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Your ladder to success... eCommerce with eChabi

E-commerce is always evolving, and it can be difficult for SMEs to determine just where on the evolutionary path they are. Here is a six step process to help SMEs determine where they are and what sections of the Web site may be of interest to them. At present this could typically be broken down into...

Step 0 - Haven't started yet
The business has limited or no exposure to E-commerce, but might have experience with a home computer. This step is only included for completeness to reflect the fact that there are still businesses who make no use of E-commerce.

Step 1 - Use email and the Web
The business has purchased one or more computers with modem and Internet connection capabilities and accesses information and services on the Web. email usage has been introduced but has not been exploited to its full potential. The business does not have a Web site.

Step 2 - Basic Web site
The business uses any combination of email, the Web, and its own Web site in the running of the company. Clients can view information on the site establishing the nature of the business and how to make contact. On-line interaction is not yet possible.

Step 3 - Effective Web site
The Internet is being used as an effective marketing and communications tool. There is a Web site for increasing marketing reach and customers and suppliers may interact with the business through the site. There are no physical links between any Web activity and existing back-office systems. Efficient use is made of the Web to gather information regarding competitors and potential suppliers. Email is used widely with trading partners.

Step 4 - On-line store
Use of E-commerce has developed to the point where the business is offering a full shopfront with payment or other on-line trading facilities. Step 4 is frequently split into two, with some businesses stopping at the on-line store and not providing any integration into their back-office systems for whatever reason.

Step 5 - Integration
This can almost be seen as an internally facing development as Internet technologies are used to extend integration. Everything from the business on-line shopfront through to manufacturing and fulfillment are brought together and it is possible to gather information from all parts of the business. This allows the business to move towards a more integrated internal use of E-commerce.

Step 6 - Advanced E-commerce
This can be considered advanced E-commerce, as developments stand at the present. In a B2B situation the business could join on-line exchanges, eMarketplaces and related services, using the Internet to connect with business partners, suppliers and customers. B2C companies could offer personalisation to customers, consider affiliate programs or advanced email marketing campaigns and customer management systems.

On the E-commerce ladder, SMEs don't need to progress from 1 step to another. Depending on business needs, certain stages may be jumped as more advanced uses of E-commerce are taken on board.