Ecommerce For Sap Business – One

The time has come to focus on “Solutions” versus “Tools”. SAP does not offer an eCommerce solution as part of their SAP Business ONE portfolio. It is therefore crucial to review the market situation and provide information and resources about the current offerings related to eCommerce. During conversations with partners, customers and an online discussion, we compiled and organized the “Success Factors” for the perfect SAP Business ONE eCommerce solution. When deciding for an eCommerce Solution that works with SAP Business ONE you can measure the available features against those success factors. In order to do this in a structured manner we will complete the following path:

First we look at the solution scenarios based on SAP Business ONE. This is followed by a brief evaluation of the target market and its constraints. We then define the “criteria” that can be used to evaluate features. In essence, this criteria is designed to measure a solution’s capability to “Capture the Business Momentum”. There are many features and functionalities. We listed the “key eCommerce features” that should be present in a solution in order to enable “End-to-End” processes. The final step is to put the key eCommerce features to the test with the potential target user base in mind. We attempt to measure the overall solution with the innovative “Simple Yet Powerful Test – SYPT”. This visual representation is based on the Newton Cradle concept and showcases a solution’s potential to “Capture the Business Momentum”.

The Solution

The need for web technology is omnipresent and the ROI for web implementations is “undisputed”. Using the method shown in this white paper you can “dispute” and better decide for the “right” solution. We will focus on products that are highly integrated with SAP Business ONE. Therefore eCommerce solutions that are not integrated with SAP Business ONE by design are disregarded. Any solution can be integrated and it is not our goal to provide an integration guide in this document. We focus on solutions that are utilizing the DI-API or similar means to “extend” SAP processes to the web. Any “manual” integration will not be part of this white paper. The goal of this document is to highlight the need for end-to-end solutions that seamlessly integrate.

Most emerging companies need a solution that is simple to use, easy to implement and can help them “manage growth”. Growth is one thing, but “managing” growth is key. We will later see how the established “Success Factors” can help you identify how this “Management of Growth” can be handled with your preferred solution. In the next section we will identify and define the target market for the SAP Business ONE eCommerce solutions.

The Market – Focus on Emerging Companies

What’s a small company? If you ask consultants and customers there are many categorizations and criteria, which is causing some confusion. The definitions actually are different by country and industry. It points to the fact that the categorization is based on the perspective. For example, a company may be large from a SAP Business ONE perspective. However it may be small for SAP mySAP. Please find the complete SAP Business ONE categorization below:

• Emerging (1-10 Employees)

• Small (<50)

• Mid (>50)

• Enterprise (>500)

The eCommerce solutions discussed in this document are targeting the Emerging, Small and Mid-Sized companies. This customer segment is characterized by limited financial resources, limited IT management resources, niche market focus and success based approval processes. Therefore the potential solutions have to deliver an easy to manage solution that has the capabilities to be adjusted to detailed “niche” market needs.

The Criteria – Establishing “Business Momentum”

The quality of a product is determined by the criteria we use to evaluate it. During an online discussion on the LinkedIn SAP Business ONE forum participants were asked to contribute their perspective on the “Key Success Factors for eCommerce” as related to SAP Business ONE. The discussion further underlined the need to organize the success factors and structure them. For example some participants had general complaints about the available solutions while others requested specific features. It clearly showed that there are a variety concerns and requirements floating around. In order to help consultants and customers evaluate their potential eCommerce solution for SAP Business ONE our team organized the success factors as follows:

–Real-Time Integration as the basis to preserve the “Business Momentum”

A key selling point for SAP Business ONE is “Real-Time” information. It is therefore important to evaluate the level of integration for potential eCommerce solutions. Is the solution “Real-Time” integrated or is “Synchronization” required to keep the data updated in SAP Business ONE? There may be reasons to choose one method of integration over the other. However we advise that with respect to the SAP Business ONE designated target market “Real-Time” integration is preferred as it minimizes the requirement for additional consulting hours and/or manual synchronization. We are suggesting this, because a solution that is not integrated in Real-Time may require repetitive manual steps to get the data in sync. In a business management world there are some red flags when we hear “repetitive manual steps” and data that is not in “sync”. In addition the value of “Real-Time” integration is that the “Business Momentum” is preserved. The Newton Cradle nicely demonstrates the momentum when different components are connected in real-time. In this white paper we will identify the “Key Features for eCommerce”. Those will represent the components that have to be connected in “Real-Time” and preserve the “Business Momentum” in SAP Business ONE.

–Custom Component / Standard Component

Every eCommerce implementation is unique as customers have very specific requirements. At the same time each eCommerce implementation has to meet industry requirements and standards to comply. It becomes clear that a solid eCommerce solution for SAP Business ONE has to deliver the flexibility to meet customer specific requirements while also complying with new industry standards.

When evaluating an eCommerce solution we therefore identify the capability to “customize” the functionality for customers. In addition we list the “standard technologies” that are available. Therefore the “custom/standard” criteria must be evaluated as one. For example customers generally want to implement their custom design. However a modern eCommerce design has standard features that are often integrated with the design. Such standards are “Google Ads, Chat, Web Analytics”. As it may turn out most custom features should be based on a standard functionality in the eCommerce solution. This way you avoid programming and make sure the solution can be maintained.

When standard features are not available, eCommerce solutions are “customized” via programming. We highly discourage any programming for customer projects as it defeats the purpose of an out-of-the box solution. We advise customers to approach any programming additions with caution.

Having said that it must be noted that most eCommerce projects have some requirements that cannot be easily implemented in a standard format. That’s when your solution selection is crucial. How can a specific requirement be implemented? For example many customer scenarios already have an existing web and eCommerce solution. It was potentially developed as an expensive custom development. You need to treat such a system like any other “Island of Operation” and evaluate the potential for replacement or integration. Your eCommerce solution should provide options for both scenarios. For example an existing eCommerce website should be easily integrated with the SAP eCommerce checkout process. Therefore an eCommerce solution can serve as a “real-time” connected solution that integrates an existing website with SAP Business ONE.

–Completeness

Are any additional Add-Ons required to achieve “End-to-End” process integration? For example does your eCommerce solution require additional add-ons for Credit Card Processing, Shipping Rate integration, Newsletter Integration or any other essential functionality? This is a crucial aspect, because for any SAP Business ONE implementation you should limit the number of Add-Ons used.

–Proven Track Record / Certification

In order to prove the track record of a solution often the number of customers is utilized. However it is not a sufficient criteria when evaluating solutions. Therefore the following additional criteria should be considered:

- Is the solution “State-of-the-Art”? Often established solutions are outdated or based on old technology. You have to make sure that the solution has a long-term perspective looking forward and not only backward.

- Is there a significant number of customers who purchased the solution, but never used it or otherwise never went “Live”. This could point to a discrepancy between “Sales Skills” and “Solution Potential” of a vendor.

- Review industry independent reviews. Is the solution positioned in competitive portfolios?

- Is the solution certified by SAP? This will be a good indication for the vendor’s dedication to this product.

- Are there any “Live” stores that you can evaluate. This should be the best indication, because you can see “live” what you may get. Did the “live” stores require programming?

- Are there any implementations in your specific industry?

- Is a clear benefit analysis with before and after scenario available? This points to the fact that the solution provider has a structured approach.

–Regional Coverage

It is interesting to note that it is often overlooked to consider language specific requirements for localized implementations. The ideal eCommerce solution would make it simple to adjust to regional requirements. Therefore the regional coverage has a “functional” aspect. Considering the very nature of eCommerce with a potential worldwide audience this aspect could play an important role when eCommerce solutions reach a mature level where overlooked features like this become an essential factor. The future eCommerce system would not only allow you to publish stores easily and present relevant content dynamically for users, but also would identify the location of a current site visitor and determine the geographic and cultural framework including products, currency, warehouse locations, and availability. These “regional” aspects are clearly functional and can contribute to an efficient integrated eCommerce solution.

An important non-functional aspect is “support”. Basically you need to determine if your preferred eCommerce vendor has support capacities at your geographic location.

–eCommerce Key Feature ROI

Features are important. However features can add complexity. The main requirements should be matched with the core feature set available in the evaluated solution. We would like to highlight that this criteria is crucial. Providing the “right” features helps customers understand the potential of their solution. It is better to provide features that inspire customers based on a standard solution rather than offering them to implement “based on their requirements”. Don’t misunderstand this as disregarding the detailed customer requirements. A solution provider should address the most common requirements and then also “connect the dots” to release synergy effects. For example integrating Newsletter functionality is not an immediate obvious function. However with integration this functionality can leverage your real-time data to the next level.

It is also important to note that it does not make sense to go “feature hunting”. The less and more precise features the better. Therefore in this white paper we evaluate what we call the eCommerce essentials. We don’t advocate adding new features, but rather keep it simple and add features only if their integration adds significant synergy. The following features are the essentials we identified when analyzing eCommerce functional completeness:

- eCommerce End-to-End Process

- Multi-Store Capability

- Online Catalog

- Web Dashboard

- Service Integration

- Newsletter Automation

We gave each of the above key features a neutral ROI weight. You can change this based on your specific requirements. Each key feature is evaluated against the success factors. Using this concept you can assess eCommerce offerings and position them against your requirements.

The success factors for each criteria are:

- Real-Time

- Custom/Standard

- Completeness

- Track Record

- Regional Coverage

Vendor Evaluation

When evaluating vendors and their eCommerce solutions use the following criteria to evaluate:

- Does the vendor have a solution or a “programming toolset”? The approach “We can do anything you like” does not suffice. Based on our analysis a standard functionality must be available for customers.

- What is the history of the solution? How many owners and developer hands did the solution go through? Changing code and software with a history of more than one owner is not easy. Customers for such solutions will end up getting marketing updates with marginal value.

- Is the solution designed for SAP Business ONE or did the vendor “modify” an existing implementation that was designed for another platform?

- Be careful of vendors promising that their solution helps you “Keep your Data Synchronized”. You should have your data in Real-Time, which does not require synchronization.

- Does the solution provide real-time information and preserve the “Business Momentum”?

Vendor Score Chart based on Key Criteria

The following chart is a sample visual representation that shows how different eCommerce solutions for SAP Business ONE measure up against the identified success factors. Each key feature is evaluated against the success factors. As you can see the N2ONE Portal shows high ratings for each key feature. Each component from Multi-Store, eCommerce, Online Catalog, Web Dashboard, Service, Newsletter Automation is integrated in Real-Time and designed for end to end processes that preserve the “Business Momentum”. In addition no Add-Ons are required to implement the functionality. All other eCommerce solutions even require Add-Ons for basic checkout functionality.

SYPT – Simple Yet Powerful Test

What is SYPT?

The Newton Cradle nicely shows the power of kinetics. It also shows the importance of integrated processes that transfer data seamlessly in Real-Time. But what if there is a dis-connect? It’s easy to see that the cycle is broken and the process does not work anymore. Therefore we would like to utilize the Newton Cradle as a tool to evaluate that the key process components are in place and comply with SYPT critertia namely “Feature Completeness” and “Ease of Use”. For example if the following criteria are met the SYPT will get high scores:

- No programming required to customize

- Little consulting help needed

- End-to-End Automation without additional Add-Ons

The “Simple Yet Powerful Test – SYPT” ultimately puts the solution to the test and qualifies if it delivers a good combination of features, ease-of-use and the capability to “manage growth”. Matching the customer resources with the final solution with respect to usability and manageability is important. SAP Business ONE customers can range from 1-2 employee companies with an eCommerce solution that may grow to 80 employees with various locations and warehouses. Matching the requirements with minimal or without programming is key. If programming is required, it must be ensured that it does not affect the “supportability”.

The “Simple Yet Powerful – SYPT” test evaluates each “eCommerce Key Feature” using the “Success Factors” criteria. In addition, each eCommerce key feature is judged based on its “ease-of-use” and usability considering the potential target audience of SAP Business ONE customers. Using this method, we can make sure that a feature can deliver business benefits for customers without the costly need for continued consulting help. Real-Time integration of all the key features and ease of use will guarantee success. In order to visually represent these requirements, we have color coded each key feature. We then utilize the Newton Cradle concept to evaluate if a solution is capable of “preserving the business momentum”. For example if a key feature is not implemented then the “end-to-end” process is broken. Essentially this would result in the fact that the momentum is not preserved.

Other SAP eCommerce solution (vendor undisclosed)

There are disconnected key components. The momentum is lost.

N2ONE Portal designed for SAP Business ONE

The solution preserves the business momentum. All key features are integrates in real-time.

NIEFERT recommendation “Don’t be the boiling Frog”

When throwing a frog into boiling water it will jump out immediately. However if you heat the water gradually it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog )

How does this apply to eCommerce for SAP Business ONE?

Expanding your business using web technologies and tools is a common goal for most businesses today. With new web related technologies emerging frequently, those “tools” often lead to operational “Islands”. The absence of a solution for common challenges leads to “creative solutions”. Over time businesses get tangled up with complex technologies and consulting. That’s where the “Boiling Frog” comes into play. If you don’t pay close attention your business solution becomes a jungle of applications that require “synchronization” and other unnecessary clutter. We are suggesting that businesses re-evaluate their solutions based on the success factors in this white paper.

Creating an Ecommerce Website

Selling products on-line requires a very different setup from your run-of-the-mill blogging site. Lets look at the things you’ll need to think about when setting up an eCommerce website and help to explain why they cost more to design.

First let me tell you what we’re not going to cover in this article.

We’re not assuming that an eCommerce website is a single web page with some PayPal button codes inserted onto it.

The PayPal buttons are great and work very well for those selling a handful of items, but we’re taking eCommerce to the next level and giving the customer a better on-line shopping experience.

Most modern eCommerce website are applications. They have a user interface, administration settings, store data in a database and follow a work-flow of processes. We’re going to touch on some of these areas.

The Basics
An eCommerce website can be thought of as a play with actors performing it’s scenes.

The main actors in an eCommerce website are:

* The Customer – buys products
* The Website Owner – ships bought products & gets paid
* The eCommerce Application – interface between all the actors
* The Payment Gateway – handles payment transactions (more on this later)
* The Merchant/Business Bank Account – Website owner’s business bank account (more on this later)

The main buying process of an eCommerce website (‘the play’) happens as follows:

1. Customer browses product catalogue
2. Customer adds product to basket
3. Customer buys product and enters check-out process
4. eCommerce Application contacts a Payment Gateway
5. Payment Gateway provides secure customer shipping and payment details entry form
6. Customer securely enters shipping and payment information
7. Payment Gateway contacts Website Owners’ Merchant Bank Account
8. Merchant Bank Account processes payment transaction and returns control to Payment Gateway
9. Payment Gateway returns Customer to eCommerce Application
10. eCommerce Application notifies Customer of successful (or failed) payment
11. eCommerce Application notifies Website Owner of purchase
12. Website Owner ships product to Customer

Of course there’s a lot more detail going on in each step, but hopefully you get the general idea that setting up an eCommerce application is a tad more complicated than your regular blog-style website.

Where Do You Start?
Sounds silly right, but the first step you need to do is think about the types of things you’ll be selling on-line.

Are these products?, i.e. physical items that require packaging and posting or services provided by yourself or another provider e.g. Professional Yak Grooming.

How may products or types of services are you going to offer? Local or International? Are some seasonal? Do you have a finite stock level for particular items? Do you plan to use special offers & discounts? Do you even like yaks?

This leads to customer and payment questions.

Who are your customers? Where are they? How are they going to pay; credit card, cheque, PayPal? Which bank account will I need to set up?

And then there are the support questions.

How do you handle returned goods? How do you refund payments? How do you handle complaints?

Having a think about the products and services you’re going to offer is vital because the first thing a web designer is going to ask you when you’re requesting a quote is “How many things are you selling and to whom?”

The reason is of course time and costs.

Selling 50 products to a UK only customer base using PayPal requires a very different setup and hence costs, to one selling 1000+ products internationally and taking credit card payments.

Lets look closer at some of the important eCommerce application areas.

The eCommerce Application
Essentially, an eCommerce application is a bespoke Content Management System (CMS). So as well as updating posts and blogs it specialises in updating products and services and supporting commerce functions.

Like any CMS, the application splits the eCommerce website into two major parts; the front-end or shop-front where the customer can browse and buy goods and the back-end where you login to an administration dashboard and manage the website options, including the product catalogue.

The Product Catalogue
This will likely be your most important concern and is central to any eCommerce website design.

The product catalogue is where all your goods-for-sale data lives. The product name, description, cost, stock level, pictures etc. are all stored in here.

We sometimes get people asking which files their products are stored in and they get in bit of a tizzy when they can’t find them on the server.

Usually, product catalogues are stored in a database, but don’t worry – you don’t have to know how to use a database. The eCommerce application does that for you through the product catalogue interface in the Administration Dashboard.

Being able to manage this yourself is vital, otherwise you’ll be going back and forward to the web developer and the costs will rack up.

Thankfully, the eCommerce applications that we use, Magento and WordPress e-Commerce, once installed, allow you to manage your own product catalogue from within the web browser.

The Magento product catalogue has advanced options and allows for things like adding discount codes, customer reviews, product videos etc., whereas the WordPress e-Commerce catalogue offers a simpler solution while still covering the essential requirements you’ll need to sell stuff on-line.

So how do you go about entering and updating all this product information?

The Admin Dashboard
Accessing a special web page on your site and entering a username and password will take you to the options part of your eCommerce website. This is commonly known as the Admin Dashboard.

Here, you will be able to update almost every aspect of the website including accessing the product catalogue, shipping costs, currency exchange rates, payment gateways, sales reports etc.

Whichever eCommerce solution you choose from us, we’ll setup some or all of your product catalogue and make sure that customers can purchase items and that you get paid through a payment gateway (more on that late

The Shop Design
Of course your shop will need a look and feel to fit in with your business brand.

Again, just like other CMS’s a web designer will be needed to develop a theme or template which will transform the default shop-front into whatever design you have in mind for your customers.

Themes can be bought off-the-shelf for both WordPress e-Commere and Magento and you can apply these yourself, however, you may prefer to have a design exactly the way you imagined it and different from any of your competitors.

Themes are applied from the Administration Dashboard. You may be able to change a few aspects of the theme, such as your logo, background colour, text colour, however, you’re not going to be able to move parts of the theme around to different areas of the screen. A web designer will need to do this by updating the theme’s code.

Domain Name and Website Hosting
You will of course need a domain name to trade with and a hosting plan to store the website files and databases.

It’s usually best not to purchase a hosting plan until you’ve spoken to a web designer and they have given you an idea of the best solution to implement.

Many of the cheaper hosting plans that are offered to you when purchasing a domain name, do not support databases or database applications. They may charge an extra setup and yearly fee for setting this up.

So try to avoid buying a hosting plan until you talk to a web designer and have an idea of the type of eCommerce solution you’ll need to implement your ideas.

Merchant Bank Accounts vs Business Bank Accounts
Certainly in the UK, you must have a business bank account to legally trade as a business.

Business bank accounts can be used just fine with an eCommerce application but you will need to setup a Payment Gateway service to handle the payment transactions and get the customers money into your bank account.

If you’re opening up a business bank account and your account manager knows you’re going to be running an eCommerce website you may be offered a merchant bank account which is a specialised version of the business account.

The merchant account gives you a Merchant ID number and access to a Payment Gateway service that the bank uses or owns.

It’s likely you’ll need to pay for the setup of a merchant account and it will incur fees, usually on a per-transaction basis.

If you have already setup a merchant account then you will need to make sure your eCommerce application can support the particular payment gateway your bank has given you access to, otherwise you won’t get your money.

e.g. Lloyds TSB uses the Cardnet merchant payment gateway. Royal Bank of Scotland uses the WorldPay merchant payment gateway.

If you were a Royal Bank of Scotland business customer with a merchant account, you would need to make sure your eCommerce application supported the WorldPay gateway.

You don’t need to use the particular merchant account that your business bank offers to trade on-line, but you do need a payment gateway of some sort to handle payments.

That leads us nicely onto payment gateways.

Payment Gateways
We’ve touched on this in the previous section. Essentially, a merchant bank account will give you a payment gateway to use, but you’re limited to just the one that your business bank is affiliated with.

A payment gateway is a service offered by a company.

It handles the payment part of the eCommerce application when a customer proceeds to the checkout to purchase an item.

The payment gateway collects the customers details and payment information securely and contacts your business bank account to complete the money transaction.

This is great for security too as your customers banking details aren’t kept on your eCommerce website, so that’s one less thing to worry about securing.

There are many different payment gateway services with different features and options. As a supplied service they all charge a fee for their use. The fees can include a setup charge and a % commission of the total price of a transaction.

Some payment gateways allow you to pay a monthly or annual fee if your number of transactions are high. This can work out more cost effective for you if your single transactions are high volume but low individual cost.

You’ve probably heard of some of the more well known gateway service providers and not known what they. You’ve also likely used them without even realising they are there. Some of the popular payment gateways are:
PayPal, Google Checkout, SagePay, WorldPay and ChronoPay.

It’s great that you have a choice and the services are very competitively priced so take some time to check out which is best for your business model. If you need some help, we’d be happy to meet up and walk you through the options.

Some payment gateways offer two types of general services; hosted and inclusive.

Hosted Payment Gateways
These options usually don’t require a set-up or monthly fee, however, transaction costs can be higher than an inclusive service.

The PayPal Website Payments Standard service is a good example of this.

Essentially, it limits your customers to having a PayPal account (they must register with the PayPal site) and when it comes to check-out, the customers are transferred from your eCommerce website to the PayPal website for the information gathering and payment transaction, then upon completion redirected back to your eCommerce website.

The downside of this method is really from a branding point of view. You have very limited control of how the payment gateway service, PayPal in this case, looks and operates before it redirects back to your website.

Some customers can be put off by redirecting to another site as confidence in security can be questioned (although PayPal in this instance has a very good reputation).

You’re also limiting the payment method to just those customers who are willing to use the payment gateway’s choice of payment. In this case, the customer must have a registered PayPal account.

A similar process happens if you use the Google Checkout payment gateway.

So what’s the other option?

Inclusive Payment Gateways
Inclusive payment gateways will allow your customers to go through the whole checkout process without (the appearance of) leaving your branded eCommerce website.

I added in “the appearance of” because in some cases your customers will actually leave your website and use the payment gateway service, however, the way it is implemented and embedded makes it looks as if it’s all part of your website and business brand.

So what’s the catch?

There’s usually a setup fee, a minimum subscription period (say 12 months), a monthly fee and of course a whole heap of conditions that apply.

Some particular conditions to look out for are thresholds on the number of transactions per month, or total monthly funds transferred. Payment gateway services can charge extra or insist you upgrade your service if these thresholds are exceeded in a similar way that mobile phone companies will charge you extra if you use up all your inclusive talk or SMS time.

The best benefit of using an inclusive payment gateway is that the whole customer experience from browsing to payment is hosted on your own website. This gives the customer a greater sense of confidence that their data will be kept safe and makes your whole business look and feel more professional.

A good example of this type of service is the PayPal Web Payments Pro.

Securing The Data
If you’re using a payment gateway then the good news is it’s unlikely you’ll be storing sensitive customer payment details on your eCommerce website.

Those types of data will be kept securely in your payment gateway account.

Of course you will be collecting a whole lot of other important and confidential customer information such as name, email, perhaps address, likes, dislikes, a username and password for your site.

All this information needs to be kept secure and your eCommerce application will help with that. The Administration Dashboard will have lots of sections that control who and what can see parts of the collected data.

But that’s not the only security you’ll have to think about. Do you know what happens when you fill out a form on a website and click on submit?

If you have a look at the top of the web browser in the address bar you’ll see the website’s URL address. Most sites will start with http://

(For those that want to know, URL stands for Uniform Resource Location and HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)

Any web page starting with http:// is transferring data to and from a web server in Plain Text.

This means, that the web page contents, code, images, text, form data are all sent in a format that’s readable to humans. OK, it may not be that readable, but in essence all the information is there in English characters (or whatever language character set your website uses).

Now for some more techie stuff.

When your web page is sent to or received from a web server, there isn’t a 1-to-1 direct connection between your website and the server. The web page data is transferred through hundreds of networks across different countries and through thousands of routing computers and other network devices before arriving at your computer.

This means that at any point during it’s travel, your web page data has the potential to be intercepted and read by whomever.

There isn’t much you can do about the interception part but there is something you can do to make it a darn lot harder for somebody to read and use your eCommerce web page data.

SSL Certificates
Now we’re talking.

Let’s skip the techie bit and quickly tell you what these are and what they do.

You buy an SSL certificate from a web hosting company (annual renewal most likely), install it into your eCommerce website and it encrypts your web page data. Hooorah!

You’ll now notice that parts of your website, likely those that require personal form data to be collected and sent, now start with https://

The addition of that little “s” letter, standing for “Secure”, means that the web page data is encrypted when sent and decoded only at the two end-points; your computer and a web server.

Anyone reading the page in between will see garbled non-readable characters.

You may also see additional signs of a secured web page such as a closed padlock icon.

We would strongly advise you buy an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate and get this installed and configured for use with your hosting account and eCommerce website.

In Summary
Creating an eCommerce website requires a fair amount of planning.

You’ll need a good web design and web development team to implement your business venture.

It will cost you more and take longer to create than a regular blog or brochure-ware website because of all the design and setup.

You’ll make money – and that’s what’s it’s all about after all…

We hope this helps you start your eCommerce website journey. Of course there’s a heap of things we just didn’t have the time to cover.

Holiday Home Property Management – Marketing Tips For Owners Who Are Marketing Their Own Properties

Effective marketing is a key element of profitable holiday home property management. Unless the holiday home is achieving good levels of occupancy, the returns on the holiday home will not be maximised. If you use a letting agent, the agent will handle all marketing and PR on your behalf and you do not need to worry about it. The better holiday home services companies will also sometimes be able to help you with your website and online marketing. However, many holiday home owners do not use agency services and prefer to manage their own properties. Marketing is a specialist area and therefore owners are often not as skilled at marketing as they are at other aspects of property management. So if you are an owner who markets your own holiday homes, here are six marketing tips to help you win customers and achieve the highest possible yield from your property investment:

TIP 1: Firstly, work out who your target audience is for the holiday home. Taking into account the price band, location, style and layout of the property, what kind of people are most likely to want to stay there? For example, some holiday homes are ideal for families with young children, some are ideal for older people who want to be close to nature, some are perfect for young people who want to be close to nightlife and attractions. Clear definition of your target audience is a vital first step to effective marketing. Once you have defined your target audience, add any accessories and extras to the holiday home that are the kind of thing your target audience will appreciate. For example, a holiday home aimed at young families will be made more attractive by a selection of age-appropriate DVDs, a selection of toys and the provision of items such as cots or buggies that your customer would prefer not to bring with them.

TIP 2: Once you have decided on the target audience for your holiday home, think through all the ways you can attract this particular target audience. Which are the magazines and newspapers your target audience read? If you are not sure, ask the advertising departments at various publications to send you information on their readership. This will help you work out where you should be advertising or trying to get some free coverage through PR

TIP 3 Make the most of the internet. The worldwide web is used by the majority of prospective customers as their first port of call for research when they are planning a holiday. So it is essential that your holiday property is presented as well as it can be on the internet. Whether you have your own website or you advertise on a website belonging to someone else, do not be tempted to cut corners on photography for the website. It is worth using a professional photographer to make sure your holiday home looks its very best. Always use online booking if possible, so that it is as easy as possible for a customer to go ahead and book as soon as he or she has been interested by your holiday home.

TIP 4 Don’t miss out on the huge potential profitability of attracting repeat customers. Many people like to return to the same holiday home for many years, if they have a good experience first time round. So make it easy for potential repeat customers to decide to come back. Set up an email newsletter so that you can keep in touch with them and tempt them with a stream of special offers as well as news about the local area and perhaps even a web cam. You may also like to consider offering a reduced rate if customers book to return next year, whilst they are still on their first stay. People are often sad to leave so it is a good time to tempt customers with the prospect of a return visit. Many accommodation providers in the tourism industry see up to 70% or 80% of customers returning. Making the most of the potential for winning repeat business is an essential tool for effective marketing.

TIP 5 Try to increase your bookings by thinking laterally about how customers could enjoy the holiday home out of the peak season. Most holiday home property management companies say that although the peak season achieves full occupancy without too much difficulty, the biggest marketing challenge is achieving high occupancy early and late in the season. This is where effective marketing can really come into its own. One tried and tested tip is to create a theme for a break. For example, maybe your holiday home is close to gardens that look great in the early Spring. If so, this can be made into an effective marketing proposition, pointing out how close your holiday home is to leading gardens and maybe even creating a partnership with local gardens, so you offer entry tickets as part of the rental price for the week. If you start thinking laterally about what is going on in the vicinity of the holiday home at different times of the year, you will find it easy to come up with effective marketing strategies for achieving more sales out of the peak season.

TIP 6 The final tip is to pay close attention to how you can stand out from everyone else. The holiday home market is competitive and it is vital to stay one step ahead of the rest. It goes without saying that cleaning services and key holder services must be arranged to the highest standards and your customer will expect these to go like clockwork. To stand out from the competition you have to go one step further than simply providing a basic service. Nowadays, many self catering holiday homes also offer daily cleaning services – bringing a service normally only associated with hotels to the holiday home market.

As holiday home property management companies look to find new ways of standing out from the competition, a new trend is the emergence of the holiday concierge. A holiday concierge can arrange any extras the customer may want, such as arranging day trips, theatre trips, restaurant bookings, spa trips or even arranging for a gourmet dinner party to be prepared and served at the holiday home. By proving these kind of additional services through a holiday concierge service, you really will make your holiday home stand out from its competitors. If you follow these six tips, you will be able to increase profitability though effective marketing as part of your holiday home property management.