The eCommerce Business System: Guidance for Beginners

I often get the question, or some variant of, “Which shopping cart works best with CartSpan,” or “Which shopping cart works best with XYZ accounting system?” To which I always reply, “It depends…” A ‘squishy’ response to a question that, for most people stepping into eCommerce for the first time, would appreciate a more affirmative answer.

This is where, at a minimum, I encourage people to take a step back and consider their own business processes; where current and future requirements might be matched to an appropriate eCommerce platform. And if possible, take two steps back and consider the end-to-end business system that they envision themselves operating within. This is important as the decisions that are made can involve considerable investment, possibly limit an organizations capability, and be costly to undo.

If you are just getting started, to the point where you have no legacy accounting system or eCommerce platform, then the world is your oyster. The key consideration in this circumstance is to fully understand how all products function within a given architecture before committing to any individual component. As a biased advocate of the CartSpan eCommerce integration, this blog content assumes that you are (or intend to be) a user of either QuickBooks or Sage 50 accounting.
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Use CartSpan eCommerce integration for QuickBooks to leverage grouped product functionality in your shopping cart

Suppose you have a group of items you think will sell better together, like a SHOP THIS LOOK deal.   Maybe, you have a hat, scarf and gloves that all look great together and you want to offer them to your customers as a group.  They get a great look; you sell more items.

Luckily, QuickBooks accounting supports the creation of an item with a product type of ‘Grouped.’ One may then associate multiple child products, with individual quantities, to the grouped parent item. Thus, when the individual parent is selected on the QuickBooks invoice, like all of the associated child items are automatically added to the order. This feature of QuickBooks has been a tremendous time-saver for organizations utilizing such marketing-oriented groupings.

When customers come to our site, they typically buy more than one item.  As an on-line retailer, I need to make sure I make it easy for them to add more items,”   says Lisa Foster, who runs two eCommerce carts, and

The problem for Foster, and many online vendors, is that her accounting and shopping cart capabilities were out-of-sync.  Her Magento cart wasn’t configured to offer group items,, so keeping track of inventory, getting accurate data on what was paid for what, offering a group deal to encourage more spending, became messy.  The Magento eCommerce platform natively supports the concept ‘grouping’ to improve the customers’ buying experience, but carts of lesser complexity (and there are many) may never offer such functionality.
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Use the M2E Pro community extension for Magento to consolidate web orders from your Amazon and eBay merchant accounts

If you have an Amazon and/or eBay merchant account, and are considering extending your presence online with a full-blown eCommerce platform, consider Magento and its widely popular M2E extension to tie things together.

Magento, coupled with M2E Pro, will allow you single-point visibility to all order activity. M2E Pro will collect orders from eBay and Amazon and import them into Magento using the standard order series in Magento.
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The benefits of real-time stock quantity updates in the Shopping Cart

Or…conversely titled as ‘The Consequences of Misrepresenting Your Inventory Online’

Last Christmas my wife and I decided to give ourselves a significantly upgraded digital camera from what we currently had. We shopped online and we shopped early, just to make sure that we could use the first present opened to capture the rest of the day’s events. We found a site that offered a great price and confidently ‘pulled the trigger’ on our purchase. Then we waited…and waited…and waited some more. We waited three days past the expected delivery date before making an inquiry. We were informed that the model we had ordered was on “back-order.” Well, it wasn’t on ‘back-order’ when we ordered it! What happened between the time the site indicated ‘In Stock’ and the time we confirmed our purchase?!

The answer to such questions can lie anywhere between unscrupulous business ethics and unintentional gaps in business process. Regardless of the reason, we were absolutely livid. A little better due-diligence on our part would have served us well. It was easy to find a bevy of identical consumer complaints against the same company we had purchased from. It is, unfortunately, a circumstance that happens far too often to trusting online consumers. Just take a trip out to > and search the term “website out of stock” to see the vitriol levied against offending merchants. Whether by accident, or by bad design, as an online merchant, you can’t afford to have a permanent record on any such site.
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Is your ‘seamless’ eCommerce integration a drain on your time?

If you are factoring ‘seamless’ eCommerce integration with your accounting system into your shopping cart selection process, don’t fail to exercise due diligence with respect to the claims being made. There are Shopping Carts on the market, commercial and open-source, that advertise ‘accounting integration’ that is often, quite simply, a misrepresentation.
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Considerations when integrating QuickBooks, Peachtree, or Sage 50 with your shopping cart.

We have listed some overarching considerations that should be made when evaluating eCommerce/Accounting integrations. These topics/questions have been adapted from our response to the Sleeter Group blog by Jim Savage regarding In Search of the Perfect QuickBooks Shopping Cart Integration. The content has been expanded to include the Peachtree/Sage 50 accounting platforms and  the answers are in the context of how CartSpan addresses the issues.

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