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Guide to E-Commerce

 

Beginners' Guide to E-Commerce

Alternative Ecommerce Methods
Various technologies have been developed that provide alternative methods of ecommerce. At this time, credit card transaction is by far the method preferred by online shoppers. However, offering one or more of these alternative methods gives consumers a choice. Not everyone has a valid credit card, and some people are still leery of online transactions.

Telephone Billing Services
Telephone billing services allow the customer to purchase an item or service and have the amount billed to his or her telephone bill. To date, this is being used for the sale of soft
items such as downloads, time measured services (i.e. time spent at a Web site) or for making charitable donations online. eCharge Corporation is a pioneer in the use of this technology.

Pros
• Eliminates worries about credit cards (for both consumer and merchant)
• Available to customers without credit cards

Cons
• Customer is required to download and install a plugin. Many customers will balk at this, lacking the skill or interest to install additional software on their computer.
• Primarily available only for soft goods that can be downloaded.
• Use may be limited to consumers with certain operating systems and browsers. AOL subscribers may encounter problems.
• Available only to customers accessing the Internet through telephone lines (i.e. dial-up). Will not work for transactions over cable modems, ADSL, T1 and ISDN lines.
• Available only to consumers living in certain countries where agreements are in place with local telephone companies.
• Consumers who have blocked 900 number calling on their phones will not be able to use the service.

Electronic Payment Systems
These systems allow merchants and consumers to set up accounts and engage in cashless trading on the Internet. The consumer must set up a free account, then transfer funds into the account. When shopping at a web site offering this service, the consumer will initiate a transaction that will transfer funds from his/her account to the merchant.

Pros:
• Available to merchants and consumers anywhere in the world.
• Merchant does not need a merchant account.
• Goods can be sold for as little as onc cent US.

Cons:
• Consumer must download a plug in, which many do not like to do.
• Consumer must transfer money into the account.
• Consumer can use this service only with participating merchants.

Cybank is an example of this type of service. (http://www.us.cybank.net/)

Person to Person Technologies (P2P)
P2P technologies allow bill payment through email. The merchant opens an account with one of the P2P companies providing this service. The accounts, often free to open, require your contact information, credit or debit card information and your bank account
information. When a customer initiates a transaction from your web site, he or she will be required to open an account. According to the customer's instructions, the money for the purchase will then be charged to their credit card and the merchant will receive an email saying that the money is ready to be picked up. Depending on the service's options, he could opt to have the money transferred into his bank account, credited to his charge card or he
could request that the service cut a paper check.

1. Paypal. (www.paypal.com).
Rated highly by Forbes and others. Offers both personal and business accounts. Some availability to persons living outside the US.

2. MoneyZap(www.moneyzap.com)
From Western Union. Transfers directly from bank accounts.

3. Payplace ( www.payplace.com)
Better suited for business use than for consumer use.

4. Billpoint (www.billpoint.com)
eBay's own technology. Takes a cut of auction transactions.

One Stop Shops
Recently, with the huge interest shown in ecommerce, a multitude of services and products have become available. It's now relatively simple to find a service that will broker your Internet Merchant Account, as well as providing web site storage, a template for designing your site, shopping cart software, a form generator, a secure line for safe online ordering, and more.

Visit Google (www.google.com) and run a search for "ecommerce solutions."

International Merchants
Unfortunately, for merchants living in countries other than the US, many of the services available on the Internet are available only to US merchants.

AND -- a word of warning! Many of the businesses offering ecommerce services on the web are run by resellers who do not fully understand who is eligible and who is not. You can waste many hours and many dollars with some of these services before discovering that the service isn't available in your country.

For example, some service reps will tell you that the service is available to you if you have a US Postal Box and a US bank account. It is not difficult to acquire a US Postal Box if you are able to visit that country, and your own bank will probably be able to set up a US bank account for you. However, this is not the solution. You will discover later that you really need an actual business address in the US and a business bank account that is set up in the US. This will require a US taxation number. To get a taxation number, you will have to incorporate your business in one of the US States. This will require filing a US tax return as well as a tax return from your own country. So --- be cautious of anyone assuring you that a bank
account and postal box are all that is necessary.

Enough of the bad news. Satisfied customers from various countries around the world have recommended the services that follow. Each listing is based on at least one endorsement. No doubt, many good services are not included.

Going to Google (www.google.com) and running a search for "international merchants" will turn up more.

ClickBank (http://www.clickbank.com/)
ClickBank Company's card processing service has been highly recommended for persons selling digital products (files, software, ebooks, digital music, etc.). The setup fees are modest and the service is said to be available to merchants anywhere.

Kagi (http://www.kagi.com)
Several satisfied merchants from outside the US gave this outfit kudos for their services. Kagi was developed to accommodate payment for "soft merchandise" such as software, files, music, graphics, etc., but also accepts payment for "hard goods" as well. Kagi accepts credit cards and checks on your behalf. They keep a small percentage of the total sale, plus whatever discount rates they were charged by the credit card company involved. There is no start up fee. This appears to be a small company but their satisfied customers suggest that they provide good service.

Valis International (http://www.valis.org/)
A merchant from Ireland reported that this company was the only one that could get things sorted out for him. Valis provides assistance with incorporating in the US, getting a US bank account, US Merchant Account, and offshore issues.

Vantage Services Inc. (http://www.vanserv.com/)
This credit card processor specializes in providing services to non-US merchants. They were the first ecom service to receive the Internet Better Business Bureau seal of approval.

Internet Secure (www.internetsecure.com)
This Canadian company was the first in Canada to provide credit card processing services to Canadian merchants. It is now available to merchants in selected countries around the globe.

Internet Billing Company (aka iBill) (www.ibill.com)
Some satisfied clients suggested the Internet Billing Company (aka ibill'). iBill offers an array of ecom services, some of which are available to international merchants.

PayPal (www.paypal.com)
A P2P service mentioned previously. PayPal offers limited services to people living in 25 countries other than the US. As a non-US resident in one of the participating countries, you can use PayPal to credit and debit your credit card, but you cannot transfer money to or from your bank account. As of February 2001, PayPal made bank account transfers available to Canadians.

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