The benefits of ecommerce

Ecommerce offers businesses, especially smaller companies, better opportunities for drawing in customers while also reducing overhead costs, according to one author.

A marketing manager wrote in an August 24 post for Retail Digital that ecommerce represents the future of sales. He argued that small companies need to more a greater emphasis on it and related collections software over in-person business.

"A physical store requires a big investment in premises, shop fittings, stock and staff," the manager wrote. "In contrast, with online, if you have the right arrangements with your supplier, you can take the orders and have the manufacturer ship orders direct. Therefore there’s more opportunity for profit if you get your balance of products, pricing and marketing right. Good examples are white goods and electronic devices – items that the consumer can research and compare easily without necessarily handling."

In addition, he said that ecommerce offers a company the ability to save on rent-related costs while also being able to better target a niche audience regardless of the store's location. However, in order to achieve online sales, a company needs to be personal and always adaptable to the latest technologies.

"[T]oday a retailer can flourish as a web-only merchant but a high street business will miss an opportunity if it ignores ecommerce," he wrote.

Ecommerce proved lucrative for business across all fields in 2010. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, its total worth increased by more than 16 percent from 2009 to 2010, with the most notable increases happening for manufacturing and retail companies.

Technology changing the rules in ecommerce

Technology is changing rapidly, and this includes big changes in the area of online sales and ecommerce software. Will Hsu, a professional with a Los Angeles-based startup accelerator, recently wrote a Forbes column saying companies must start by figuring out their margins in ecommerce, as retail margins are often "razor-thin" and this extends to ecommerce. One way to address this issue to look for ways to achieve greater supply chain efficiencies, Hsu suggested.

"The playbook goes something like this: take out one or two intermediaries in the supply chain, design your own products, have it manufactured by a partner (often in China), and sell it directly online," Hsu wrote. "The end result is the ability to simultaneously have higher margins, tighter cash flow, and lower retail pricing. All of a sudden, white spaces will likely emerge (given margin + price point disruption) that allow companies to invest in other concurrent strategies – such as investing in a brand, targeting previously abandoned segments, and exploring new channels, etc."

Hsu said in general, the new breed of ecommerce companies often sells one-of-a-kind products, their own branded items, off-season goods that aren't in high quantities and local products that can be shipped further away.

Those companies that make savvy decisions when it comes to pursuing an ecommerce strategy, which includes adopting the right ecommerce software, may see some great success, as comScore reports that online retail spending reached $43.2 billion for the second quarter of this year. This was up 15 percent from 2011.

Considerations to weigh before pursuing litigation for payment

Business-to-business companies may find themselves in a quandary when faced with a collections issue. Dean Kaplan, president of the Kaplan Group, writes on InsideARM that it is costly to sue to get paid, so companies must look at what kind of return on investment makes sense for them. Given the figures Kaplan provided, B2B companies may see his insight as further reason to get out ahead of any nonpayment issues by investing in collections software.

"If our clients only have to pay $500 to sue (our clients pay the out-of-pocket costs and non-contingent suit fee if any), most of them are likely to proceed with litigation in the situation described above," Kaplan writes. "But if it costs $1,500, they won’t, even though a statistician would tell you that every time you can ‘bet’ $1,500 and have an expected return of $3,250, you should take that bet."

When evaluating the best approach to collecting payment from a recalcitrant party, companies should look at whether the company they are potentially suing will still be in business by the time the judgment is passed, if there are any liens that will make things difficult and if the business has a cash flow that would make for successful collection, Kaplan said.

Having collections software in place gives more power to the collections manager, allows the system administrator to focus more on daily workflow instead of worrying about money, and allows the company to see what it is owed in real time.

Using Facebook for ecommerce purposes

Any company that sells goods online needs to be aware of what is happening on social media, so it could be a great idea to integrate ecommerce software with pages like Facebook and other social media websites. One ecommerce expert spoke with Business 2 Community on how Facebook can be used well by an online business. The professional pointed out that while Facebook itself is limited as an ecommerce platform, some ecommerce software allows enterprises to set up Facebook storefronts or integrate with the platform in other ways.

"Once you have some products in mind then planning the experience should flow from key objectives," the professional told the news source. "If you want to reward fans with exclusives across your seasonal calendar, build a social store where you’ll update products, let fans vote and earn rewards, etc. If you want a big burst of buzz and sales then consider a flash sale, etc."

Companies should figure out what to promote via social by thinking of any product that may have a great story or special use, making a small set of products specifically for the social media crowd, and doing some research as to what customers on these social media websites might want more than other types of customers.

WebProNews said Facebook use isn't coming to a stop anytime soon, so businesses should look to integrate ecommerce software with the social media powerhouse as soon as possible in an effort to appeal to new customers.

Improve profit margins with collections software

Becker's ASC Review recently detailed some steps companies can take to increase their profit margins and keep having financial success without interruption. The first thing the website suggested is using revenue cycle management tools, such as collections software, to keep up with debts owed.

"Revenue cycle management tools can help healthcare providers accurately track what is still owed to them and automate collection efforts," the news source said. "Such tools can reduce accounts receivable days outstanding, optimize charge and increase payor and self-pay yield."

Other things companies should keep in mind when trying to keep revenue up, according to Becker's, include optimizing the workforce to get the most out of employees, always looking to reduce waste, and considering software to better manage the company's supply chain.

One healthcare company that has its own collections software package said using this can be a boon, as it allows healthcare companies to work faster and more efficiently by having easily accessible lists. These lists can be sorted by certain specifications that will allow the business to get in touch with patients in the way patients prefer.

Ecommerce business looks good so far this year

Companies may want to get their ecommerce software going now, as the second quarter of 2012  was positive for the ecommerce industry. Online sales for the second quarter totaled $54.8 billion, an increase over the first quarter of this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. ComScore reports that ecommerce sales totaled $43.2 billion for the quarter.

"Consumers of all income levels increased online purchases by double-digit percentages in Q2 2012 over the same quarter in 2011," Practical eCommerce said, looking at both of the studies. "Those earning $50,00 to $99,000 showed the largest increase at 19 percent. This segment comprises the largest share of total ecommerce shoppers at 43 percent. Those earning less than $50,000, comprising 23 percent of all online purchasers, increased their spending over the same quarter last year by 17 percent."

The news source said customers want to see earlier in the process what shipping costs will be on the order, so businesses working with ecommerce software should be as transparent as possible with regard to those costs. Online buyers also want flexible shipping options and an estimated delivery date.

Citing the comScore data, Practical eCommerce noted that consumers are also increasingly making purchases from smartphone and tablets, with iPad owners being especially active.

Using ecommerce software for an app

Whether a company is working with other businesses or is consumer-facing, having a great mobile ecommerce application can be a way to generate more business than ever. Practical Ecommerce said apps may be especially beneficial for businesses as another avenue, aside from the primary website, for making sales online. Companies should look to ecommerce software to help them make these apps as effective as possible.

Companies looking to build an app can use native programs of the mobile device, such as maps, to make the app better, the news source said. An ecommerce app can also be very useful for segmenting customers, much like a CRM program.

"You can be create segments based on the type of mobile devices used by consumers," Practical Ecommerce said. "This can be combined with the location and the device's operating system to create additional segments. You can create different mobile apps for different devices to cater to different customer segments. This allows optimizing the app for each device by offering the best features, user experience, and performance."

Internet Retailer spoke with an industry executive who said that mobile and tablet traffic is strong among merchants. She said many companies are looking at what kind of role m-commerce can play in the retail industry, and it's becoming increasingly affordable to launch mobile ecommerce efforts.

Credit default rates remain near lows

Many businesses keep track of the number of credit defaults across the country. Whether the enterprise is small or large, it's important for companies to anticipate what kind of work-out their collections software may get. The S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian for the S&P, as well as the Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices, showed that most loan types saw a decrease in default rates over the first seven months of 2012, Inside ARM said.

The reports showed that four of the five loan types posted the lowest rates since the end of the recession in 2009.

“While continuing to show decreasing default rates, most of the changes in July were small compared to the magnitude of decline we had seen in the first six months of the year,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Consumer default rates showed small movement from June to July, in most cases the trend continued down or flat, as the consumer’s financial condition continues to improve."

During tough times, having some assistance with collecting payments is always important. One company that works with collections software said the software can help make companies more effective at collecting debts owed to them, help manage expenses with automation, and make it easier for businesses to disseminate timely and consistent messages for customers.

What Is Credit & Collections Management?: Industry Fact Sheet & Backgrounder

 What Is CCM?

Credit & Collections Management (CCM) is a suite of integrated business applications that extend a company’s accounts receivable and accounting system to facilitate credit management, dispute management, collections, and related business processes.

 CCM system varies widely by publisher but typically supports four key functional areas – credit facilitation,  collections management, dispute resolution, and reporting and analysis. Continue reading

Finding the best mobile strategy for ecommerce

Ecommerce via mobile devices is becoming more necessary than ever. Practical Ecommerce said enabling mobile ecommerce is a  challenge for many businesses. Companies can tie their ecommerce software to ERP business software to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible, but whatever their approach, they must strategize about how to engage with an increasingly mobile consumer base.

The news source said there are a number of factors companies have to look at as they create mobile-optimized sites, including the ability to display where their business is located, the phone number and other contact information, features to make appointments, a shopping cart and whether or not they want full or limited content on the mobile ecommerce website.

"For ecommerce websites, many shopping carts and platforms now offer themes and templates for mobile sites," according to Practical Ecommerce. "Contact your provider and evaluate its options. A mobile site generated within a platform should always be better than an external site or one generated from a feed because of the layers of complexity and content within an ecommerce store."

A recent report by comScore shows that for the first quarter of 2012, ecommerce spending went up 17 percent to $44.3 billion. This means companies must use software for ERP, ecommerce software and other solutions to create competitive advantages and improve with the market.

5 Steps to Minimize Business Credit Risks- credit and collections management

Use these 5 tips to minimize credit risks in your business
Key points are:
1. Know who you are dealing with
2. Collect information about the business, its finances and payment history
3. Establish a credit limit for the customer
4. Consider obtaining additional security for large and/or risky transactions
5. Monitor payment performance and review credit terms based on experience and new information Continue reading

California legislation underscores importance of collections software

The Los Angeles Times reported that debt collection has become a $12 billion-per-year business, due in part to the extended economic downturn, but there are now federal regulators starting to take action against overly aggressive debt collection practices. Companies may want to look to collections software to help streamline the collections process, in order to get money owed without having to resort to extreme measures.

Collections agencies that employ aggressive tactics may soon face new regulations, as California state Senator Lou Correa, a Democrat from Santa Ana, told the news source that collectors started pursuing him, mistaking him for another individual.

"These folks are very aggressive," Correa said to the Times. "They'll call back repeatedly and say, 'Tell us some personal information so we can tell it's not you.' When all of a sudden is the burden of proof on me?"

Correa is now supporting a bill that will require debt collectors to document that they are pursuing the right person.

While the majority of companies do not risk running afoul of the law in their collections practices, the situation in California points to the importance of keeping accurate, exact records. This is a key benefit of collections software.

Collections software allows a company to be innovative and streamline much of the collections process, making it much easier for information to be correctly procured. This should allow businesses to swiftly and accurately organize and access information, to always get in contact with the right people.

Companies must be consistent in ecommerce

Consistency is key for any business, but ecommerce professional Michael Harvey said this is especially true when it comes to ecommerce.

In a recent column for eCommerce Bytes, Harvey said whether it is across channels, devices, operations or communications with customers, making the impression with people that the company is stable is advantageous.

"Communicating with customers about upcoming deals, promotions, individualized offers and new products can help build an ongoing relationship with them and give them an incentive to visit your store. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these communications," according to Harvey. "Many merchants feel that if they send more email, they will generate more sales. In fact, email marketing has rapidly diminishing returns. Less is not more. The trick is to segment your customers based on their behaviors and expressed desires and communicate with them accordingly and consistently."

Companies can use good ecommerce software to this kind of segmentation and targeting.

E-Commerce Times has also addressed the issue of consistency, making the point that customers don't want to be confused by having to go through different processes each time they purchase from a particular online retailer. The source said companies can use a customer relationship management (CRM) solution or other ecommerce software in an effort to better use data they have previously collected from customers to streamline the purchase process without creating distracting or confusing inconsistencies. Doing this should help improve conversions leading to sales.

HealthDay Subscribes to Healthier A/R with Anytime Collect & QuickBooks

HealthDay has been producing award-winning health news since 2001. Its editorial staff – comprised of more than 50 seasoned journalists and medical writers – has won numerous journalistic awards including the Pulitzer Prize. HealthDay has grown to be the largest syndicated health news service for the Internet. Currently, it provides content to more than 5,000 websites a day. Continue reading

Ecommerce websites need to work for mobile users

These days, a company can have it all: ERP business software, a good accounting program, and a CRM solution to help draw in customers and get a better picture of them, but E-Commerce Times said that in addition to these tools, companies should be looking to make their website as mobile-friendly as possible for customers. The Times said mobile websites are key to the success of any company operating online, whether B2B or B2C focused.

"It's important for businesses to build an experience specifically made for the mobile web to grow and retain business," Dennis Mink, a chief marketing officer for a mobile company told the news source, adding that more than 50 percent of consumers in the United States have a smartphone.  "A very large percentage of these people are searching and browsing the web from their phones. There is a significant revenue opportunity for businesses who offer a mobile-friendly website experience."

E-Commerce Times said websites designed specifically for a desktop do not look very good on mobile devices or tablets, so consumers are forced to zoom their way in and out and try to navigate the website instead of easily making a purchase.

CIO.com said it isn't hard to have a mobile ecommerce option, but companies must start by finding the best possible ecommerce software soluition to be sure everything is running as well as possible. This should streamline operations and perhaps make the business grow.