E-commerce-Solution Shopping Made Easy
Last year, retail e-commerce totaled $88 billion, or 2.4 percent of total U.S. retail sales, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. In the first quarter of this year, U.S. retail e-sales hit $25 billion—2.7 percent of total retail sales for the quarter ($906 billion). And based on the average annual growth rate (in the mid 20-percent range) of the last few years, 2006’s year-end e-commerce totals are likely to top $110 billion.
Book publishers in almost every market have launched e-commerce sites to tap the growing potential in e-sales. Major publishers such as Scholastic (ShopScholastic.com), Random House (RandomHouse.com), McGraw-Hill (Books.McGraw-Hill.com), Penguin Group (USA) (US.PenguinGroup.com), Lippincott Williams and Wilkins (LWW.com), O’Reilly (OReilly.com/store), NYU Press (NYUPress.org) and Oxmoor House (OxmoorHouse.com) sell their titles via e-commerce Web sites, as do smaller publishers.
Selling online can be simple, but there are a number of things that publishers should consider before investing in an e-commerce solution. Book Business asked two e-commerce solutions providers to share their insights to help you in your solution-evaluation process. Plus, take a look at some of the solutions for book publishers on the market.
Judy Lee, vice president of marketing and client support for The Media Services Group—whose clients include: Presbyterian Publishing, Gulf Publishing, M.E. Sharpe, Martha Stewart Living and Forbes—suggests publishers consider not only what services and features they currently require, but those they may grow into. She says asking the following questions can help publishers determine which solution will fill their short- and long-term needs:
1. What are my transaction parameters? How many orders do I expect to process per hour, per minute, per day?
2. Is this solution scalable?
3. Can this solution update order processing and inventory in real time?
4. What other interfaces are required?
5. What safeguards are in place so that if my Web site is down, I can still capture orders?
6. Is there a customer service focus to the solution’s design?
7. What credit card processing capabilities exist?
8. Is this a parameter-driven solution that allows the user to adjust as their business needs change?
9. What kind of training is required?
10. What level of support will I need, and can I expect from the company?
Robert Coon, president of Dydacomp Development Corp.—another e-commerce solution provider whose customer list includes Dow Jones & Company Inc.,Yankee Publishing, P.E.T.A., Burke Publications, among others—points out that investing time up front in a thorough product and service evaluation can save valuable time and money in the long run. He offers the following tips for aiding in this process:
1. When reviewing software designed to run your entire e-commerce operation or more, it’s important to go beyond the marketing bullets. For example, just because two vendors may list “drop shipping” as a feature, it doesn’t mean that both can accommodate your specific need. Doing as much hands-on testing of the software as possible is the best way to make sure you make the best decision for your organization.
Once you have narrowed your options down to a few top solutions, be sure to ask each vendor for a working trial edition. Account representatives and references are great for a general overview, but only a working trial edition will allow you to test-drive the application before making a commitment.
2. It’s important to find out how the vendor supports its customers. Is there phone support or just online support? Do they provide end-user documentation? Is offsite or on-site training available?
3. In the case of a hosted e-commerce solution, questions must be asked about server infrastructure, security and uptime. Are technicians available 24/7 for emergencies? How much downtime do they experience each year? What type of redundancy is in place for power?
4. Consider the vendor’s background and innovativeness. How does the product help manage such online channels as Amazon or eBay? Does the solution offer variable fields such as title, author, publisher, edition, illustrator or other user-defined fields? Likewise, does the vendor offer club management or “of the month” type features? How about upsell or cross-sell recommendations (e.g., people who purchases this item also purchase x)?
“While some of these features may not be important for your business today, it’s comforting to know the features are available if you change direction,” says Coon. “It also shows that the company is not stagnant. In many cases, the vendor can provide you with the timeline of previous releases to show you the type of progress you can expect once you become a customers.”
Santa Fe, NM
CyberWolf’s Acumen Book business management system is suitable for sites with up to 100 concurrent users. It provides sales, marketing and communication features, integration of business management functions, and reporting tools. Its eCommerce Interchange Optional Module is a suite of functions that enables Acumen to communicate with any number of Web sites to supply updated product information, receive and process Web orders, synchronize the maintenance of customer data, and automatically e-mail order and shipment confirmations to customers.
Shawnee Mission, KS
Datasystem’s Multi-Pub modulated business management solution offers an e-commerce module, called e-sync, for connecting Web sites to fulfillment systems, and automating ordering, cancellations, expires, etc. Products, rates and offers that are defined in Multi-Pub are available for Web site display. Customers can view their accounts, make address changes, see payment and shipping status, etc. Site licenses can be defined based on IP addresses and more.
Digital River’s Web-based E-subscriptions solution for publishers enables print, electronic and combination sales and delivery of magazines, journals, buyer’s guides, as well as digital and tangible products, conferences and events among others. Features include: one-day, seven-day, 15-day, 30-day, 90-day, six-month, one-year, two-year, three-year subscriptions; auto renewals; free trials converted to paid; single article, issue or chapter sales; archive-only sales; bundled products sales; automated e-mail renewal series; content licensing.
Dydacomp’s Mail Order Manager (M.O.M.) and SiteLINK software is designed for the small to medium-sized operation that processes anywhere from several dozen to several thousand orders daily. It is best suited for merchants that process through multiple channels, such as online, phone and mail, and is designed to help businesses manage a retail front end and keep all selling channels integrated.
Dydacomp offers a large-business/high-volume edition, M.O.M. XL, for daily order processing by the thousands. It also offers an enterprise management edition, M.O.M. Enterprise, for any size operation.
New York, NY
eMeta’s RightCommerce was designed for the sale of digital goods and services, and to enable media companies of all sizes to manage online content sales and marketing efforts. Features include: promotions, billing, payment and customer service. Staff can create/modify pricing structures, promotional offers and incentives; target new customers with free trials, discounts or gift subscriptions; and target current customer base with follow-up promotions or targeted pricing or offers based on customer purchase and usage patterns. Reporting tracks which pricing, promotions and sales strategies and channels are generating the most revenue.
It can manage digital goods and services billing, including subscription billing, upgrades and downgrades, and complex revenue recognition.
Needham, MA (U.S. headquarters)
FAST ImPulse is an enterprise e-commerce solution that serves a number of markets, including publishing. It is designed to provide customized consumer experiences. Features enable users to: insert products and spotlight content on the fly based on the customer context; monitor customers’ search to discover trends; reduce clicks by enriched, clean data and apply intelligent context such as geographic location; enhance customer visits with a customized search experience, using advanced logic, and cross-sell.
Global Turnkey Systems (GTS)
GTS’s Unison enterprise resource planning solution for publishing organizations features: industry standard open systems interfaces, streamlined order entry, CRM functionality, five-level customer hierarchy to drive processes and analysis, configurable product structure, reporting and analysis tools, e-commerce with online purchasing and order tracking, and integrated financials.
The eCommerce module manages ordering on books, subscriptions and Web-based products. It enables publishers’ customers to view real-time inventory levels, process address changes, pay open accounts receivable invoices and more.
Haddon Heights, NJ
GoEmerchant provides merchant services to small- and mid-sized businesses. Services include Internet, mail-order and retail merchant accounts, shopping cart software, online store builder, virtual terminal, secure payment gateway, Web hosting, domain name registration, marketing tools and customer support. Also offers a merchant solution for high-volume, offline credit card processing.
E-commerce components are available without Web hosting, with “Buy Me Buttons” the user would copy and paste onto his/her company’s Web pages, and can customize the shopping cart pages.
A Gateway Package offers secure credit card processing for companies with their own shopping carts.
International Business Systems U.S.
IBS’ Bookmaster e-Commerce solution provides remote access via a standard browser through the Internet or an Intranet. Features include: programmer-free maintenance; real-time interaction with the core system; user-definable catalog with an independent multilayer hierarchy; advanced search facilities; price and availability; order placement and XML upload; shopping cart; order tracking; backorder status; centralized management of objects (such as covers, synopses, blurbs, tables of contents, sample chapters, etc.); customer self-service; automatic e-mail order confirmation and status updates.
iPUB is an enterprise management solution designed to integrate with optional solutions for: credit card authorization; eBusiness hosting for customer inquiry, ordering and more; state sales taxation and preparation of monthly/quarterly sales tax filing; CASS certification of name and address plus zip+4; support for print-on-demand; sampling system support for educational publishers; publishing-specific consulting to help determine needs, gap analysis, RFP formulation, etc.
Klopotek International North America
New York, NY
Klopotek’s Book Sales and Distribution (BSD) solution enables order processing (of single orders, standing orders and subscriptions to loose-leaf editions, and other types of continuous orders) for books and loose-leaf editions as well as electronic or online products and content sales. Features automatic invoice generation (and online viewing), and separate periodic invoices, marketing information, and customer notices generated during invoicing.
Also features stock management, accounting and reporting, minimum stock warnings and reports.
The Media Services Group Ltd.
MSG’s E-commerce Module is designed to integrate with MSG’s BookWorks—a solution for handling customer service/order entry and fulfillment, reporting and analysis, royalties and subsidiary rights management, job costing, accounting, marketing and campaign management. The E-commerce Module gives the online user real-time information.
Customers can access product availability, order status, subscription expiration information, product offers. It can manage tasks such as: book/product orders, subscription renewals/requalifications, address changes, conference registrations, etc. Features include: customer search capabilities, shopping cart with shipping information and automatic credit card authorization, confirmation online and via e-mail.
Morse Data Corp.
Orland Park, IL
Morse’s InOrder System is an order management/e-commerce solution with online client access to data; ability to add internal or external notes to customers’ orders, credits, statements and other records; online shipment tracking; real-time inventory searches; timer-controlled e-mails for order and shipment confirmations, customer service notifications and product updates. It enables publishers to: determine pricing by customer type, geographic area, shipping and inventory availability/restrictions, sales promotions, or a combination of adjustable features; apply discounts based on volume purchases, customer purchase history, promotional responses; and use features such as upselling, automatic credit checking, de-duplicating, automatic pricing, and tax calculation.
An optional module offers subscription-order taking, and supports issue-based and term-based subscription processing, group subscriptions, renewals and continuous subscriptions, memberships, and continuity series processing.
OverDrive’s Midas Technology provides a customizable eBookstore solution. Users can connect their Web sites to OverDrive DRM and eCommerce servers, add thousands of e-book titles and manage their eBookstore with a PC, Internet connection and a Web browser. Features include: DRM, credit card processing, shopping cart, book shelves to manage sales, audit and transaction reports.
The Midas Platinum solution also includes real-time credit card processing, shopping cart, catalog and merchandising features.
New Providence, NJ
PubEasy, a division of RR Bowker, is a b-to-b e-commerce marketplace for the book publishing industry. It aims to facilitate access to online order placement, tracking, price, title and availability data with participating publishers, distributors and wholesalers. Booksellers can inquire about title, price, availability and order status from participating publishers, distributors and wholesalers, known as Affiliates.
PubEasy Web sites provide: Up-to-the-minute information on title, price, and stock availability; order placement and confirmation even after hours; order status inquiry capabilities; high-volume inquiries and ordering, including POS system compatibility; searchable e-catalogs of title information.
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK
The Trilogy Publishing Manager integrates mail order, retail and Web site so that promotions, special deals, pricing, customer and order details, product delivery, fulfilment and e-mail shipping confirmations are controlled by one system. Orders can be automatically downloaded and sent to fulfillment. Rules can be set to automatically increase the displayed delivery time for out-of-stock items. E-mail confirmations can be automated upon receipt of the order in the warehouse and shipment. Product descriptions, images, delivery and prices can be maintained in Trilogy’s Stock module.
VISTA addresses e-commerce through the i-connect library of Web, data access and functionality services to securely communicate in real time with VISTA applications as well as third-party database and supply chain systems. I-connect is delivered in bundles or groups that provide logical sets of functionality, including: customer queries, product queries, subscription and order queries, inventory queries, order management, and subscription, author, product and customer information management. BB
- Burke Publications
- CyberWolf Inc.
- Datasystem Solutions Inc.
- Digital River
- Dow Jones & Co. Inc.
- Global Turnkey Solutions
- Gulf Publishing Co.
- International Business Systems
- Klopotek International North America
- M.E. Sharpe
- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
- Morse Data Corp.
- NYU Press
- Overdrive Inc.
- Penguin Group (USA)
- Presbyterian Publishing
- RR Bowker
- Scholastic Inc.
- The Media Services Group Ltd.
- Trilogy Enterprise Systems
- Vista International
- Yankee Publishing