eCommerce Website Integration with Microsoft Dynamics GP – Overview for Developer

When you are facing e-commerce transactions volume growth – typical solution is to remap backoffice ERP system to more scalable. In this small article we consider the case, when you remap eCommerce to Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics GP. If you make your homework and search the internet to understand your options, you will see that several out of the box solutions are out there, however it is typically not what you are looking for: you would like to keep your existing ecommerce solution with shopping cart, checkout and credit card processing. In this case – you way is eCommerce integration to Microsoft Dynamics GP

o Remapping technology. Let’s assume that you had something like SAP Business One, where you deployed SAP B1 SDK and programmed eCommerce to SB1 integration in Microsoft Visual Studio C# project. When you remap to GP – you also use MS Visual Studio and C# programming language and GP integration tools, described in the next section

o eConnect. The core logic of eConnect is realized as a set of SQL stored procedures and you can manipulate such GP objects as Customer, Sales Invoice (or Order if you plan to transfer order to invoice later on)

o Automatic Posting dilemma. Looking back to SAP Business One – there when you create Invoice – it is already “posted”. In the case of Great Plains – Invoice is created in so-called “work” status, then typically placed into the batch for approval and posting by GP operator. eConnect does allow you to create Sales Inovice, but it doesn’t allow you to post it automatically from eCommerce application. This is natural restriction of Great Plains Dexterity architecture

o Posting Server. This solution is available for purchase and it uses Microsoft Dexterity posting engine. What you need to do as eCommerce developer is to place the batch into the table, and so approving it for posting. Posting Server checks the approved batches table every five seconds and posts the content of the table. Alba Spectrum Posting Server requires GP workstation running on separate computer – expect one additional user license

o Excurse to Microsoft Dynamics GP Dexterity. It was designed as a shell, written in C programming language to resolve DB and OS dependency. Dex.exe is the application and it launches dictionaries, such as DYNAMICS.DIC. you can find Dex dictionaries, listed in Dynamics.set file. Programming Dexterity should be left to professionals, as it proprietary and pretty unique scripting language: sanscript – plus dex programmer should be familiar with dex architecture and tables structure. Dexterity enables various customizations, integrations, modifications to existing GP business logic.

Top 10 Ways to Scupper Your Ecommerce Business

1. Don’t plan, Just dive right in!

If you don’t plan for success you’re planning for failure.

An incredibly common mistake made by rookie ecommerce webmasters is to dive straight in and launch a site with an expensive URL long before they’ve actually taken the time plan out what their business proposition actually is!

Without a clearly defined business model and a well-formatted business plan you are inviting problems at every step of the way. Without having your company ethos, your funding details, your policies and procedures recorded clearly in black and white you really will have nothing to go on. After all, you can’t exactly show your expectations and optimism to investors or, worse, the dreaded bank manager.

Do your homework, plan your attack, refine your plan and then refine it some more. Seek help from a business professional with the formatting of your business plan and make several back-up copies!

2. The internet is huge! There’s an audience for everything, right?

Well, yes and no. The internet is huge and is, of course, bigger every day. No matter how unusual the site you can bet there’ll be at least a small number of people interested in it somewhere.

But will they be willing to pay for whatever it is that you’re selling? Or if you’re not strictly in the ecommerce game, can you be sure that your pride and joy will get enough visitors to stay afloat on advertising revenue alone?

Domains cost money, server space costs money, EVERYTHING costs money.

If you don’t take the time to get to know who your prospective audience is well in advance of launching your site you may as well dig a hole at the side of the information superhighway and pour all of your money in to it.

Study the market, learn from your competitors, find your online niche and make sure that your site really stands out from the crowd. Find a good, reputable web marketing firm who can advise you and listen to what they say!

3. Flashy borders, big pictures, lots of frames, job done, yes? No!

Have you heard the story ‘the emperor’s new clothes?’ To make a short story shorter it is the tale of an emperor who relies so much on style over substance that he doesn’t even notice when some mean-spirited (but enterprising) tailors sell him a whole heap of nothing, describing it as a stylish and trend-setting new outfit that only the wisest men can see.

Is that how you want your online presence to be viewed? If it is, you may as well stop reading now.

On the modern internet, content is king! End of story. The big winners of the last decade of web evolution have been those sites that populate their sites with interesting, unique content and keep adding more and more interesting, unique content.

Think about it!

How successful would Facebook be if it was never updated by anyone?

What if the Internet Movie Database decided to stop writing about new films?

Flashy graphics, a cool URL and all the whistles and bells you can muster will draw some traffic to your site, but top quality content is what is going to keep those visitors coming back for more and, crucially, telling their friends about your amazing site.

Be interesting. Be unique. Be prolific!

And if you can’t write good copy yourself, employ someone who can!

4. No SEO, No Problem?

Imagine a clothes shop. One unlike any you have ever visited. The staff is friendly and funny and make you feel really welcome from the second you walk through the door. They have the latest fashions at unbelievably low prices, much lower than any of their competitors and they have exclusive designs from some of the biggest names in fashion.

Now imagine if that clothes shop isn’t situated in the heart of a busy city centre shopping street but is actually located at the back of a dark field, in the middle of an impenetrable forest, in the middle of nowhere with no sign pointing towards it.

How long is that shop going to stay in business?

Exactly.

A sad fact of modern internet business is that in 99.9999% of cases whatever it is that you’re doing has been done before by people with more experience and more financial backing than you. People who are more established and who know how to get people to visit their online business and who strive everyday to do so. These are the businesses that succeed, the ones that know how to play the game with the big 3 search engines and how to climb up those rankings!

Launching a site with no understanding of SEO is a guaranteed way to fail, and fail quickly.

Search Engine Optimisation is not witchcraft, but to people who don’t understand it, it can often seem like it is. Do your homework, seek advice, do some more homework, get more advice and then integrate SEO principles into the design of your site from day one, and on every day that follows!

5. There’s no such thing as bad advertising.

Want to bet? Just ask some of the many, many famous politicians who are no longer politicians but remain very, very (in)famous.

Yes, there are many ways to advertise, but some really are worth their (virtual) weight in (real) gold!

Good PPC campaigns (pay-per-click, like AdWords, those four-line adverts you see at the right hand side of Google’s results pages) are used by all the big companies and used to tremendous effect.

When Google AdWords campaigns are run well they work really, really well. And when they are run badly they are an excellent way to burn through your whole advertising budget in no time at all, and with no benefit to your business to show for it.

With AdWords, as with everything else in the online world it is vital that you don’t just jump right in with the best of intentions and nothing in the way of planning.

Do MORE homework, understand your product, know your place in the market and seek advice from a reliable source with experience of running successful PPC campaigns.

6. Small companies don’t need to worry about branding.

Hang on, I’ll stop you there!

Every business needs to think about branding. Why? Because it is your brand that communicates everything about you to everyone out there!

Google’s online dictionary says that “The branding of a product is the presentation of it to the public in a way that makes it easy for people to recognize or identify.”

Easy to recognise. Easy to identify.

Is it a coincidence that the logo for Microsoft Windows looks like – hello! – a window?

No, it was carefully considered, probably by a team of highly skilled designers and marketers. It was then, no doubt, refined, experimented with and finally locked down as the design that we all know and see everywhere. Since then it has been used in a consistent manner to reinforce the brand. And let’s face it; there aren’t many brands that are more recognisable in the computer software business than Windows.

So take this away with you: your branding communicates everything about you to everyone out there, right? Well that door swings both ways. It’s just as easy to repel internet users as it is to attract them; in fact, it’s probably a whole lot easier.

Think about your brand from day one. Carefully design and refine it and then make sure that it is used in a consistent manner to reinforce your brand in the minds of your visitors. Research other brands and how they came about and remember that brands need to evolve. You don’t get anywhere by standing still!

7. Lights, Camera, Call to ACTION!

You’ve designed a beautiful, elegant site.

You’ve populated it with unique, interesting content that you toil over long and hard, and update regularly.

You’ve tempted a multitude of visitors to your site and in return you’re getting…

Nothing?

That can’t be right.

And it isn’t!

One of the easiest mistakes to avoid is to not let these visitors take what they want and then leave without giving you something in return.

If you’re in ecommerce, you want sales! If you’re promoting a hotel, you want bookings! If you’re trying to promote your beloved rock band you want people to pay to come to your gigs, right?

Without a clear ‘call to action’ on EVERY PAGE of your site, you can’t blame any of those visitors for taking what they want from your site and then just leaving.

Now think how many times you’ve seen examples like the following on websites:

– Click here to sign up for our free newsletter!

– Item out of stock? Click here to be notified when it’s back in stock!

– Register now for updates!

– Click here to download our latest brochure!

This seems so simple when you see it in black-and-white but you’d be amazed how many webmasters make the mistake of forgetting to call their visitors to action.

Now make sure you’re not one of them!

8. Customer Relationship Mismanagement.

So your visitors are now all obediently leaving their details so you can contact them (soon!) with the exciting news of how your site is surging ahead into the glittering future of internet superstardom?

And how are you keeping track of all those names, email addresses and the like?

In an old, dog-eared notepad?

Scrawled on napkins and thrown into a drawer?

Good luck with staying in business!

A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System will help you to keep track of all of your contacts. It will let you collect relevant data about them and help you to better streamline your marketing programme.

In short, a good CRM package will help you to better serve your customers and to keep attracting new ones.

And if you can’t be bothered with all of that, think about this old cliche:

Look After Your Customers Or Someone Else Will!

Still don’t think it matters?

9. “Our operators are not standing by!”

Yes, more and more business is conducted online every day.

Yes, ideally a great website (SEO optimised & marketed well!) will be all you need to become the next Donald Trump.

BUT!

As far as your customers are concerned, the best website in the world is very often no match for a friendly and well-informed voice on the phone.

Everybody expects it to take hours if not days for a corporate site to respond to an email enquiry, and THAT can be a very big turn-off when they’re choosing who they’re going to spend their money with.

That’s why even the most dyed-in-the-wool internet businesses have telemarketers, customer service advisors and other telephone operators working for them!

People will always use the phone, and there are many millions of people out there that will always prefer to pick up the phone than to send an email or fill out an online contact form.

I’m not saying that you should open a huge call centre, employing thousands of advisors in a state-of-the-art modern facility, but you should make it easy to have your customers contact you by phone, if not 24 hours a day then at least during the traditional business hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

And how would you feel if you had to repeatedly call a business whose operators don’t:

– Answer the phone in a polite and consistent manner?

– Mention the name of their business so you know you’re through to the right people?

– Speak politely?

– Listen attentively?

– Try to be helpful?

– And, most importantly, have all necessary information to hand there and then?

Exactly!

Distinguish yourself and your company by being approachable on the telephone; by being polite and helpful and by getting help and advice from a company that can oversee all this for you if it is just not practical for you to do it yourself.

Just as well you took my advice about getting a good CRM system, eh?

10. Just sit back and hope for the best!

Are you mad??

You will get NOWHERE by sitting back and simply expecting things to go your way, all the time.

You need to know who is visiting your site!

You need to know how they found you!

You need to know which pages they looked at!

You need to know to this so you can streamline your business and MAKE MORE MONEY!

But that’s all impossible, isn’t it? How could you possible know those things?

Simply, by employing a Web Analytics tool (or company) to do all that for you!

By analysing all aspects of your site’s performance you can make it perform better. Just like a coach scrutinises every pass and every tackle made by the members of his football team.

You monitor, you analyse and then you plan a way to improve.

This last point is something that you really will need help with so find yourself a good authority on web analytics and let them take the strain for you.

Only THEN will I let you sit back and hope for the best!

Start an Internet Business in 5 Easy Steps!

Want to start an Internet business? Great! Let’s get started quickly by looking at five simple and necessary steps to getting your Internet business off the ground.

1. Select Your Domain Name – It is very important to select the proper domain name for your business. Why? It’s how customers will find you online. A couple of simple pointers: shorter is usually better, I’d stick with a .com name – not one of the other top level domains. It can also help search engines to list you higher if your domain name contains some of the keywords you want to be found for.

Believe it or not, there are still a huge number of domain names that have never been registered. Sure, the so-called ‘dictionary’ and common single word domains have all be registered long ago, but there are strategies to circumvent this issue.

Why not simply add a modifier to a word in order to create a compelling domain name? For example: let’s say that you sell bicycles and bicycle parts online – here are some domain names that come to mind that are almost certainly taken:

bike.com

bikes.com

bicycle.com

bicycles.com

bikeparts.com

bicycleparts.com

So how can we modify these common names to create names that are available? Let’s try adding some simple descriptive terms either before, or after the main word. For example:

Deluxe

Premium

Best

Superior

Cheap

Discount

Online

Universal

I’m sure you can think of many others that apply to your products and business. If you simply add this short list of modifiers in front of the original short names, you can create multiple new names that are available right now!

You can search to see if your domain name is available here: http://www.dotster.com.

2. Hire a Web Designer – Ask around to locate a great designer that someone else has used. The design of your site can make you look professional, or like an amateur – it’s clear which way you will want to look.

An alternative that can be very cost effective when compared to a custom designed web site is to use pre-formatted templates – either put together by another company, or filled in with data yourself. For example, Affinity Internet, Inc. offers a professional web design product through it’s ValueWeb brand that is billed out at a low flat monthly fee. According to the ValueWeb website the ReadyWeb product offers the following advantages: “A professional web designer will set up a consultation with you to better understand your business and online goals to ensure your web site is not only impressive but successful.Our web site professionals will make updates to your website on a monthly basis as needed. ReadyWeb includes two hours of maintenance and updates each month at no additional charge.” You can learn more about the ReadyWeb product at: [http://www.valueweb.com/readyweb/readyweb_learn_more.htm].

Alternatively there are do-it-yourself templates available at sites such as http://www.templatemonster.com.

3. Choose Your Web Hosting – Every small business that sets up a web site online will need to host it somewhere. According to industry expert Tamara Field, President of Apollo Hosting (www.apollohosting.com) these are the top three things to consider when selecting your web hosting company.

* REAL Live Support – Call their tech support number NOT their sales number, and see if you can talk directly to a technician. Or go on their live chat and see if you are able to talk to a technician. How long did it take for you to get someone on the phone or live chat? That’s very important. Just because they say they offer live support, doesn’t mean they really have people there when you need them.

* Guarantees – Money back guarantee, price freeze, uptime, and a guarantee of a refund on unused portions. There are so many hosting companies that don’t offer money back on unused months if you cancel early! If you sign up for 1 year, believe it or not, many hosting companies won’t give you ANY money back if you cancel 3 months later. A money back guarantee is important as is a prize freeze guarantee. But these days, look for the refund on unused hosting. Many companies don’t mention it because they don’t offer it.

* Upgrade Path – If you see your business growing, and you might want more products/services in the future, then you will need an upgrade path. It is a real hassle changing hosting companies. Just getting lots of bandwidth and storage is not the answer. Many customers don’t use near the amount of bandwidth and storage that many hosting companies are offering. This is really just a marketing technique for a lot of hosting companies. Look for extra products that they offer. What about ecommerce? Do they offer the best ecommerce products, SPAM/Virus filtering, marketing tools etc. Remember that these days hosting is not just about storage and bandwidth. It’s about a whole lot more. Don’t settle for just space on a box.

You can easily compare web hosting options by looking through web hosting directory sites as well. These sites offer information about multiple hosting providers, and special offers and product information. Several of the more useful directories are: http://www.websitehostdirectory.com, http://www.cheaphostingdirectory.com, and http://www.tophosts.com.

4. Set Up Your Email – It may seem like a no-brainer to some, but you simply cannot adequately conduct business on the Internet without an email address. Your email address will let your customers and potential customers communicate with you, and give you valuable feedback on your web site, products, services, and ordering processes.

You’ll also need a way for you to communicate with vendors and others who can help you market your web site. Each hosting provider has different protocols for setting up your email account, so you’ll have to look to your provider for help with your specific account. One other important note: be sure to include a signature line at the bottom of every email that includes your business name, URL, and a brief description of your products and services. This idea alone can increase your business.

5. Promote Your Site – There are so many ways to get traffic to your web site that it would require several separate articles to cover the topic. Here are a couple of basic ideas. Try to educate yourself about, and get listed on search engines. A few basic steps can go a long way towards traffic driving in this way. A great step-by-step manual is at http://www.searchenginewatch.com.

If you have a budget to advertise, you may want to try Google AdWords as a method of reaching the search engine keyword market. Information is available at: http://www.google.com/ads. Alternatively, if you simply want to pay someone else to manage your online search engine advertising campaign for a flat monthly fee, you could check out ValueWeb’s ValueTraffic program. ValueTraffic costs $100 per month, and guarantees traffic and impressions to your website. You can see further details at: [http://www.valueweb.com/online-marketing.htm].

Of course, you should print your web address on all of your existing marketing materials such as: business cards, stationary, brochures, newsletters, product sheets, etc. You may find that driving qualified traffic to your website is as easy as releasing information on where to find it in your company promotional materials. Customers are always eager to utilize faster and more convenient forms of communications with companies.

Good luck with your new site, and remember – it takes a while for any great project to get real traction – the same holds true for your website.