E-Commerce and Drinking Water

Safety, Convenience and Customer Service Combine for Customer Satisfaction

E-Commerce is coming of age with millions of new customers from internet sales for a wide variety of products. Advances in web site design, payment mechanisms and delivery systems have met the increased demand for online ordering.

With the advent of on-line ordering firms like Amazon and E-Bay, what started out as a small business has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry. The key to success in the field of E Commerce is the offering of high quality products coupled with state of the art technology to ensure ease of ordering , convenience of delivery and secure payment mechanisms.

The bottled water industry is an ideal beneficiary of e-commerce technology because of the large number of customers served and the frequency of transactions and purchases.

E-commerce Defined

E-commerce is similar to other forms of commerce except that it involves the buying and selling of goods over the Internet. E-commerce sites range from a simple web page highlighting a single item to dynamic fully developed on-line catalogs featuring thousands of products. The common theme and benefit in e-commerce sites is instant purchase, instant payment (if desired) and instant gratification in terms of fast, accurate delivery, for the customer.

Over the years, the e-commerce web has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry yearly, with significant growth projected over the next 5 years. A defining characteristic is that all e-commerce web sites accept a type of online payment, whether through a third party or directly with a merchant account..

E-commerce: The Wave of the Future

The internet is changing world view of shoppers. Instant gratification is a reality Utilizing e-commerce allows customers the ability to quickly take delivery of the goods they require and desire. In addition, the Internet is perhaps the best sales tool ever invented as it allows customers to browse endlessly in privacy. They can return and order again and again without ever leaving their home.

Most experts agree that it is only a matter of time before all sales-oriented companies will have some sort of e-commerce presence in order to remain competitive and the development of software and tools to improve the productivity of e-commerce sites remains strong. As more and better technology is developed, e-commerce will greatly expand.

Secure Payment and SSL(Secure Socket Layer): The Heart of the System

SSL(Secure Socket Layer) has been the de facto standard and heart of the system for e-commerce transaction security, and it’s likely to remain so well into the future.

SSL is based on encryption. SSL encrypts data, like credit cards numbers (as well other personally identifiable information), which prevents unauthorized use. An SSL protected page is identified when the address begins with “https” and there is a padlock icon at the bottom of the page.

SSL Certificates

The SSL certificate resides on a secure server and is used to encrypt the data and to identify the Web site. The SSL certificate also helps to prove the site belongs to who it says it belongs to and contains information about the certificate holder, the domain that the certificate was issued to, the name of the Certificate Authority who issued the certificate, the root and the country it was issued in.

In general, e-commerce users are urged to avoid sites that fail to use and display proof of SSL Certificates.

The Bottled Water Industry and E-commerce

The bottled water business is actually two lines of business: Local delivery water and private labeled water and each is an important subset of the total business.

Local delivery water is defined geographically and usually comprises rental or sales of coolers and delivery of 5-gallon and small package (12, 16.5 and 20 oz.) bottles to customers located within a limited distance from the water source. This business includes a customer base of consumers and businesses in the defined geographic area who take periodic delivery of water. The key to success in this line of business is the production and efficient delivery of the highest quality pure water.

Private label bottled water involves the development and production of high quality custom labels with a clear branding message. This line of business is national in scope and includes a strong element of branding and advertising. The key to success in this line of business is the design and production of a label of the highest quality with a clear branding message.

Each line of business has different requirements for e-commerce. For the local delivery business, establishing and meeting delivery schedules is critical with the most advanced sites offering delivery programs that offer the customer choice of delivery schedules and the ability to modify deliveries as conditions warrant.

For the private labeled line of business design flexibility in the form of interactive tools for the development, proofing and production of labels is critical. Another critical aspect of the private labeled line of business is fast and cost effective delivery through national carriers with low negotiated volume freight rates..

A Culture of Customer Service

The best e-commerce site will not produce results without support of an effective customer service organization. E-commerce tools and capabilities must be complemented by a customer service culture that includes rapid customer feed back, human (as opposed to voice mail and e-mail) interaction and clear communication. It is presently impossible to totally remove the human element from e-commerce and the human element is a critical part of the customer satisfaction process..

Best and Powerful Features

There are many varieties of e-commerce sites ranging from the simplest static site that offers very limited features to full featured dynamic sites based upon the latest database technology and access. No matter what the level of technology however, the site should combine ease of use with the most powerful features available. An effective bottled water e-commerce site should include the following minimum features.

General Features

o Multiple-Recipient Ordering (allows multiple user shipments in a single transaction)

o No Shopping Cart “Shoving” (gives the user maximum flexibility before check-out)

o Login Systems for Wholesale and Retail Customers (with remembered billing and recipient party data)

o Code Maturity (provides for reliability and stability of the site)

o Future Arrival Date Provisions (mandatory for scheduling deliveries and shipments)

o Order History and Fast Loading of Orders

o Automatic Shipping for Retail and Wholesale Accounts

Private Label Features

o Interactive and Customer Friendly Label Configurator (allows for user development of labels and artwork)

o Proofing Capability (allows the user to repeatedly review label design before purchase)

o Multi Layered Design ( allows for choice of color, shading and label features)

E-commerce lends itself to rapid fulfillment of orders and increased customer satisfaction when the site utilizes powerful state of the art tools and features coupled with a culture of customer satisfaction. On a user friendly powerful site, water orders for both local delivery and private labeled business are safe, convenient and fast. E-commerce vendors that maintain a culture of customer service will guarantee customer satisfaction.

Don’t Identify With Technology

If I was in line at the local grocery store and walked up to a total stranger and asked him or her “who are you, tell something about yourself”, the responses would go like this;

– “I’m a retired school teacher and enjoy spending time with my grandchildren.”

– “I’m the Vice President at ABC Savings and Loan and my wife and I are expecting our second child.”

– “I’m a college student working on my MBA and working part-time.”

– “I’m a researcher at ABC Technology working on the next generation smart phone application.”

– “I’m a ________________ insert whatever label you want.”

These are all perfectly normal responses that we would pass on as pleasant conversation, very comfortable and non- threatening. The point here is we identify ourselves with the labels, and in fact we take them very seriously. We even assign social/value points to them i.e. its worth more points to be a practicing physician as opposed to being an unemployed dock worker. Assigning values to the labels we identify with is nothing new and we do it so much we don’t even think about it.

Assigning value to the physical possessions associated with the labels is also nothing new. Merchants and advertisers have successfully done this for hundreds of years, the things you own solidify the labels you identify with. For example, would you expect a television star to drive the same car as an elementary school custodian? Do you think the Queen of England has more pairs of shoes than a single mother working two jobs? Do you have a peaceful feeling after purchasing an item that has social value points associated with it?

While this discussion may seem painfully obvious, there is a space in our consciousness that yearns for something more, something of intrinsic value that isn’t associated with labels or values associated to labels. That space I’m referring to is the topic of thousands of books and ideas written by people much wiser than me. I don’t believe anyone would refute its existence, and for this article let’s just say there is something more to our identity than just labels. So where does technology come into all of this?

Technology most certainly enhances our ability to measure, manipulate, predict, protect, enhance, and understand the world around us. When it comes to commerce technology helps us enhance the perception of social value points associated with services or products. Moreover, they associate products and services with human emotions associated with fear, appearance, pain, and the valued social points. Advertisers are masters of this concept; use the product they are promoting and your life will change for the better, right? Well it works; take an inventory of the things you posses and ask yourself how many of them are for the strict purpose of keeping up what’s new, what’s in… and so on.

There is no ethical issue with any of this if we choose not to base our whole identity on the labels. We did agree that in our consciousness there is more room for self- identity that doesn’t contain any labels. Technology is a clever tool that we should embrace to develop our understanding of the space where we live. Just remember not to identify with it and your approach to each day will be more balanced and pleasant.

Unique Features of E-Commerce

Nowadays E-Commerce is the buzz word. Although it is omnipresent but we never realize its importance primarily because it is known by different names. People do site promotion, SEO, affiliate marketing, and many other things but the goal is same i.e. to get clients and sell the products or services of the company. ‘E’ is just a medium to transact online. I will be listing some peculiar features of e-commerce which makes it considerably appreciable.

Ubiquity – In traditional commerce, a marketplace is a physical place we visit in order to transact. For example, television and radio are typically directed to motivating the customer to go someplace to make a purchase. E-commerce is ubiquitous, meaning that it is available just about everywhere at all times. It liberates the market from being restricted to a physical space and makes it possible to shop from your desktop. The result is called a market space. From consumer point of view, ubiquity reduces transaction costs – the cost of participating in a market. To transact, it is no longer necessary that you spend time and money traveling to a market. At a broader level, the ubiquity of e-commerce lowers the cognitive energy required to complete a task.

Global Reach – E-commerce technology permits commercial transactions to cross cultural and national boundaries far more conveniently and effectively as compared to traditional commerce. As a result, the potential market size for e-commerce merchants is roughly equal to the size of world’s online population.

Universal Standards – One strikingly unusual feature of e-commerce technologies is that the technical standards of the Internet and therefore the technical standards for conducting e-commerce are universal standards i.e. they are shared by all the nations around the world.

Interactivity – Unlike any of the commercial technologies of the twentieth century, with the possible exception of the telephone, e-commerce technologies are interactive, meaning they allow for two-way communication between merchants and consumer.

Information Density and Richness – The Internet vastly increase information density. It is the total amount and quality of information available to all market participants, consumers and merchants. E-commerce technologies reduce information collection, storage, communication and processing costs. At the same time, these technologies increase greatly the accuracy and timeliness of information, making information more useful and important than ever. As a result, information becomes plentiful, cheaper and of higher quality. Information richness refers to the complexity and content of a message.

Personalization – E-commerce technologies permit personalization. Merchants can target their marketing messages to specific individuals by adjusting the message to a person’s name, interests and past purchases. The technology also permits customization. Merchants can change the product or service based on user’s preferences or prior behavior.

E-commerce technologies make it possible for merchants to know much more about consumers and use this information more effectively than ever before. Online merchants can use this information to develop new information asymmetries, enhance their ability to brand products, charge premium prices for high quality service and segment the market into an endless number of subgroups, each receiving a different price.