E- Commerce is coming of age with millions of new customers from internet sales for a wide variety of products. Advances in web site design, payment mechanisms and delivery systems have met the increased demand for online ordering.
With the advent of on-line ordering firms like Amazon and E-Bay, what started out as a small business has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry. The key to success in the field of E Commerce is the offering of high quality products coupled with state of the art technology to ensure ease of ordering and secure payment mechanisms.
The bottled water industry is an ideal beneficiary of e-commerce technology because of the large number of customers served and the frequency of transactions and purchases.
E-commerce is similar to other forms of commerce except that it involves the buying and selling of goods over the Internet. E-commerce sites range from a simple web page highlighting a single item to dynamic fully developed on-line catalogs featuring thousands of products. The common theme and benefit in e-commerce sites is instant purchase, instant payment (if desired) and instant gratification for the customer.
Over the years, the e-commerce web has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry yearly, with significant growth projected over the next 5 years.
A defining characteristic is that all ecommerce web sites accept a type of online payment, whether through a third party or directly with a merchant account.
E-commerce: The Wave of the Future
The internet is changing world view of shoppers. Instant gratification is a reality Utilizing e-commerce allows customers the ability to quickly take delivery of the goods they require and desire. In addition, the Internet is perhaps the best sales tool ever invented as it allows customers to browse endlessly in privacy. They can return and order again and again without ever leaving their home.
Most experts agree that it is only a matter of time before all sales-oriented companies will have some sort of e-commerce presence in order to remain competitive and the development of software and tools to improve the productivity of e-commerce sites remains strong. As more and better technology is developed, e-commerce will greatly expand.
Secure Payment and SSL(Secure Socket Layer): The Heart of the System
SSL(Secure Socket Layer) has been the de facto standard and heart of the system for e-commerce transaction security, and it's likely to remain so well into the future.
SSL is based on encryption. SSL encrypts data, like credit cards numbers (as well other personally identifiable information), which prevents unauthorized use. An SSL protected page is identified when the address begins with "https" and there is a padlock icon at the bottom of the page.
The SSL certificate resides on a secure server and is used to encrypt the data and to identify the Web site. The SSL certificate also helps to prove the site belongs to who it says it belongs to and contains information about the certificate holder, the domain that the certificate was issued to, the name of the Certificate Authority who issued the certificate, the root and the country it was issued in.
In general, e-commerce users are urged to avoid sites that fail to use and display proof of SSL Certificates.
The Bottled Water Industry and E-commerce
The bottled water business is actually two lines of business: Local delivery water and private labeled water and each is an important subset of the total business.
Local delivery water is defined geographically and usually comprises rental or sales of coolers and delivery of 5-gallon and small package (12, 16.5 and 20 oz.) bottles to customers located within a limited distance from the water source. This business includes a customer base of consumers and businesses in the defined geographic area who take periodic delivery of water.
The key to success in this line of business is the production and efficient delivery of the highest quality pure water.
Private labeled water involves the development and production of high quality custom labels with a clear branding message. This line of business is national in scope and includes a strong element of branding and advertising. The key to success in this line of business is the design and production of a label of the highest quality with a clear branding message.
Each line of business has different requirements for e-commerce.
For the local delivery business, establishing and meeting delivery schedules is critical with the most advanced sites offering delivery programs that offer the customer choice of delivery schedules and the ability to modify deliveries as conditions warrant.
For the private labeled line of business design flexibility in the form of interactive tools for the development, proofing and production of labels is critical. Another critical aspect of the private labeled line of business is fast and cost effective delivery through national carriers.
A Culture of Customer Service
The best e-commerce site will not produce results without support of an effective customer service organization. E-commerce tools and capabilities must be complemented by a customer service culture that includes rapid customer feed back, human (as opposed to voice mail and e-mail) interaction and clear communication. It is presently impossible to totally remove the human element from e-commerce and the human element is a critical part of the customer satisfaction process.
Best and Powerful Features
There are many varieties of e-commerce sites ranging from the simplest static site that offers very limited features to full featured dynamic sites based upon the latest database technology and access. No matter what the level of technology however, the site should combine ease of use with the most powerful features available. An effective bottled water e-commerce site should include the following minimum features.
• Multiple-Recipient Ordering (allows multiple user shipments in a single transaction)
• No Shopping Cart “Shoving“ (gives the user maximum flexibility before check-out)
• Login Systems for Wholesale and Retail Customers (with remembered billing and recipient party data)
• Code Maturity (provides for reliability and stability of the site)
• Future Arrival Date Provisions (mandatory for scheduling deliveries and shipments)
• Order History and Fast Loading of Orders
• Automatic Shipping for Retail and Wholesale Accounts
Private Label Features
• Interactive and Customer Friendly Label Configurator (allows user development of labels and artwork)
• Proofing Capability (allows the user to repeatedly review label design before purchase)
• Multi Layered Design ( allows for choice of color, shading and label features)
E-commerce lends itself to rapid fulfillment of orders and increased customer satisfaction when the site utilizes powerful state of the art tools and features coupled with a culture of customer satisfaction. On a user friendly powerful site, water orders for both local delivery and private labeled business are safe, convenient and fast.
E-commerce vendors that maintain a culture of customer service will guarantee customer satisfaction.