People have always been looking out for technological ways to boost their business since the telephone was invented. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, some companies used telemarketing to let customers shop without leaving home (though people complained later that some telemarketers were using the phone to annoy consumers, or, worse, lure them to scams).
Then businesses shifted gears when the Internet became commercially available, and it wasn’t long before online businesses mushroomed and advertisements flooded websites. If the Internet provided information on demand, e-commerce—the business of buying and selling goods and services on the Internet—delivered products on demand. It enhanced business by using information technology, and though its main medium is the Internet, in recent years many businesses have been targeting the mobile phone industry to complement it.
There are three business layers in a typical e-commerce model: the purchasing layer, the schedule and delivery layer, and the payment layer.
- The purchasing layer is typically your website: it’s where you display your product and product specifications and how much it costs.
- The schedule and delivery layer is where you process the items bought by your customer when she checks out her shopping cart. (Be careful you don’t sell items that are out-of-stock or overstock unwanted items: this is where your electronic inventory and accounting systems kick in.)
- The payment layer is where you bill the customer for goods purchased, and it’s best to bill through credit cards if you’re targeting international customers and use ATM cards and electronic debit cards (SmartMoney, G-Cash, etc.) if you’re aiming at local customers.
There are two ways to do business online: Business-to-Business e-commerce or B2B, and Business-to-Consumer e-commerce or B2C; but here we’ll concentrate on B2C since most small and medium enterprises fall into this category. In B2C, products or services are sold from a company to a consumer.
There are five general forms of B2C:
• Direct Sales or Electronic retailing. This type is for you if you’re a wholesaler or retailer. You create a catalog of the products or services that you provide directly to the customer, thus eliminating intermediaries. Amazon.com, Villman.com, and Load.com.ph are good examples of this type.