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Optimal Ecommerce Backend — Prepare Your Business For Success

icon-calendar 2021-01-13 | icon-microphone 25m 24s Listening Time | icon-user Joseph Ianni

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Having covered the basics of backend in the business world at large, we can now explore it specifically in the world of ecommerce. While each of us may take different approaches in what apps we prioritize, we can all agree without this crucial aspect, our businesses will crumble.

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Tags: #Ecommerce #E-commerce #BusinessModels #OnlineBusiness #BusinessDevelopment #Dropshipping #Debutify

Good to have you here. So we’ve talked about ecommerce, and we’ve talked about the backend and we began paving inroads into the ecommerce backend. Let’s keep moving forward with this. What I have prepared for you today are categories/sections, big and small, that make up the backbone of your backend, with some mentioning of the front-end where necessary. This episode is not a one stop solution for every last thing you’d need to know about the back-end, above all else, what you do yourself will be your best learning experience. What I’ll be talking about today will give you a sense of what you need to know, what to do more research on and some software here and there you can look into. There are also some tips and insights from various parts of the web, and also if you haven’t checked it out yet, head over to our Youtube Debutify channel, Connor will be guiding you through some specific parts of the ecommerce process that are better done visually. Ready? Let’s roll. 


The first stop on this list is going to be security, there’s a hierarchy of motivation you might have studied in school; the lower the motive, the more immediate it is, and people do not strive for higher motivations until previous ones are set. It starts with physiological, or primal needs; food, water, warmth and rest. Rest is debatable. In that I will debate anyone who doesn’t think they need rest. I was considering using this chart as the framework for this whole episode, but seeing is how I can’t advise you on how to feed others forget it, the reason I bring it up is to talk about security, which is the next part of the chart, above that are love, belonging, then esteem which is prestige and feeling accomplished finishing with self actualization. Not to brag but I self actualized when I was 17, felt great, would strongly recommend it. Anyways, security is the first part we’re going to talk about because without it, none of this works.


Every website is obligated to have some level of security, while you may not think your pet blog is a target, it could be infected with malware that can hit others who visit. According to webgility.com, a 2019 article, only 25% of consumer’s think companies are responsible for handling customer data. The first line of defense is SSL, Secure Sockets Layer. According to 3dcart.com, it encrypts all the data that passes between the server hosting the website, and the browser being used by the visitor. For ecommerce, you’d need to go a step further and ensure you are PCI compliant, which protects your customer data from being breached and your website from being hacked. bluelinkerp.com ‘s article also makes some key points about security; you can always count on mainstream/corporate media to report on cybersecurity breaches, and don’t get me started on crypto, we did an episode on that already so not really worth doing here. They continue to expand on PCI compliance, which is broken into three sections; Assessment, which is to take inventory of your company’s IT assets and business practices for managing payment card processing, then analyzing them for any vulnerabilities. The second section is to remediate, which is to fix any problems found in the assessment, and finally report, gather the data and records required by the PCI Data Security Standards to confirm the remediation, and then send that information to whichever banks or payment companies you work with. 


The good news is, because it’s so essential, most payment providers and eCommerce platforms have it built in. Going with Debutify, which of course means going with Shopify by extension, will put your mind at ease, although nothing is impenetrable, you can count on large operations to prioritize security for you as well as your customers. Interestingly, one of the most important measures to communicate safety is the look and feel of your site, customer’s will already feel more taken care of if your copy is grammatically correct, your layout is engaging and it all loads reasonably quickly. A more direct method which Debutify can easily solve for you is a trust badge, it’s one of the apps you can add from 28 add-ons as of this scripting. 


One of the other points made about security from 3dcart is regarding checkout in specific. Once customers are comfortable shopping online, the efficiency in which they can end up ordering something leads to more sales. Personally, it’s gotten to the point where my information is already stored on my browser, so all I need to enter is my security code. You can understand why people might be reluctant to do it, back when I was first getting paychecks, I was reluctant to go to the ATM, every second week for eight second weeks, which I guess is about 16 weeks altogether. Anyways, I would go to the teller and deposit the cheque in person. Took me a while to warm up to it, now everything is direct deposit. 


Some other apps I found on the shopify search include Store Protection Hero, which provides right-click prevention, good for stopping people from accessing code or images. And also protecting your customer means protecting yourself, which would include an app like Shop Protector, which prevents bots from spam filling out forms with fake accounts. A free one called Blockade prevents your store from being visible in certain countries, which might be of use to you if certain countries may be too difficult to service adequately. I should say, one of the best ways to learn what else you might need is to look at apps in the Shopify app store, or wherever else you might setup your store, which I’m not going to recommend because that’s competition for you, you’ll learn a lot about what problems you might encounter based on what problems these apps are made to solve. 


Now, nothing gets done without having products to sell, and unless you want to jump in blind, you may want to do some research, here’s where backend relates to that:


The first step is to find a product. If you already know what it is you want to offer, that’s great. But a lot of our listeners are looking for dropship, so let’s cover what you need to make that happen. You need to be able to research winning products, and the time is ticking because when you find one, you have to act swiftly to capitalize on it before competition swoops in, or the product has reached its peak.


There is also continued research on any given product, even once it’s been put for sale. According to bluelinkerp.com in regards to pricing and quality products, customers will be constantly comparing prices for the best option possible, and on top of that you need a pricing structure that’s consistent with your brand, but also able to respond swiftly to issues that might come up from your supplier or competitors, so an efficient backend is how you’ll quickly make changes to the system to reflect on the website. If you’re selling 100s or 1000s of products, making changes manually to each one will leave you in the dust. 


Again, I strongly recommend you check out Connor's work on our Debutify Youtube Channel. There we specialize in researching, including specific methods, winning products we’ve done for you. Oh and Debutify can also provide you with winning products in our premium plans as well. 


Now, security is directly integrated in to the platform itself, and there is much to say on the subject, next, we’re going to go through what features and functions you should expect and become familiar with as the administrator of this operation, til you get someone to take over, then you’d have to educate them, you understand. 


An article from linkedin.com/pulse also refers to the System Architecture, which is key to understand the relationship between frontend and backend, the article says and i quote “a system architecture is a high level model or diagram that defines the structure, behaviour of a system in tandem with how they work with each other.” In the visual they provide, which you can access via the link in the show notes, there is a presentation layer, with the multiple brands laid out, all four brands in the example are backed by a services layer, which is connected to a custom brand broker, which is connected to a database and an admin who provides each brand their own admin as well. 


Following up with the System Architecture, the article goes on to speak of the ecommerce platform’s relationship with the SA, the platform’s main job is to coordinate with all the parts of the architecture, providing information from the presentation layer to the admin, or synchronizing with call centre software to enable the agents access to information live. It goes on to talk about Web Services or APIs, an application programming interface. Put another way, the platform isn’t just directly connected to the customer, it also needs to be integrated with other systems out there, they point out that ecommerce sites may use Facebook login, or they might integrate comments and likes, or conversely present their information on these platforms, the reason is because Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest exposed their web services, so that our ecommerce platforms can use them. 


If you integrate shopping Feeds, you can export your products onto another channel, the best example 3dcart points to is google shopping, which is a product search engine. It is another method to make your products more visible, and hence you’re brand. Shopping feeds are recommended as well for the reason that you can quickly add your products to them while retaining all the included information, prices, star ratings, stock, ec. 


Another important point comes from 3dcart.com. You should think about what you intend for scalability, my aunt makes these tiny clay figurines, they’re very cute and cartoony. It takes her a long time to make but the results are joyous. Her store isn’t really made to scale. So if you intend to scale you need to consider what platform is equipped for your long-term growth. The flipside is true as well, no need to go overboard with enterprise features and be so overwhelmed with options you get dizzy, not speaking from personal experience or anything. 


Here are some features in specific that were discussed on an article from hbjamaica.com


-Dashboard, As the administrator, you should expect your dashboard to provide an overview of key metrics; items not in stock, information requests, sales and performance metrics. 

-Admin management, In specific, you want to be able to determine what each member of your team can or can’t see.

-META Data control, This is important for website ranking, you need to be able to customize the title tag of every page on your website and create rules for types of pages to handle title tag creation. Put another way, by the site, imagine if your store sold 1000s of items, you wouldn’t want to make each one manually, so rules allow you to optimize product pages all at once.

-Crawler Control, A robots.txt file’s job is to limit what content search engine crawlers access, in case there’s media or files not intended to be made public. So one instance might be, if you upload a test image, but it isn’t meant to be seen by anyone, if it’s tagged, people could still find it. 

-Sitemap, A sitemap.xml file is what lets search engines know what are all the pages on your website, otherwise they won't be crawled.

-Tracking Code Addition and Editing, Google Analytics or Google Website Optimizer are two options that allow you to add and update tracking code on various pages. You need this to test timelines without needing to get a web developer to step in each time. 

-Store Management, Here are some of the things you should expect from Store management; being able to edit categories, subcategories and products, with specific details such as colors, sizes, descriptions and being able to specify what product to feature on the home page.

-Order management, The last one contributed from hbjamaica.com suggests that you have a comprehensive understanding of the status of sales on the website, shipping orders and customer information. 


Inventory Management is also factored in to backend. What’s important here, according to webgility.com, the easier it is for customers to shop, given that they use multiple devices, sometimes simultaneously, the more they’ll participate, as we mentioned earlier. So the moment they encounter a business that doesn’t have what they want when they want it, they’ll go elsewhere. Some of the apps on shopify search include, Orderhive, which automates your eCom inventory, orders and shipping management. Merchbees Low Stock Alert. Parabola, which automates reporting and bulk operations without a developer.


We also need to touch on Sales tax collection. fair warning, you need to charge your customers the correct sales tax amount on each purchase, as you need to remit your sales tax every year. If you don’t, you’ll end up having to make a payment that could be pretty big and game ending. Your eCommerce platform of choice will likely have automatic tax calculations. 


SEO, 3dcart claims that the majority of online sales begin with someone searching for something on a search engine. And they’re just about right, but I found another statistic from smartinsights.com, who pointed out that 81% of e commerce activity started with an online search, whereas 90% started by visiting a retail site or store. While I’m at it, 67% used a shopping app, 74% made an online purchase and 52% made an online purchase on their phone. That was a stat from July 2020. Anyways, SEO is important because when people type in what they’re looking for, you want to think carefully about how they would characterize it. 3dcart also indicates some of the technical elements to SEO such as URL structure: which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, aka a web address, it's how the internet knows where a resource like a web page is located in specific.


I also wanted to remind you that our episode with Robin Devon Calandri, and her company Udroppy would be another great resource to learn more about backend, and if you don’t want to deal with it much at all, udroppy might be the place of choice, so give that episode a listen while you’re at it. 


Obviously, ecommerce doesn’t get done without shipping, and aside from the product itself, it’s a reminder that the internet is a resource we use to cultivate our lives but not become it. So while ordering online is a hassle free experience from the home, it goes through many hands to reach your doorstep, including shipping. You can integrate shipping carriers directly in to your store so that customers can see the shipping costs as their order progresses. This is something that you’re going to really want, as a sudden increase in price is the number one cause for cart abandonment. 3dcart also breaks down the following reasons based on %, 44 high shipping costs, 41 not ready to commit, 25 too costly, 24 saving to decide later, 22 were surprised by shipping costs, 14 no guest checkout option, 12 need too much information, 11 checkout is too complicated. 


Blog.3dcart goes on to say, as your business scales upwards, anything you can do to save time is valuable. One shipping integration to look into is being able to print pre-filled labels directly from your dashboard, so that you have less of a chance to make a mistake when entering in customer addresses. You also want to look into tracking numbers, in addition to putting the customer’s mind at ease, it’ll do that for you too. See, the delivered notification in particular helps in settling disputes, payment providers such as credit cards will more likely dismiss a chargeback claim by the customer if you can prove it was delivered. 


Webgility cites a report by kibo, 40% of shoppers say if a company takes more than two days to deliver, that could deter the sale altogether. As your operation scales, you’re expected to be able to maintain order fulfillment times. So expanding your supply network includes finding additional warehouses in strategic locations. 


Moving on, I’m going to address some important functions in relation to some more of the public facing components, which include Social media, Email marketing and partnerships.


Social media, I’m continuing to learn as I go, I’d like to think in a year’s time I'll be supplying even more in depth information than I imagined possible. So one of the lessons I was taught, recently to be honest, is that the first place you’ll be conducting marketing is Facebook. In order to do so, you’ll need to create a business page and connect it to your website. You then need to install the Facebook pixel, which is a data resource that will help refine where to target your ads. There is also a shop tab, which lets you sell directly to customers, though me I’m not 100% sold on that idea, I suppose if some customers are too stubborn to leave Facebook it’ll do, but I would personally advocate for getting people to come to the site for the strength of your brand. 3dcart.com goes on to say a Facebook Shop is a requirement for selling on instagram using shoppable posts. The case they make for it is that it’s more efficient for Instagram users, if they want to go to the site they’d need to find the link in the bio, which, in my words, would take ten seconds, an eternity on instagram. 


Email marketing, The article talks about this and says it's’ one of the most reliable methods available. It keeps you on the minds of customers who’ve bought from you, and those still thinking about it. They provide insights and entertainment first and foremost, coupons too though, coupons are good. There’s a secondary technique known as segmenting, which lets you curate your content based on customers, which you can access via their records. For more on this, I recommend you check out our interview with KC Chow. 


Partnerships, While the content is frontend facing, the arrangement certainly isn’t. Working with other potential partners behind the scenes on an agreement can mean trading guest blog posts, to cross pollinate audiences. This is where affiliate marketing settles in, for more on it I recommend checking out our interview with Paul Mottley. Having done that interview with him, I can’t fully express my enthusiasm for the program. The best part, as is stated by the post on 3dcart, is that you only owe money if it’s successful. The affiliate is paid a commission after the sale has been made. 


Two more things to talk about today, one is going to be a 7 step system for setting up an ecommerce shop from scratch, and the second will be a more specific system known as the phased approach. There are many opinions on the subject, including many of the people I’ve spoken to so far like Ricky, Kamil, and Shishir, but let’s see what ecommerceceo.com’s Darren DeMatas has to say:


  1. Research ecommerce business models: Luckily, thanks to 4weekmba (I'm big on credit where it’s due) we’ve been able to put together a comprehensive list of business models, and stay tuned for the final part of that saga coming soon. The business model research is a discovery period for you, to understand what you want to do by seeing how you want to do it. Dropshipping is recommended as a low cost way to get started, if you invest in your own warehouse upfront with products to sell, you’re probably going the wholesale route.
  2. Delve into niche research: You’re looking for somewhere between too saturated and not active at all, the goldilocks approach, my addition. The bossman strongly recommends jewellery, it’s saturated for sure, but the profit margins are some of the most generous for you. The article in specific advises to pick a product category with a minimum of 1000 keywords and focus on a niche that does well in social media. 
  3. Is to validate the target market, which focuses more on the person you’re selling to rather than the product. Having worked in retail, I can tell you firsthand that brands know who they’re after, they even give them names, what are their likes and dislikes, how they dress, what music they listen to etc. The better you know who you’re selling to, the easier it will be to target them with advertising.
  4. Register your business and brand name. I registered my sole proprietorship with ownr, and that’s a personal recommendation for you too if ownr serves your country. Within this, it’s also time to consider your logo and name, preferably not five minutes before meeting with the registrar.
  5. Finalize your plan. This is where you need to figure out how much your business will cost to run on a month to month basis, and then what you’ll need to make to break even, it’s also where you’ll consider what you’ll need as you scale if you intend to.
  6. Create your online store. Naturally I’ll be recommending Debutify once more. Think of this as part of the lock-in business model, if you’re listening to this podcast, the best way to get full value out of us is to visit our blog, subscribe to us on Youtube and use our service. Up to you, of course.
  7. Marketing, in short if you don’t have the money, you can make up for it with schmoozing.


Last thingI want to talk about is from multichannelmerchant.com, and it talks about a phased approach. This might be a strategy to deploy if you don’t necessarily want to go in right away gunz blazing. The objective here is to transition slowly so that you can learn and discover what could go wrong, and integrate systems slowly. The article assumes that a business is currently operating brick and mortar, but we can also collect insights for starting from scratch.


Phase 1: Sell only a subset of items, presumably you have more being sold in store, but if you are starting from scratch, sell only a little bit of what you have in mind. At first, you’ll be manually entering orders, printing them out and punching them in to any existing backend system you’d have, whether that’s other software or even a spreadsheet. This means orders will take more time to fulfill, as there’s a 24 hour turnaround time from order placed to order fulfilled (not counting shipping in fulfillment) it’s also less expensive since you don’t need any software yet but it will cost you hours. The main reason why this might be a good idea is that before you automate something, you should see how it’s done by hand, so when automated systems are integrated, you’ll know what to do and what could go wrong. 


Phase 2: Sell your full product line, and begin limited integrations. The benefit here is that rather than find software you think you need and work backwards, you can identify what are the issues in specific you need to handle in specific to your business. The issue of course they bring front and center is wanting to put an end to manually entering orders, the solution for instance would be buying an EDI system which transmits online orders to your catalog order entry software. An EDI, according to edibasics.com, is an electronic data interchange, which allows computer to computer exchange of business documents. As always we do recommend Shopify, so that you can use Debutify, some of the apps on Shopify that provide Order management and shipping are Google Shopping Feed, AfterShip, Excelify and Quickbooks Desktop Sync. Some EDI software found on Shopify includes: SPS and Stock Sync. 


Phase 3: Is full integration, this is where your system should be fulfilling online orders seamlessly with the rest of your backend system. The advantages of full web integration are; up to date product access, a paper catalogue is out of date by the time it’s delivered. Efficient service, customers can get the information they want on their own time because they can check their status from their computers or phones. It saves on phone costs since they don't need to call customer service constantly for updates, which is just one of the costs it cuts down on, labor as well. At this point, the article considers that full back-end integration can cost up to 5 million, again this is an assumption for larger businesses, but let's finish the read and consider what we can take away. They mention the shopping cart, encouraging selectivity. The transaction engine, which is supporting the shopping cart, and has potentially thousands of orders to manage simultaneously. The inventory hooks, because your warehouse inventory database is integrated, you can update stock in real time. This particular integration gets more important the more expensive the product. I can recall situations where there was only 6 of a product, but 9 people placed an order, leading to a net 3 apologies. Then there are the shipping data links, which keeps customers from calling in about shipping updates, instead it transmits that information to the customer automatically. And lastly, credit card verification, without that, it could take two days to verify an order, not something anyone wants to deal with on a Friday. 

Anyways, that’s it from me today. Thanks again for listening, as always feel free to email podcast@debutify.com

Written by

Joseph Ianni

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