Web Marketing Today

Order Management Solutions for Smaller Online Merchants

Shopping cart programs allow you to take orders via the Internet, but how do you fulfill these orders? Many carts aren’t any help at all! Order fulfillment is messy. You need a program that will help you keep track of items shipped, split orders, back orders, returned orders, drop-shipped orders, customer phone calls, sales tax, shipping labels, etc. Right now there aren’t many programs that bridge the gap between shopping carts and accounting or shipping applications.

In February 2003 I asked readers of my various Web marketing and e-commerce publications to vote for their favorite shopping cart. Near the end of the survey I asked:

What program, if anything, do you use to help you manage orders — keep track of what is shipped, back orders, drop-shipping, etc?

 

84 responded with 75 applicable answers. Here’s how the answers broke down:

 

Dydacomp Mail Order Manager

1

StoneEdge

1

Peachtree

1

QuickBooks

10

Spreadsheet, Database

10

Custom Program

8

Integrated in Cart

23

Manual

11

None

9

Other

1

 

Of these, two third-party applications are especially designed for mail order or online order management:

Dydacomp Mail Order Manager (M.O.M., www.dydacomp.com) is a complete suite of accounting modules designed for a small business mail order company. Software can hand multiple “seats” and costs several thousand dollars, depending upon the modules you select. Dydacomp has an online store, SiteLINK, that is fully integrated with M.O.M., but it has not received much publicity or notice. Currently Yahoo! Store has an option that allows order export in M.O.M. format.

StoneEdge Order Manager is a full-function order management program based on a specialized Access 97 or Access 2000 application and available for multiple users. It is currently available for use with: Miva, ShopSite, Americart, Able Commerce, eBay, Half.com, Amazon merchants, Yahoo! Store, VirtualCart, SmartCart, and will soon be available for 1ShoppingCart. I currently use StoneEdge Order Manager to track sales of my digital products as well as drop-shipped orders for video tapes. It also tabulates sales tax so I can make accurate payments to the state. A wide variety of reports is available and you have access to all the data contained in MS Access tables. There is a PDF user’s manual as well as excellent telephone support.

This is not a simple or simplistic product, but one which can do just about anything you need in tracking, backordering, drop-shipping, and shipping products. It is extremely flexible. Order Manager includes an interface with VeriSign Payment Systems and Authorize.net to allow point-of-sale or telephone sales. It has an increasing import and export capability with QuickBooks and can import tracking numbers from UPS Online Worldship, FedEx QuickShip, and USPS Postal Package Partner.
 

QuickBooks format order export is available from an increasing number of shopping carts. Be careful, however, that the exact QuickBooks format is built into the system, not just “possible” if you know how to configure it.

 

Spreadsheet and database applications are popular with a number of merchants (as well as manual logbooks), but these often require retyping of data, which is a waste of time. Some merchants have had custom programs written to handle order management.

An increasing number of programs contain integrated shopping cart and order management. My own survey of order management within carts tells me that there’s a lot of variation in levels of sophistication and helpfulness here. Merchants ought to be able to mark orders as shipped, backordered, drop-shipped, suspended, cancelled, etc. for backend reporting to be helpful. Merchants in our survey claimed the following carts handled some or all of their order management: Mal e-com, osCommerce, Nexternal, Flashecom, Intershop, MS Commerce Server, Monster Commerce, and King-Cart. Don’t suppose that any of these applications provide exactly what you need — test first!

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
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