A CXP Brief Defining a Online Candy Store.
So what is an online candy store? Basically it is a structured set of bits and bytes tied to some web page development software and integrated with some shopping cart software. The bits and bytes represent key aspects of your store in a digital format. This can be product pictures, labels you create to use as buttons, product information such as price, description, cost, inventory levels, or even links to other related sites such as the wholesale candy distributors or candy manufactures web site. The shopping cart software allows you to set up the products in a way that a customer can easily view the products and buy them. The software allows the customer to pick for example all the different candy items they want and then add them to a shopping cart.
Good shopping cart software is critical to the success of an online candy store. I could not imagine designing or managing an online candy store with out solid shopping cart software. When I started the store back in 2005 or so the first thing I did was research shopping cart software. I researched it because I really had no idea what it was. I started with Google and then tried some demos. I called the help desks to see what kind of support was provided. I also looked at examples of sites designed with the software. The solution I decided on was an integrated product which included shopping cart software and web page design. I selected Monster Commerce as my software provider. I have mentioned in other sections of content that I was very happy with this choice and I still am. The online store software company has since then been bought and is called Network Solutions.
Another choice to make is if you want a hosted solution or do you just want to buy software and run it on your own server. If you’re a real technical person and love coding in HTML and having hardware to manage I guess buying your own server and software is a good choice. I personally could not imagine doing this. The NS software I use is all hosted and this includes disc space, back ups, security ….
So once you have you technical solution and you design and program the store the rest of the experience is largely on the customer side. In general the following are typical steps which a customer would follow. The customer creates an account with a user name and password and can add or delete items from the cart. Then the customer can execute a purchase transaction to buy the product. Payment is usually made by credit card and then processed through a secure credit card processing process. I use Skip Jack for this. The process includes a web based interactive account where I can review credit card transactions, credit or charge money and run reports. One of the most important functions of this software is to validate the credit card. In general it works however there are exceptions and it is prudent for online store owners to be careful regarding certain transactions. This is particularly a risk when the shipping and billing address are different. I have been burned for a few bucks so have certainly learned through the school of hard knocks.
Once payment is made the credit or debit card is validated and approved electronically, funds made available through the bank and the order is fulfilled by us using the following process. The online store shopping cart software provides a control panel for the store administrator. Various user accounts can be set up offering different user privileges. For example, I could set up an account that an order processor could use which shows the order that was placed and allows the administrator to change the order status from new to many different options. Some of these options are, in process, hold, canceled, complete, and partially shipped. Currently I do all the order processing so have full store administration privileges. Once the order is looked over I calculate the order weight and the number of boxes needed. If it is a small to medium sized order and I know it will fit in one box I calculate the weight and then log on to the UPS web site. Here I enter the customer ship to address or select it from the address book if it is a repeat customer. I then enter the weigh, value of the order for insurance purposes, and select any special shipping instructions. Some orders that are large we actually have to pack and weigh them prior to preparing the shipping documents. One the shipping documents are prepared the order is sealed and shipped out. On international orders there are a few extra steps. For example the export documents have to be prepared on the UPS web site. This includes a certificate of origin and a commercial invoice. Then I have to go to the chamber of commerce in Morristown to have the certificate of origin stamped and paid for. The next step is to go to the bank to have the certificate of origin notarized. That is one of the reasons I have a minimum order on international orders. It takes a bit of time to do all that processing and is simply not worth doing for small orders.
In addition to credit and debit cards form the major card companies such as AME, Visa, Discover and Master Card payments can also be made by check or bank wire transfer. In order to help you navigate our online candy store I have created a video which you can watch as a guide.
Typically our larger accounts set up a credit account of 30 days or so and pay with a check. Most of these accounts receive some sort of wholesale candy discount pricing. There are even times when customers will just see our web page and elect to come into the store to set up an account and just work directly that way.
Well now that you have read this I hope you feel comfortable shopping at our candy store.