E-commerce and on-line shopping

The World Wide Web is the fastest growing marketplace in the world for both businesses and consumers, with sales in the billions.

There is a good reason for this — the Web is available to buyers 24 hours a day, it is accessible from anywhere, and it can offer more complete and up-to-date product information than is available by any other means.

Anatomy of an on-line store

An e-commerce website, or on-line store, is actually two separate systems that share a common database:

  • The storefront where customers browse and purchase products
  • The back office, where the merchant (store owner) adds, modifies and deletes items for sale, and processes orders

The storefront

This is the part of the on-line store that most people are familiar with. Customers locate products in a variety of ways such as navigating to them through a category tree, or by using a search function to locate products based on keywords or part numbers.

Once the customer has located a product that he or she wishes to purchase, it is placed in a virtual ‘shopping cart’. When the customer has finished selecting products, he or she proceeds to checkout and payment.

The back office

E-commerce or shopping cart applications allow merchants (store owners) to enter the back office through a secure log-in which takes them to an administrative console, which is really just another website (different than the one the shopping public sees). This console allows the merchant to enter and update product information and process orders.