
your restaurant visible in their minds and could result
in repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.

For more information about newsletters, visit

3. Your Own Website

If you have your own website, the opportunities for
promoting your business increase. A restaurant could
give information about hours, prices, nutritional
information, specials, awards, news releases, contests,
employment opportunities, and so on.

4. Search Engines

Submit your website to search engines for increased
exposure. Some search engines have listings by
regional category so that local customers can find you

5. Pay-Per-Click Search Engines

Advertise in pay-per-click (PPC) search engines that
use geographical targeting. That way, you are paying
mainly for responses from people local to your area.

6. Internet Auctions

Use eBay or other Internet Auctions to reach out to local
customers. On eBay, you can mention an item location
which will help local people to find you. Not only can
you earn some additional income from Internet auctions,
but you may gain additional local clients.

For more information about online auctions, visit

By applying these suggestions, you, too, can expand your
local business through the Internet.


J. Stephen Pope, President of Pope Consulting Inc.,
http://www.popeconsultinginc.com/ has been helping
clients to earn maximum business profits for over
twenty-five years.

For valuable Work at Home Small Business Ideas,
visit: http://www.yenommarketinginc.com/

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Projecting Your Image

Whether you sell a product or merely sell time to your employer in your labor, your main product is you. You sell yourself with every move you make, every word you speak or write, every attitude you display. How far you go up the ladder depends largely on the image you project to others.

If you are sincere, dependable, knowledgeable, and confident, you will be accepted. You will not be trusted if you seem unsure of yourself. If you appear overconfident, you will be thought of as phoney.

Before you can sell a product, you have to sell yourself. Before you sell yourself, you must be sold on yourself. You must get your doubts and failures out of your mind and replace them with memories of your successes. You have to psych yourself up. I remember a pitcher who would turn his back on the batter and work himself into a frenzy. He would then blow the ball past the hitter.

Hang around with upbeat successful people. Avoid being around those who are always feeling sorry for themselves and giving excuses for failing. Sales organizations keep their employees psyched up. Build up yourself and others with positive material. You will develop a habit of feeling great about yourself. That will come across to your customers and they will buy.

You have to come across to others as a winner. No one wants to buy from a loser. I know a salesman that was driving a car that was old and beat up and his prospect told him he would not buy from him because he was obviously not successful. You must have the appearance of success and act like a winner.

Your chief competitor is you. You won't succeed until you learn to play up to your potential. Many are not defeated by their opponent but beat themselves. Winners don't shoot themselves in the foot with silly mistakes. Be aware of what's going on and take advantage of your opportunities. The difference between wining and losing is in the execution. When you make the right moves, you will be successful.

Decide what image you want to portray. Everyone is unique. It should display your personality, values and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Decide what is important and have a plan to put it across to others. You must do what you have a passion for. If you are excited about what you are doing it will be evident to your customer.

When you sell in person, your prospect goes a lot by body language, tone and voice inflections. This is lost when you sell with the written word. You have to find ways to make up for it with your copy. Write so that he feels the emphases that your body and voice give. Show him that you can fulfill his need. He doesn't care what you want. Tell him what's in it for him.

You are thinking that you want him to buy now. He is thinking something entirely different. He is asking himself why he should buy now, from you, and not someone else. He is wondering if it will really do what you say it will. Learn to think like he does so that you can speak his language. You have to be on the same page with him to sell him. Anticipate his objections and give him answers before he reflects on them. Make him think that he is not being sold, but he is choosing the best. Give him something extra for buying now. A how to article for his field would show him you have his best interest at heart.


You have my permission to publish this article if you leave the resource box intact. It would be appreciated if you notify me when you do at lynn_b2@yahoo.com.

Lynn Bradley is also the author of the paperback book, "Climbing the Heavenly Stairs," which includes a chapter on Jesus' answer for overcoming your obstacles and becomingly successful. You were created for success. Learn his rules for being a winner. Click on the following link for more information or use the title for the URL. http://www.thelynnbradleybook.com

Old Habits Die Hard in the Third Age Years

I spent a lifetime in retailing and I'm still at it in retirement; albeit virtually.

You know how it goes.

You put up a web page and throw in some stock.

Your page begets another and another and another until one day you're looking at a site that's got more stock than Bloomingdales.

But you can't stop?

The old sourcing skills are making a comeback, sharpening their talons, and coaxing you to duck and dive, bob and weave to find still more stock at even better prices.

So you build another virtual retail store and then another and another and another until you're looking at an empire.

Then you diversify.

If you are upmarket, you go downmarket.

Why not?

There no shareholders breathing down your neck or smart ass vice presidents demanding that you pull in the reins.

And so you build a bargain basement store and another and another until you're looking at Wal-Mart.

Expending your energy in this way is fun; it's therapeutic, and if you go about matters in the right way, it doesn't cost a thin dime apart from hosting fees - and it can be hugely profitable.

In between times you are still knocking out the odd bestseller just to keep your hand in.

But even now you can't stop.

You dig deep into the inner recesses of the psyche and draw down expertise that has been rusting away for eons in the vaults of the supraconscious.

Ideas leap out at you from nowhere; you create courses on creative writing, starting a business, offline marketing, online marketing, maximising on retirement, and what have you.

So you build more websites and more websites and more websites and now you are busier than ever you were when you thought you were working.

So how am I doing with all these third age activities?

I'm not hurting.

Most mornings my inbox is crammed with cute little messages like 'Invoice from Clickbank' and 'You have money at PayPal' and so forth.

But don't take my word for it.

Visit one of my stores and judge for yourself.

You'll find an address in the resource box?

Jim Green is a retiree, entrepreneur, and published author with a string of bestselling hard copy titles to his bow including his latest 'Your Retirement Masterplan' ISBN 1857039874. You'll get a taste of what he gets up to at this website http://howtoproducts-xl.com

10 Reasons To Survey Your Visitors, Subscribers And Customers

1. To find out what type of content visitors want to see on your web site. This should increase repeat visits to your site.

2. To find out how to improve existing products or services. This
will attract new customers.

3. To find out which products or services your customers would like to see you sell in the future. This will increase your back end product sales.

4. To find out how to improve your customer service. This will cut down on customer complaints.

5. To find out how to improve your sales letters or ads. This will increase your sales, traffic or ezine subscribers.

6. To find out what kind of articles or interviews they want to see in your e-zine. This will increase your e-zine's readership.

7. To find out how to design your web site to fit your visitors needs and wants. This will increase the time your visitors spend on your web site.

8. To find out what kind of non-related products or services your
customers would buy. This will help your business easily move into a different market.

9. To find out how to better price your products. This will help you sell your products or services at at a price that will pull the most orders.

10. To find out where your potential customers spend their time while online.. This will inform you where to market and promote your products.


Lewis Leake helps people work from home. His website at GrowNetProfits.com contains tools, resources, articles, newsletters, product reviews and traffic builders to help you make money from your home based business. Click here to get additional information about Surveying Your Customers and Subscribers.


12 Easy and Effective Ways To Create Reports

1. Combine a few of your articles into a free report. Make sure
that each of the articles fits the theme of your report.

2. Take a survey and then compile the results into a report.
Most of the people that you surveyed will be interested in the

3. Create a report from excerpts of an ebook that you have
written. Pick a chapter or two from your ebook for the report.
This will increase the awareness of your ebook and should result
in more sales.

4. Conduct interviews of people in your industry then compile
these into reports. This is an easy way to create a report that
has a lot of perceived value.

5. Have someone else write your report. Either pay them or
include their ad in the report.

6. Compile reports of statistical analysis relative to your
industry. You could identify trends or changes from one period
to another.

7. Compile a number of tips into a report. Everyone likes tips.
They are usually short, to the point and easy to read.

8. Gather news articles about your industry or company into a
report. Provide this as a service to your customers and to other
companies within your industry.

9. Create a report on a product or service. Have someone write a
review of your products or services and include these in a

10. Ask other authors to contribute related articles to your
report. Most authors will be delighted as long as they can
include their resource box.

11. Bundle older information that is no longer available. This
could be back issues of your newsletter, speeches, surveys,
transcripts, lists or tips.

12. Combine articles that have been written about you, your
products or services, or your industry. These make excellent
reports. Just make sure that you get permission to use the

Give away the free report as a bonus for buying your main
product or service or for subscribing to your newsletter. Make
sure that you have added links back to your website.

You could also insert text ads at the top and bottom of each

Utilize a simple form of viral marketing, allow others to give
your reports away.

Copyright 2004 - Leake & Co. Inc.


Lewis Leake helps people make money from home. His
website at GrowNetProfits.com contains tools, resources,
articles, newsletters, product reviews and traffic builders to
help you make money from your home based business. Click
here to get additional Work From Home articles, tips and
resources. http://www.GrowNetProfits.com


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is It Easy to Build An E-commerce Web Site?

--Online Commerce--

E-Commerce website is all about selling products and services over the Internet. Amateurs may think that it is easy to build your own e-commerce system and our advice to you is to stay away from these amateurs. Building an e-commerce system is a complicated process and it requires web professionals who know the intricacies of building secure systems. Building an e-commerce system comes with the potential for a lot of errors and it is advisable to find security and database experts for the job.

Resource-consuming tasks such as order and supply tracking needs to be automated for e-commerce websites. Automated billing, invoice handling, accounting, and report generation tools make your e-commerce web sites easier to manage and handle sales. These are essential features to look out for in e-commerce websites.

--Building One Yourself--

Sure, you can try to build a basic E-commerce web site. But, an E-commerce web site without the tracking and automated is quite useless when you are trying to determine how your sales are derived and business expansion.

Lester Boey works in an Australian SEO and Web Design company (Australian Search Engine Optimization and Web Designs Company). His life revolves around SEO; providing full-time and freelance seo services to US and Australian businesses. Email: projects@definiteweb.com

Shopping Cart Abandonment - Discover 5 Things you can do to Lower Cart Abandonment

A common frustration among merchants who sell online via a shopping cart is the percentage of people who abandon their cart and leave the site never to return. This is known as the shopping cart abandonment rate. It is not unheard of for companies to experience as high as a 99% abandonment rate. Getting the abandonment rate under control can go a long way towards increasing the income your company earns from their online venture.

1. Don't make them register until they have to

A common complaint amoung web shoppers is the irritation and invasion of privacy they feel when they have to register for a new account before they can even use the shopping cart. If people have to share their personal information with you before they even know if they want to buy from you, they'll often click away never to return. Whenever possible, get them to register after they know how much something will cost them including shipping. This will help them to feel good about your company and will result in more sales.

2. Make it easy for your prospect to find out how much it will cost them

Many people will use your shopping cart to price out what your product will cost them after shipping. On the web, everyone knows that a tangible product must be shipped. Knowing this, the number one cost people are always reluctant to spend on is the shipping. People want to know what the final price they will pay to get it to their door. If this price is reasonable to them, only then will they go through the trouble of registering for an account.

3. High Shipping Costs

Almost anyone who has purchased a product online has run into a company that was charging a sky high rate for shipping. Do everything you can to keep your shipping costs as low as possible. Shop around for a good rate. Try to include a shipping estimator from the company that will be handling your shipping featured on your website. Make it easy for your customers to find it.

4. Keep the number of steps they need to take at a minimum

Many shopping carts take people through four, five or six steps before they can finalize their purchase. Every extra step you force people to take in your shopping cart system is one more chance they have to abandon the shopping cart. Collect as much information as possible in as few steps as it is reasonable for you to take. This will encourage fewer people to click away.

5. Keep outbound links to a minimum

Don't give your prospects an easy way to exit the shopping cart process. Forcing them to click the back button will at least make it more of an effort for them to click away. People can sometimes have second thoughts that an extra link on your website may encourage. For this reason, keep any links on your order pages to only the most necessary.

Overall, if you treat your prospects with respect, make it easy for them to find the information they need, and streamline your checkout process to make it easy for your prospects to buy from you, you'll succeed at making more money and lowering your shopping cart abandonment rate.

This article was written by Joe Duchesne, president of http://www.yowling.com/, a web hosting company that specializes in helping online business owners increase their website traffic. Copyright 2004 Yowling. Reprint Freely as long as you link back to my website from this resource box.

Online Shoppers Say They'll Buy from Small and Large E-Businesses Alike

As the holiday shopping season begins in earnest, consumers say they're just as willing to buy from small online retailers as they are from large, national e-commerce providers.

In addition to this key finding, a new national survey of 2,500 consumers discovered extremely high levels of consumer participation in - and satisfaction with - shopping on the Internet, despite continuing concerns for security and privacy.

According to the survey, sponsored by Hostway Corp., a global leader in Web hosting and managed services, more than three-fourths of consumers who have shopped the Web sites of both large and small companies said company size is not a factor in having their online shopping needs satisfied. Only 15 percent of respondents expressed a strong preference for dealing with large companies online, opening the door for small- to medium-sized businesses to get in the e-commerce game.

"These survey results provide very encouraging news: The Internet 'Gold Rush' is far from over for small businesses," said John Lee, Hostway's vice president of marketing. "The Wal-Marts of the world may be hurting sales for Main Street retailers, but consumers are telling us size doesn't matter on the Information Highway.

"Our message to small retailers is this," Lee continued, "You clearly have an opportunity to succeed in e-commerce. Consumers are able to find you online. They're willing to buy from you. But it still takes a lot of work, and you should get help from the experts in building and promoting a successful e-commerce Web site."

Overall, nearly nine of ten survey respondents reported buying products online, and of that group, 94 percent said they are satisfied (30 percent) or very satisfied (64 percent) with their overall experience. Participating consumers ranked the following attributes as being the most important factors in shopping online:

- Assurance of security (97 percent)

- Promise of privacy (96 percent)

- Prices (95 percent)

- Web site ease of use (94 percent)

- Availability of desired products and services (94 percent)

Market research firm TNS conducted the survey for Hostway between November 10 and 13, questioning 2,500 adult consumers nationwide about their online shopping experiences.

Lauria L.

Managing Project Risks and Issues

Inherent (or Business) Risk

Inherent Risk is the risk that exists in the environment around your portal project. It will tend to be unique to your organisation; it's culture and politics. For example, if you have a fragmented business (either geographical or functional), then this will create a higher inherent risk of poor communication.

Project (Specific) Risk

Project Risk is the risk specific to your project. Some Project Risk stems from the nature of what you are doing; there are certain risks common to any project (e.g. the unfamiliarity to users of the technology you are deploying). However, most project risk is under your direct influence; for example the skills of the project team, the level of governance effectiveness and so on.

Stage Risk

Finally, there is 'stage risk' which is the risk associated with the particular activity of any given phase of the project plan.

The Risk Log & Risk Plan

In order to stay in control of the risks to your portal project, it makes sense to have a formal log of all risks, to which anyone involved with the project is entitled to add. You might use a formal workshop to first populate the log.

Assessing Risks

Each risk (however derived) can be assessed using a simple methodology, whereby the probability of the risk being realised ('likelihood') and the size of the impact on the project objectives ('severity') can be measured.

The simplest system (based on the PRINCE project management method) is to give a score of 1-3 for likelihood and severity (where 1 is low and 3 is high). From these scores, the importance of each risk can be measured as the product of likelihood and severity.

Clearly, any risk of importance 9 demands immediate attention, followed by risks rated 6 and so on.

Risk Counter-measures

The importance of each risk should be regularly maintained, based on the extent to which the likelihood and severity of impact change over time.

For each risk, one should enter a counter-measure in the risk plan. Where a risk can be eliminated, then this will be the counter-measure. Where it cannot be fully eliminated, then risk mitigation actions will be the most appropriate.

Issues Log

A Risk is something that is yet to happen, whilst an Issue is something that has already happened. It may well be convenient to use the Risk Log to also track any issues on the project. Issues will generally fall into one of the following categories:

(R) - Request for a change (in the scope of the project);

(O) - An item has been identified that is Off-Specification;

(Q) - A Question has been raised that needs to be resolved;

(S) - A Statement of Concern has been raised by someone; and

(I) - Other issues.

To score issues, just ascribe an importance score (of between 1 and 9).

Managing Risks and Issues

Once you have put a Plan in place, then it is important to regularly monitor and report on the counter-measures that have been deployed and whether or not they have been successful in reducing the overall risk profile of the project.

For templates and examples of risks and issues pertinent to intranet portal deployment projects, please check out my chapter on Managing Risks and Issues in the (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide.

If you act, manage and report regularly on risks and issues, you will have substantially improved your chances of project success!

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

Stakeholder Analysis and Stakeholder Management

What is a Stakeholder?

Try "define: Stakeholder" in Google and you will be surprised by the huge differences in the way this simple word is defined. It perhaps proves - in a way - just how confused people get about Stakeholder Management and how inconsistent the different approaches to it can be!

My simple definition is "anyone affected by a decision and interested in its outcome". This can include individuals or groups, both inside and outside your organisation.

Stakeholder Analysis

The first step in Stakeholder Analysis is to assess the Influence and Importance (two different things!) of each individual Stakeholder or Stakeholder group.

Influence is defined as the extent to which a stakeholder is able to act on project operations and therefore affect project outcomes. Influence is a measure of the power of the stakeholder. Factors likely to lead to higher influence include the extent of control over the project funding and the extent to which the stakeholder informs decision-making around investments in technology and business change.

Importance is defined as the extent to which a stakeholder's problems, needs and interests are affected by project operations or desired outcomes. If 'important' stakeholders are not assisted effectively then the project cannot be deemed a 'success'.

Where Stakeholders are both important and influential, then they are primary stakeholders and must by fully engaged in the governance and steering of the project, if it is to succeed. Where Stakeholders are either important or influential, then they are secondary stakeholders and need to be actively managed during the project.

The second step in Stakeholder Analysis is to understand the current position of each Stakeholder with respect to the project objectives and expected outcomes. For this purpose, a series of Stakeholder Interviews and Surveys should be undertaken, to understand the degree of engagement and the degree of commitment.

Engagement is a measure of how well the Stakeholder understands the challenges the project seeks to tackle and the strategy, plans and outcomes. A low engagement score signals a lack of understanding.

Commitment is a measure of how supportive the stakeholder is. A low score signals hostility, whilst a high score signals strong support.

Ideally, of course, any project wants engaged, informed stakeholders who actively support the project objectives and outcomes. An ill-informed supporter can be just as dangerous as a well-informed objector!

Stakeholder Management

There are many different suugested approaches for Stakeholder Management. In the chapter on influencing (stakeholders) in my (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide, I offer a simple, tried and tested, four-way approach:

1) Partner

Primary stakeholders (with high influence and importance to project success) are likely to provide the project 'coalition of support' in planning and implementation. As such, you should partner them to increase their engagement and commitment (revising and tailoring project strategy, objectives and outcomes if necessary to win their support).

2) Consult

Secondary stakeholders with higher influence but lower importance need to be 'kept on board'. You should consult with them to actively seek their opinions and input for key decisions (and not only those which may affect them directly). It is unlikely you would alter your strategy as a result of such consultation, but you might well alter your tactics (e.g. the who, when or where of project plans) to maintain higher levels of commitment.

3) Inform

Secondary stakeholders with lower influence but higher importance need to be kept informed of decisions taken that may affect them directly. It is unlikely that they would play an active role in making those decisions. However, were they to highlight a particular issue with a decision, it is likely serious consideration would be given to refining the decision made.

4) Control

Control is appropriate where a stakeholder isn't important or influential and they need help only to respect any decisions taken. Objections to or issues raised are unlikely to be given serious consideration (as they would otherwise divert valuable management attention and resources).


Stakeholders are key to successful Project Delivery in the modern organisation. Both Stakeholder Analysis and Stakeholder Management are vital tools and should be used iteratively throughout a project to keep everyone on the same page. Be aware that different approaches are appropriate for different Stakeholder types. You can't keep all the people happy all the time. Check out my guide for more hints, tips and tools.

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

Intranet - The Benefits Realisation Plan

The Millennium Experience

A successful project is one that delivers on-spec ('quality'), time and cost. Right? Well consider these two projects?

The Millennium Dome was delivered on time for the 31 December 1999 and safely within a budget (fixed in 1998) of ฃ289 million. The Project was also delivered to quality, albeit against a Specification that had been adjusted several times during the project to simplify the scope of work required (and ensure that time and cost deadlines could still be met). However, visitor number targets were greatly overestimated, the business a total flop and the whole endeavour deemed a failure by many.

The Millennium Wheel (or "London Eye") opened one month late on a dreary February morning in 2000 (following problems raising the wheel and then safety & quality issues with one of the 32 pods). It was also over budget, with building costs of ฃ70m (against the ฃ25m British Airways had originally planned to spend). However, an average of about 10,000 people a day now ride the wheel, making the London Eye the UK's biggest tourist attraction (and generating ฃ15 million of trading profit a year) - a healthy return on investment for the shareholders.

A New Mindset for Change Projects

Traditional methodologies for change / project management (of which PRINCE is an example) tend to focus primarily on time, cost and quality. Benefits are all too often only implicitly recognised and the accountability for realising them is assumed to lie outside the project.

However, the pace of change within our society, industry and business grows ever faster. Somewhat paradoxically, there is an ever-greater need to ensure that changes 'stick' (delivering sustainable benefit and competitive advantage to the organisations making them). Most businesses have already achieved greater efficiency and effectiveness within single functions or processes; The challenge of the 21st Century is increasingly how to realise end-to-end change across a boundary-less business.

Rarely (these days) will a single customer sponsor a single project, delivering a single system into a single department.

The leadership challenge is thus how to engage multiple sponsors and change agents across the whole business to deliver excellence in change and the ruthless pursuit of business benefits and true return on investment (ROI).

The Case for a focus on Benefits Management

Recent research from the Cranfield University School of Management finds that 78% of IT-enabled change projects (in large UK companies) fail to deliver business benefits. 47% believed assessment of business benefits in business cases was poor or worse and 79% said that all the available benefits were not captured during that assessment. 45% believed benefits were overstated in their organisation to get investment approval.

Arguably, this will only change when project managers and their people become accountable for - and obsessed by - delivering business benefits and value through Change, rather than simply projects to time and cost.

Benefits Defined

Soft Benefits (sometime called "non-quantifiable" benefits) are those intangible improvements to be obtained from a change, including improved employee satisfaction, better customer satisfaction, increased knowledge sharing and re-use of intellectual capital. Whilst it is often accepted that such benefits do lead to financial gain, it is deemed impossible to demonstrate a proven causal link that would enable one to place a financial value on the benefit.

Direct Benefits are those which lead to a measurable impact on the bottom-line of the organisation, including increased revenue, reduced costs of sale / improved margin, operating cost reduction (e.g. through reduced headcount) and improvements in working capital (e.g. through a faster debt collection cycle). An individual or team can be held directly to account for achieving them and providing evidence of their realisation.

Indirect Benefits are those which facilitate or enable bottom-line impact, without leading directly to realisable items for which can individual or team had be held accountable. Such benefits include cost avoidance (i.e. costs not currently budgeted that might otherwise become payable) and capacity creation (where efficiency savings free up people to undertake high-value adding tasks but do lot lead directly to the release of FTEs or other costs).

The Benefit Realisation Toolset

In the Benefits Realisation & Tracking chapter of my (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide, I outline a number of tools that can be used to better manage benefits on the typical portal project.

1) An enhanced Business Case

Many business cases simply do not sufficiently reference Benefits. Make sure that you dedicate at least as many column-inches to benefits as you do to costs. Split benefits between soft, direct and indirect. Ensure that direct benefits are included in the ROI, NPV or IRR calculations and that the people who will be accountable for their realisation have signed them off.

2) The Benefits Blueprint

Create a document that shows how your benefits link to actual business process changes, projects or deliverables and changes to systems. Suitable tools can be found in Cranfield's Benefits Network approach, the Six Sigma toolset and as add-ons to PRINCE. Position the overall result in the context of your vision and strategy. This will help you capture all the benefits and to sharpen what you need to do to achieve them.

3) The Benefits Realisation Plan

The key control document, a good Realisation Plan includes, for each benefit, (a) a description of what the benefit is, (b) how much it is worth, (c) who will be accountable for it's realisation, (d) when it will be realised and (e) where it will impact. If there are risks or dependencies to the benefit realisation, these should be noted and managed in the plan. Finally, it should be clear in the plan how the benefit realisation will be objectively measured and evidenced (e.g. through the monitoring of key performance indicators).

4) Benefit Evidence

In my guide, I suggest the use of Benefit Sign-off sheets, whereby the benefit owner identified at the Business Case and Planning stage is expect to sign-off once she is satisfied that the benefit has been realised. Evidence supporting the sign-off should also be attached to the sign-off sheet. This is a good discipline, to keep everyone honest.


The 21st Century Project Manager needs to be obsessed with delivering business benefits and value through change, rather than simply projects to time, cost and quality. There are tools that can help, including in particular the Benefits Realisation Plan. Good luck and don't forget to check back with my guide for further help and templates you can download.

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

Chinas IT Industry to Maintain Fast Growth

China's IT industry is expected to see a sales revenue of 2.68 trillion yuan (US$322.3 billion) in 2004, up 42.3 per cent year-on-year, becoming the country's leading driver for economic growth, MII(Ministry of Information Industry) sources indicate.

The industry's added value is expected to hit 578 billion yuan (US$69.6 billion) for the entire 2003, up 44.5 per cent. Tax revenue is expected to reach 143.1 billion yuan (US$17.2 billion), up 37.9 per cent; and exports totalling to US$180 billion, roughly 34 per cent of country's total exports.

According to statistics for the first three quarters of 2004, sales income of China's IT industry totalled 1.88 trillion yuan (US$226.5 billion), up 40 per cent from the same period in 2003, and the industry's added value rose 40.5 per cent to 363.2 billion yuan (US$43.8 billion).

An Internet veteran, China SEO Mail cn2world@sohu.com

Beginner Ecommerce Mistakes

This is a short article because in the constraints of time and space preclude me from writing a 10 page article. Recently i built a ecommerce web site titled Cynscorion Products that sells knifes. I originally set out in July of 2004 to build an ecommerce site to bothe earn extra income and as a challenge to myself.

Along the way I learned several things about both myseldf and web site design. Fourth months and about $1,900 later I have a ecommerce web site that I could have built in about 45 days and for one third the cost. Yes, there were some expensive lessons I learned the hard way.

So, to help others who may be considering an ecommerce site i would like to offer a few tips.

1. Read books on ecommerce from both book stores and ebooks obtained from the internet. There are also a lot of free resources on the internet that you shouuld take advantage of. Do not just jump in with both feet like I did.

2. Start thinking about what you want to sell. If you make your own product, you should proceed to step 3. If you do not make the product you intend to sell then you first need to consider what you want to sell. If you have no preferences or if you have a hobby that you may potentially be able to turn into products market analysis is your next step.

3. Your need to determine if there is a market for your product. If there is no demand for your warm and fuzzy hand stitched bra's then attempting to sell them is failure waiting to happen. Most people fail intheir first ecommerce site because they sell what they like, not what other people are willing to buy.

4. Start looking for a product supplier of what ever you intend to sell. The store is no good with out merchandise to sell.

5. Review the web hosting companies and shopping carts available for price and features. Get a good shioping cart that offers flexiblity. Even if you do not intend to use all of the features immediately, you may want them a year from now. Do not box your self in.

6. Consider your Merchant Account or Payment Gateway provider carefully. This the part of the ecommerce site that accepts credit cards and transfers the money into your bank account. Comparison shop and check their monthly fees and percentage fees. Ask if they require contracts and they have a lot of experience with ecommerce sites and beginners. Do not assume anything when dealijng with a merchant account company. It will cost you money, because the error will be yours. I know this from personal expereince. Read the fine print!

7. Lastly, if this is your first site, find someone who has built an ecommerce site befor and learn from them. You do not need to waste time and money reinventing the wheel.

So there you have it. Just few things to watch out for. Check out my web site and see what I built and read the story of how I built it. It is a funny story. Just go to the bottom of the page and click on Ecommece Book. Oh one more thing, avoid any travelling online seminar that promises a quick onl;ine web store. It an't gonna happen. ecommerce stores take time and effort, but a person of average intelligence CAN do it. if you have any questions send me an email. i will try and help you if I can. Just to my web site and click on "contact us".

Good Luck.

The author recently built a working ecommerce site by hand from the ground up. The web site evolved from pay pal to an actual merchant account and transformed itself from a home made shopping cart to a professionally design shopping cart. See the site for yourself. Go to http://www.cynscorion.com

Starting An E-Commerce Business

The development and expansion of the Internet has made business opportunities, once only available to the wealthy, available to nearly everyone. In the past, opening a business was a huge commitment in terms of finances and risk. Traditional business owners had to quit the their current jobs, obtain bank financing, and sign leases before they even made a penny. It's easy to see why 95% of them failed within five years. Today, business opportunities are available to anyone willing to put in the time and effort to learn about the world of e-commerce. Best of all, you can start an e-commerce business with minimal funds and very little risk. This guide will take you though the steps necessary to start your own e-commerce business.

Find Your Niche

The first step to creating your own e-commerce business is to find you niche. Examine your hobbies and interests for potential business ideas. If you love soccer, consider selling soccer supplies or team uniforms online. You may also consider opening a business that is similar to your current job. For example, as a nurse you may know a lot about medical supplies and how hospitals obtain them. You could start a medical supply business. Your contacts and industry knowledge could give you an advantage over a competitor who does not know the inner-workings of hospitals the way you do.

Research The Demand

Now that you have a few business ideas, it's time to research the demand for your products or services. If you plan to sell to the general public, you'll want to find out how many people are looking for your products or services. As a small business owner, you will not have the marketing funds to create a demand for a product. The products you sell, must already be in demand. A great way to determine product demand is to see how many people are searching for a specific product. Overture has a wonderful keyword tool (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/) that displays the number of searches for specific keywords. It will give you a good idea of which products are popular and the specific keywords you should target when building your website.

Scope Out Your Soon-To-Be Competitors

Before settling on a business idea, scope out your would-be competitors. Visit their websites and compare the following:

ท Professional Look & Feel

ท Products and Services

ท Search Engine Ranking

ท Page Rank (Available on the Google Tool Bar)

ท Keywords

ท Back Links (how many sites link to them).

You'll need to know your competitor's websites inside and out. Spend some time exploring each one. This will give you an idea of what you're up against. Keep in mind, that your website will need to be equally as professional or better than theirs. Don't worry if you don't think you have the technical skills necessary to create a professional website. The use of professional website templates will be explained later.

While you're researching your competitors, check to see if the products you intend to sell are sold at large department stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.com. It is very difficult for a small business to compete with these large companies because the profit margins are extremely low. You'll need to sell products that are in demand, but aren't sold by corporate giants.

Establish A Business Entity

In order to conduct business, you need to establish a business entity. Fortunately this can be as easy as filing a "Doing Business As" or "Fictitious Name" form with your local County Clerk's office to become a sole proprietor. When you arrive at the County Clerk's office, they will check their records to make sure your intended business name is not already in use. If it's available, you will need to complete the appropriate forms and pay your filing fee. Each state has different requirements. Check with your state for requirements on becoming a sole proprietor.

You will also need a sales tax id. You will need to charge sales taxes in the state where your business resides. Contact your county office for details about sales tax ID's and any other requirements they may have.

Open A Business Bank Account

Now that you are a legitimate business owner, it's time to open a business bank account. Take your court documents to the bank and open a business checking account. Most banks offer a variety of business accounts. Choose the one the best meets your needs. It's usually best to start with their least expensive account because it could be a while before you start earning revenue. You can always upgrade in the future.

Some banks require a business owner to wait specified amount of time, usually 90 days, after the court documents are filed before opening a business bank account. These rules are in place to help prevent fraud. Check with your bank to obtain waiting period information.

Choose A Domain Name

While you wait to open a bank account, you can start building your website. First, register a domain name. Names that end in ".com" are best. If possible your, domain name should include one or more of your target keywords. For example, if you are creating a yoga supply business, you'll want to choose a name with the word yoga, such as yogacenter.com, yoga-supply.com, or yogastuff.com.

Create Your Website

One of the keys to successful e-commerce businesses is a professional website. Your website is the first and often the only impression your visitors will have of your business. A professional website can be the difference between your visitors viewing you as a home-based business operating out of your garage and a multi-million dollar business with hundreds of employees. Fortunately, you don't need to be a web programmer to create a professional website. There are companies that sell professional website templates. You can get website templates for free, but it's much better to pay for a highly professional template. To find these templates, simply search for "website templates". You should expect to pay $50 - $150 for a good template with multiple pages and professional images.

Most website templates can be customized with common HTML editors and a simple graphics program. Templates can be edited without having to invest a lot of time and energy into learning how to code web pages.

You'll want your website content to target specific keywords. This can be achieved by creating articles, product reviews, product comparisons and detailed description of your products. Avoid repeating the keywords so often that the text becomes difficult to read. There is a fine line between good copy text and spam text. Spam text is designed to increase your site's listing in the search engines, but often backfires when penalties are issued and your website is dropped from the listing.

Host Your Website

Now that your website has been created, it's time to find a company to host your website on their servers. You should be able to find a good hosting company for around $10 per month. This fee should include technical support and email accounts with your domain name. Domain name-specific email accounts are important for a professional image.

Your website files can be uploaded with a simple FTP program. The hosting company's technical support personnel can walk you through the steps to upload your files and launch your website.

Implement A Shopping Cart

No e-commerce website is complete without a secure shopping cart. There are many shopping cart options. Many e-commerce business owners make the mistake of using Pay Pal to accept payments, which immediately tells visitors that their company is very small and not professional.

A good alternative to Pay Pal is a remotely hosted shopping cart. Remote shopping carts take the burden of maintaining security and credit card numbers off your shoulder and places the responsibility on another company. Remote shopping carts can usually be configured to look similar to your website. In fact, your customers may not realize that they have left your website to place an order. The remote shopping cart provider will give you the HTML to add to your website. When your potential customer clicks on the Buy Now button, he or she is taken to the remote shopping cart to enter the personal information and payment details.

Depending on your choice of a shopping cart, you may or may not need a merchant account to process transactions. Some shopping cart services allow you to use their merchant accounts for a slightly higher fee.

Stock Your Inventory

Now that your website has been created, it's time to stock your inventory. The first step is to find the manufacturers of the products you wish to sell. You can find this information by reviewing your competitor's websites. Some of them may list the manufacturer with the product name or description. Once you have the name, you can search for the manufacturer online.

Contact the manufacturer and tell them that you are interested in becoming a distributor. Ask for a wholesale price list and an application. The price list will help you determine if the profit margins are high enough to justify selling their product.

You'll want to ask the manufacturer the following questions:

ท What is the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) for the item?

ท Am I required to sell the item at MSRP?

ท What is your minimum order quantity/amount?

Some manufacturers will not sell to e-commerce businesses that do not have a brick and mortar retail location. If this is the case, you'll simply have to find a company that manufactures a similar product and is willing to sell to an e-commerce business.

Promote Your Business

Now that your website is live and you're open for business, it's time to promote your website. If no one knows that it exists, you will not receive any sales. Most website visitors originate from search engines. Before search engines can list your website, they have to know that it exists. You'll need to submit your website to search engines and directories such as Yahoo!, DMOZ, Excite, and others. Search engine submission programs and services are available, but they not effective. Most good search engines require websites to be manually submitted. They enforce this by displaying an image with a series of letters or numbers that automated programs cannot read. The code embedded in the image is required to submit your website.

Search engine algorithms are extremely complex. The ranking of a website in their search results depends on a number of factors, including keywords, density, back links, page rank, and other factors. After submitting your website to the major directories and search engines, the next step is to establish back links. When search engines crawl the web and find a link to your site, they count the link as a vote for your site. The more votes you have, the higher your site will rank (assuming other criteria has also been met). You can acquire back links by sending emails to other website owners and offering to exchange links. It's very difficult for new websites to acquire back links. Most people prefer to exchange links with established websites. In a way, it's a catch-22, but it can be done and the results are worth it.

Starting your own e-commerce business is a lot of work. Making it successful is even more work, but the pay-offs can be rewarding. Thanks to the explosion of the Internet age, e-commerce business opportunities are now available to anyone with a computer, a few hundred dollars for start-up costs, some spare time and the desire to create a business.

Copyright 2004 ZIP Baby. All Rights Reserved.

About The Author

Danna Henderson started ZIP Baby in order to provide parents with comprehensive potty training information as well as a large selection of potty training products. For more information about potty training, or to browse the potty training store, visit the Toilet Time Targets for Potty Training.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why Suppliers Should Use B2B Exchanges

Business to business e-commerce is on the rise! Worldwide B2B
e-commerce revenues are estimated to reach around US$ 2 trillion
in 2004. This is a significant leap from last year's US$ 1.4
trillion. However, according to a recent survey, although, more
than 70% of companies have already used Internet as a purchasing
channel, a mere ten percent of their overall spending is directed
via the Internet! Contrary to popular believe, this means, B2B
e-commerce has still large potential to grow.

Internet has the capacity of changing the conventional way of
doing business. Today, you can not only buy and sell your products
and services on the Internet, you can, virtually, shift all your
business processes to online solutions as well. If you take
advantages of new Internet based technologies, the outcome
would be tremendously beneficial to your business. How to do
this without spending a fortune and not putting a huge pressure
on scarce corporate resources? The possible answer could be B2B

A B2B exchange is an online marketplace, where buyers, sellers
and intermediaries form communities, exchange views, offer
products and services, and conduct business transactions.

By becoming a member of a B2B exchange you can benefit in both
cost-saving and revenue increase - two primary requirements of
productivity increase.

New sales channel

By becoming a member of a B2B exchange, you open a low cost,
highly functional and easy-to-use sales channel for your company.
You expose your company to a new targeted audience that otherwise
would have been untapped. Prospective customers can buy products
and services from you, using various venues and features of the
B2B exchange, where you are a member.

Marketplace: All B2B exchanges include a marketplace, where
suppliers can post sales offer of their products and services.
Buyers, looking for specific products, can easily find best
suppliers that suit them from the marketplace. A populated
marketplace can easily become a good sales channel for a

Electronic catalog: As a member of the B2B exchange, you are
allowed to add all your products or services to the
consolidated online repository of the exchange. Adding your
products to the repository helps to create online standardize
electronic version of your product specification - if you
don't have that before - and use the same catalog with other
electronic sales systems - even with other B2B exchanges
using XML interface.

You can publish sales offer of your entire catalog to the
marketplace, eliminating a need for other web presence. You
can add products or services to the repository one by one or
you can use XML interface to upload your whole electronic

Web Store: Some B2B exchanges allow you to convert or
integrate your website to their exchange. This helps you
to handle sales conveniently from your website and the
marketplace of the exchange seamlessly. You can make a web
store from scratch with the help of integrated website
builder of the B2B exchange as well.

Auctions: One of the great features of many B2B exchange is
their auction systems. As we all know from the immense
success of Ebay, auctioning is a great way of selling
products online. Some exchanges boast reverse auction system,
where suppliers bid for a deal posted by a buyer.

As a supplier, you can participate in those tenders without
any extra cost involved.

Low customer acquisition cost

Your mere presence in the B2B exchange might bring you new
customers! Since the buyers come to the exchange themselves;
your cost of getting customers through this channel is
relatively low in comparison to other traditional channels.
You can even increase your visibility by advertising in the
key places of the exchange, where your prospective buyers
frequently visit. Being highly targeted, these ads produce
incredible results.

Improve customer service

Ability to have constant interaction through the B2B
exchange allows you to serve your customers better. You can
track the whole ordering process from payment to delivery
and bring greater efficiency in customer service. The
integrated functions of an exchange such as sales management,
internal messaging service, lead management, etc. also
help you managing customers service process effectively.

Efficient information sharing method

When needed, you can instantly update your catalog and
inform customers about changes. Whether you are launching
a new product or having a web seminar, through the B2B
exchange you can share the information more efficiently.
Some B2B Exchanges use sophisticated knowledge management
systems to create, capture, reprocess and reutilize
information intended for specific group of audience.
These contents or information can be displayed on demand
or in time to a member - when needed.

Business processes management

One of the primary objectives of using B2B exchanges for
you should be their ability to handle, run and administer
various business processes. These solutions assist you to
streamline your business, reduce overhead costs and reduce
documentary errors.

Using technologies in a bid to streamline business
processes like supply chain is nothing new. Companies
have been using various solutions to support product
development, customer service, procurement and other
integral processes for many years. Before the Internet
era, many companies have invested enormous amount of
money in infrastructure building to automate supply
chain process. Today, thanks to the Internet, even
small companies have opportunity to use highly
sophisticated supply chain solutions for a small
cost. Many B2B exchanges, such as Rusbiz.com, allow small
companies to use supply chain management solution for a
small fee. The major benefits of using supply chain
solutions include:

1. Reduced sales time

2. Better inventory control

3. Lower overhead

4. Reduced manufacturing cycle time

5. Reduced cost of goods

Business to business e-commerce is evolving very fast.
The fact is, at one point, most of all business
transactions will take place via the Internet. B2B
exchanges are a way of building cost-effective e-business
environment on the Internet, which is capable of producing
concrete and quantifiable business benefits to the

Nowshade Kabir is the founder, primary developer and present
CEO of Rusbiz.com. A Ph. D. in Information Technology, he
has wide experience in Business Consulting, International
Trade and Web Marketing. Rusbiz is a Global B2B Emarketplace
with solutions to start and run online business.
You can contact him at mailto:nowshade[at]rusbiz.com,

Drop-Shipping - A Great Way of Making Money Online

Using the Internet to sell products and services to ever
increasing number of net users is a good way to start your own
business. If you are not taking advantage of this great
opportunity you are just missing the boat! Consider this:
e-commerce, contrary to popular believe, is thriving and
increasing at a double digit growth rate. According to Jupiter
Research, Online sales during this holiday season in United
States are expected to reach $21.6 billion, a 19 percent
increase over the same period last year. Jupiter also predicts
in the report that 86 million U.S. residents will make
holiday purchases online this year compared to 73 million
last year, which is an 18 percent increase.

No doubt that this is the right time to get into online
business. Building a website for selling products or
services is no longer that difficult. You can make your
own website by using available sophisticated but
easy-to-learn-and-use programs like Macromedia Dreamweaver,
Microsoft Frontpage, Adobe Go live, etc. There also
exist various online web store builders similar to
Rusbiz.com, which allow you to create powerful web
stores using simple editors and numerous templates.
You can also setup a store with E-bay and sell products
through it. Finally, you can hire professional web
designers to develop your website. So, the important
question isnot how to get online, but what to sell
on the Internet?

In one of my articles - What to sell on the Internet?
- I wrote about selling information products. Although
this is an interesting concept, you might think that this
is not your cup of tea; and you still prefer to work
with some tangible products. In ideal scenario,
probably, you want to sell a product of your choice but
don't want to carry your own stock and don't want to
handle the shipping. Is there a way of doing this? Yes,
there is! It's called "Drop-shipping".

What is drop-shipping?

When a manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor or
importer, after receiving an order from their
retailers, individually pack and deliver the
product to the customer of the retailer with
retailers address as shipper, this selling
technique is called drop-shipping.

The advantages of drop-shipping include:

- You do not have any inventory. So, there is no stock
carrying expense involved.

- You pay for the item only when it is sold and you got
paid from your customer. You don't need to invest money
in buying the product.

- You can sell just one item at a time. No minimum
quantity required.

- Your drop-shipper will supply you with necessary
product image and specification. You don't have to
spend money on creating your own.

- You fix your own selling price of the product.
Convenient, when you know your niche market well.

- You can offer various products on your web store
from multiple suppliers.

Select a product to sell

Once you decided to go with drop-shipping you need
to find products to sell and find drop-shipping
suppliers for those products. According to the same
report from Jupiter following are the most favorite
categories for online shoppers: Books - by far the
most popular category, after that comes clothing
and shoes, music, toys, video tapes and DVDs, gift
certificates, consumer electronics, accessories,
videogames, bed and related items, and bath items.
You should also consider that this year, total
Internet sales of consumer electronics are expected
to rise 32 percent to $7.5 billion, making it the
fastest growing group among all retail sales
categories online.

The market research wizard developed by Worldwide
Brand Inc. is a great tool, which shows in a
probability scale whether it is worthy trying to
sell your selected product online or not.
You can find it over here.

Locate drop-shipping companies

After selecting the product the next step is to find
a reliable drop-shipper for it. This might not be an
easy task! The things that you should look into a
drop-shipper are the followings:

1. A reputable supplier with drop-shipping experience

2. Ready to ship one item at a time

3. Do not ask for any membership payment

4. Will use your name as shipper

5. Will enclose blank invoice or invoice from you

6. On the packaging there will be no indication that
they are the supplier.

You might think that the easiest way of finding a
drop-shipper is just to buy one of the numerous
lists on the Internet for sale. I won't recommend
you to use them for number of reasons. Often, these
lists are outdated or carry wrong information. Even
if you find the companies through the lists, since
many people use these lists, you get into fierce
competition for market share not even starting
to sell.

Use the following approach instead:

Online search

The first step is, naturally, to use the search
engines. Using various combinations of the keywords
of your product with words: manufacturer, wholesaler,
drop-shipper, dealer, see if you can find the original
source of the product.

If several online retailers are already selling
this product, do some detective works! Check out the
sites thoroughly. May be, you can find a clue, which
will help you track down the supplier.

If it is an imported product go to the sites like
Alibaba, ecplaza, Rusbiz, trade-india. Locate the
manufacturer and get in touch with them to find who
you should contact in your country to retail sell
their products. If the product is manufactured in
North America, the best source to find them
is Thomas register.

Trade exhibitions

You should definitely attend the trade shows
related to your category of products. This is an
easy way to find a number of suppliers, who might
be willing to work with you.

Trade magazines

Trade journals and publications are also a good
resource for finding suppliers of your products.
Although, you might have to go through a sizable
quantity of them before you stumble on the right


Drop-shipping has some inherent drawbacks too.
The biggest of them is you have to totally rely on
the drop-shipper to fulfill your order and get the
product to your customer on time. The others are:
you don't have any control over the price or
availability of the product. However, a good
drop-shipper cares for his reputation since his
business depends on retailers like you. That's why
you have to be very careful in choosing the right

Nowshade Kabir is the founder, primary developer and present
CEO of Rusbiz.com. A Ph. D. in Information Technology, he
has wide experience in Business Consulting, International
Trade and Web Marketing. Rusbiz is a Global B2B Emarketplace
with solutions to start and run online business.
You can contact him at mailto:nowshade[at]rusbiz.com,

Intranet Portal - Business Case ROI

The days of easy money are over

In these post-dot-com days of the 21st Century, the hype attached to IT is well and truly over. The modern Board is deeply suspicious of large IT projects with questionable benefits and a long-term payback period.

The good news is that a world-class portal implementation has the power to completely transform your organisation and touch everyone, from the office of your CEO to the lady in the canteen.

First a little on Costs

Sorry, but the cost of the software is only a relatively small part of the overall bill; with other major costs in hardware, process change and integration activities. Your first (and major) portal project is (in terms of cost) more an infrastructure investment than it is an application.

As a rough rule of thumb (for a user base >10,000), budget for ฃ250 per desktop to put in the essentials (including portal and content management solutions). If you are also integrating to (and exposing) your ERP or CRM systems, add ฃ150.

Direct Benefits

Based on my experience, Direct Benefits (those that you can directly bake into line budgets and make an individual directorate accountable for realising) are only 20-25% of the total prize and will not generally cover the portal implementation costs by themselves. Direct benefits include reduced printing and distribution costs, decommissioning legacy intranets and FTE savings in operational areas (including IT development & support, Finance & Procurement ledger processing and HR employee services).

Soft Benefits include improved employee satisfaction, better communication and corporate belonging, the importance of which should not be under-estimated in your business case. After all, there is always an emotional, as well as a rational, reason for every purchasing decision.

However, the bulk of portal benefits are Indirect Benefits, where time saved in line areas leads to (for example) reduced call times in call centres, higher sales, faster time to market for new products, fewer failed projects and so on. Benefits realisation is the issue with such benefits. After all, you can't fire 10 minutes of a person a day! The time they have saved is real - ultimately saving cost and driving sales - but it cannot be readily tracked to either.

Making the Business Case: A 10 Step Approach

In the Business Case and ROI chapter of my (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide, I outline a 10 step approach to making the portal business case.

1) Seek External Legitimacy

Consider using a leading consulting firm to lend weight to the business case. They can bring with them experience (from having done it before elsewhere), a knowledgebase (of facts and figures about the benefits other companies have achieved) and a fresh perspective on your organisation, valued by executives.

2) Benchmark other Organisations

I have included in my guide details of public-domain benefit claims from early UK & US portal adopters, including British Airways, BP, Ford Motors Company, IBM, Bell South, Dow, Cisco and BT. Showing your Board that others have delivered real benefits lessens the feeling that their decision is a 'leap of faith'.

3) Collect Hard Metrics

Direct benefits may be only 15-25% of your total benefits, so work hard to identify savings in Intranet & Collaborative decommissioning; Print, Postage & Distribution Costs, Processing Manpower reductions; and Third Party expenditure savings.

4) Use a Comprehensive Time Survey

In my guide, I suggest that you survey several hundred (representative) users to establish how much time per day they expect to save by using key portal functionality. This will help you to put a financial value on indirect benefits. I outline 10 sample questions and provide benchmark results you could expect to see.

5) Build a Wall of Benefits

When you are trying to build an ROI based on indirect benefits, you can expect those benefits to be challenged vigorously. By having literally hundreds of individual line items and a big overall total, you improve your chances of surviving the Finance 'Red Pen'. In my guide, I outline 101 benefit ideas to get you going.

6) Link to the Strategic Agenda

Tie the investment closely to the Strategic Agenda of your organisation. If there is another key initiative currently grabbing all the attention at board level (e.g. CRM or ERP) then make sure your portal case complements, or ideally completes, that strategic picture. Use camouflage if necessary, as all is fair in love and war!

7) Identify 2-3 Killer Apps

That will focus the attention (and support) of key sponsors. Look for win-win apps, where the user loves using them but the provider department also extracts key benefits. For example, a self-service HR application where the employee can keep their details up-to-date easily and the company can reduce employee service heads.

8) Use a Cost Avoidance Argument

Your investment will reduce future project costs. After all, a portal is essentially a free infrastructure, a free user interface, a free user client with pre-built security & authentication and a free development framework. HP and others have saved up to 20% on development costs, post-implementation. You could too, so raid the budgets of other approved projects!

9) Consider Larger Scope

Could you make your case if you include internet and extranet in scope? An extranet allows you to securely expose part of your intranet to selected third parties, including B2B customers, suppliers, regulators and government agencies. The incremental cost is quite low, once your intranet platform is there, but the benefits can be large!

10) Use Innovative Phasing

Most companies budget on an annual cycle and are under huge pressure from investors to deliver short-term profitability. The bitter pill of portal costs might be easier to swallow if you spread the implementation over a two-year period.


Making the business case for a corporate Intranet Portal will not be easy. You will need all your reserves of patience, cunning and good old-fashioned hard work. Good luck and don't forget to check my guide for more detail, help and tools.

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

Intranet Project Names - Some Ideas

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet."

In this famous quote from Act II of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and the fact he is a Montague and she a Capulet (warring families) means nothing to their love.

However, there is some strong evidence from the UK's Cranfield University - and elsewhere - that the name one gives a project does have a marked impact on the behaviour and motivation of the people involved. It may surprise you, but the name you give to your Intranet Project could well be the most important decision you make in the early stages of mobilisation!

The Direct Approach

There is an argument in faour of naming your Intranet Project the - wait for it - "Intranet Project"! Often, so-called "secret squirrel" names (where one has to ferret out from colleagues what Project Banana is all about) serve only to create an unnecessary air of mystique (fit only for secret M&A projects). They can also serve to be divisive, by separating 'people in the know' from people outside the immediate project audience.

The functional approach

A functional name focuses on what the intranet does (e.g. search, find, access). This enjoys the same benefits as the direct approach, but affords one a little more poetic license. What about names like "Project Connect" or "Project Gateway", which serve to signal the core "must have" requirements for the project?

The conceptual approach

There is a problem with the direct or functional approaches; Research from Cranfield has demonstrated that people on projects tend to be very heavily influenced in their actions by the name of the project itself. If you call your project the Intranet project, it is a working intranet (i.e. the technology) that you will get. If your ambition was something much more visionary, such as a wholly new way of working for your people, you are likely to be disappointed!

The conceptual name targets what is achieved by the functionality, rather than the functionality itself. For example, if your company name was BigCo and your purpose was seeking to get everyone in the company working together, you could call the project "Project OneBigCo" or "Project Unity". For the aforementioned new ways of working objective, you could use "Project Future Workplace".

The abstract approach

The abstract approach deals with how the project makes people feel. For example, "Project Bliss" (for happiness), "Project Wizard" (for magic) or "Project Pulse" (for fast-pacedness). Although one world usually fails to capture all you are trying to achieve with an Intranet Portal, this approach can prove highly effective (particularly where counter-cultural).

If all else fails

Nothing grabbed you so far? Well there is no saving you, then! I suppose there are always the standard fallback options: names of greek or roman gods, names of planets, names of birds and names of dances. These have the added value that - if you spawn follow-on projects in a sequence - you have ready-made logical follow-on project titles. Incidentally, "Project Mercury" would be my recommendation for planets or gods (as Mercury was the roman god of communications).

For more ideas on project names, why not check out my presentation in chapter 10 of my (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide.

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.