How E-commerce Works

Implementing an E-commerce Site

Let's say that you would like to create an e-commerce site. There are three general ways to implement the site with all sorts of variations in between. The three general ways are:

  • Enterprise computing
  • Virtual hosting services
  • Simplified e-commerce

These are in order of decreasing flexibility and increasing simplicity.

Enterprise computing means that you purchase hardware and software and hire a staff of developers to create your e-commerce web site. Amazon, Dell and all of the other big players participate in e-commerce at the enterprise level. You might need to consider enterprise computing solutions if:

  • You have immensely high traffic - millions of visitors per month
  • You have a large database that holds your catalog of products (especially if the catalog is changing constantly)
  • You have a complicated sales cycle that requires lots of customized forms, pricing tables, et cetera
  • You have other business processes already in place and you want your e-commerce offering to integrate into them.

Virtual hosting services give you some of the flexibility of enterprise computing, but what you get depends on the vendor. In general the vendor maintains the equipment and software and sells them in standardized packages. Part of the package includes security, and almost always a merchant account is also an option. Database access is sometimes a part of the package. You provide the web designers and developers to create and maintain your site.

Simplified e-commerce is what most small businesses and individuals are using to get into e-commerce. In this option the vendor provides a simplified system for creating your store. The system usually involves a set of forms that you fill out online. The vendor's software then generates all of the web pages for the store for you. Two good examples of this sort of offering include Yahoo Stores and Verio Stores. You pay by the month for these services.

For lots more information on e-commerce and related topics, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links