Digital E-Commerce Toolbox
Welcome to IAPO’s digital e-commerce toolbox – a comprehensive set of tools and information designed to help you build, optimize, and define your e-commerce strategy. With the rise of e-commerce, it’s more important than ever to have the right tools at your disposal to streamline your business operations and stay ahead of the competition. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your existing e-commerce strategy to the next level, our toolbox will guide you in the right direction. From website builders and payment gateways to digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) software, our toolbox provides a central knowledge base for e-commerce information. With the systems defined in this toolbox, you’ll be able to create a professional-looking website, and online store, attract more customers, and increase your revenue. Let’s get started!
Please scroll down to read more about e-commerce and tools your business can use!
What information is included within our e-commerce toolbox?
Websites & Web Hosting
Information relating to websites, domains, web hosting, and website platforms.
Online Stores & Payment Gateways
Information relating to online stores and online payment processing through gateways.
Bookkeeping & ERP Software
Information relating to digital bookkeeping and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
CRM Software & Digital Marketing
Information relating to customer relationship management (CRM) software and digital marketing.
Please click on one of the boxes above to view the related e-commerce toolbox section.
Self-implementation vs. working with a professional, which is best?
Implementing an e-commerce strategy is a critical decision for any business, and there are both advantages and disadvantages to self-implementing vs. working with a professional. Self-implementing involves creating, configuring, and deploying the e-commerce strategy by yourself or with members of your internal team. Working with a professional involves hiring a consultant or company that has expertise in e-commerce to collaboratively deploy your e-commerce strategy. Here are some pros and cons of each approach:
Self-implementing your e-commerce strategy:
Pros of self-implementation:
- Cost savings: Implementing an e-commerce strategy in-house can save money on hiring a professional to do it.
- Control: Having complete control over the process can lead to a more personalized approach and the ability to tailor the strategy to specific business needs.
- Learning opportunities: Implementing an e-commerce strategy in-house can be a valuable learning experience for the business, allowing them to gain expertise in the field.
Cons of self-implementation:
- Lack of expertise: E-commerce is a complex field, and a lack of expertise can lead to mistakes that could be costly for the business.
- Time-consuming: Implementing an e-commerce strategy in-house can be a time-consuming process that could take away from other important business operations.
- Risk of failure: Lack of experience in e-commerce can lead to a higher risk of failure, which could harm the business’s reputation and financial health.
Working with a Professional to implement your e-commerce strategy:
Pros of working with a professional:
- Expertise: Working with a professional provides access to their knowledge, experience, and resources, which can lead to a more successful e-commerce strategy.
- Time savings: Hiring a professional can save time, as they have the expertise and resources to implement the strategy efficiently.
- Reduced risk of failure: A professional can provide a more robust e-commerce strategy, reducing the risk of failure.
Cons of working with a professional:
- Cost: Hiring a professional to implement an e-commerce strategy can be expensive, particularly for smaller businesses.
- Limited control: Working with a professional can limit the business’s control over the process, as they may not have as much input into the strategy as they would if they are self-implemented.
- Limited learning opportunities: Working with a professional may not provide the same learning opportunities that self-implementation does.
In conclusion, whether to self-implement an e-commerce strategy or work with a professional is a decision that depends on the specific needs and resources of the business. While self-implementing may save costs and provide more control, it comes with risks of failure and limited expertise. On the other hand, working with a professional may provide expertise, reduce the risk of failure, but at the cost of less control and learning opportunities.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vs. Traditional Software Delivery
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software delivery model in which software is provided by a third-party provider over the internet, and users access the software through a web browser or other application. The provider is responsible for hosting, maintaining, and updating the software, and users pay a subscription fee to access the software. Examples of SaaS include:
- Salesforce: A customer relationship management (CRM) tool that allows businesses to manage their sales, marketing, and customer service activities through a web-based platform.
- Microsoft Office 365: A suite of productivity tools, including email, word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software, that is accessed through a web browser or mobile app.
- Zoom: A video conferencing platform that allows users to participate in virtual meetings, webinars, and events.
- Shopify: An e-commerce platform that allows businesses to create and manage online stores, including product listings, order fulfillment, and payment processing.
Traditional software, also known as on-premises software, is software that is installed and run on a local computer or server. The user is responsible for installing, maintaining, and updating the software, and there are usually no ongoing subscription fees. Examples of traditional software include:
- Microsoft Office: A suite of productivity tools, including email, word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software, that is installed on a local computer or server. Microsoft Office comes in both traditional and SaaS options, with the former being installed directly on your computer.
- Adobe Photoshop: A graphics editing program that is installed on a local computer or server.
- QuickBooks Desktop: Accounting software that is installed on a local computer or server, and used for tasks such as bookkeeping, invoicing, and inventory management.
- AutoCAD: A computer-aided design (CAD) software used by architects, engineers, and designers for creating 2D and 3D designs.
Traditional Software Delivery vs. SaaS
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of software as a service (SaaS) compared to traditional software delivery:
Pros of Software-as-a-Service delivery:
- Lower upfront costs: Since customers pay a subscription fee to use SaaS applications, they don’t have to make a large upfront investment in purchasing and installing software.
- Faster implementation: SaaS applications are hosted by the provider, so there is no need for customers to install and configure software on their own servers. This can result in faster implementation times compared to traditional software delivery.
- Automatic updates: SaaS providers are responsible for maintaining and updating their software, which means customers don’t have to worry about keeping their software up to date.
- Scalability: SaaS applications can often be easily scaled up or down depending on the needs of the business.
- Accessibility: SaaS applications can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, which can be useful for remote work or collaboration.
Cons of Software-as-a-Service delivery:
- Limited customization: SaaS applications are often less customizable than traditional software, since customers are reliant on the provider’s configuration options.
- Dependence on internet connectivity: SaaS applications require a stable internet connection to function properly, which can be a disadvantage for businesses operating in areas with poor internet connectivity.
- Security concerns: Since SaaS applications are hosted by third-party providers, there may be concerns about the security of customer data.
- Subscription fees: While SaaS can have lower upfront costs, subscription fees can add up over time and become a significant expense for businesses.
- Limited offline functionality: Since SaaS applications require an internet connection, they may not be useful for tasks that need to be performed offline.
Pros of traditional software delivery:
- More customization: Traditional software delivery can often be more customizable than SaaS applications, since customers have greater control over the configuration of the software.
- No internet connectivity required: Traditional software can be used offline, which can be an advantage for businesses operating in areas with poor internet connectivity.
- Ownership of software: With traditional software delivery, businesses own the software outright and can use it as long as they want, without being tied to a subscription model.
- More control over security: Since traditional software is installed on the customer’s own servers, businesses have more control over the security of their data.
- No ongoing subscription fees: With traditional software delivery, businesses only have to pay for the software once, without the need for ongoing subscription fees.
Cons of traditional software delivery:
- Higher upfront costs: Traditional software delivery can require a significant upfront investment in purchasing and installing software, which can be a barrier for some businesses.
- Longer implementation times: Traditional software delivery can require more time to install and configure, which can result in longer implementation times.
- Responsibility for updates and maintenance: With traditional software delivery, businesses are responsible for maintaining and updating their own software, which can be time-consuming and require specialized expertise.
- Limited scalability: Traditional software may not be easily scalable, and businesses may need to purchase additional licenses or hardware to accommodate growth.
- Limited accessibility: Traditional software may only be accessible from certain devices or locations, which can be a disadvantage for remote work or collaboration.
Completely Integrated E-Commerce Solutions
A completely integrated e-commerce solution is a software system that provides all the necessary features and tools to manage an online store, from start to finish. This type of solution is designed to be a comprehensive and seamless platform, where all the components work together to provide a seamless experience for the user.
A completely integrated e-commerce solution typically includes features such as:
- E-commerce platform: A platform for building and managing an online store.
- Payment gateway: A service for processing online payments.
- Inventory management: A system for managing inventory levels, tracking stock movements, and creating purchase orders.
- Order management: A system for managing orders, including tracking order status, generating shipping labels, and managing returns.
- Customer management: A system for managing customer information, including contact details, order history, and preferences.
- Marketing automation: A system for automating marketing tasks, such as email campaigns, social media posts, and abandoned cart reminders.
- Analytics and reporting: A system for tracking sales, visitor behavior, and other key metrics, and generating reports to help improve performance.
- Integrations: A completely integrated e-commerce solution should be able to integrate with other systems, such as accounting software, shipping carriers, and other third-party tools.
There are several completely integrated e-commerce solutions that are designed specifically for the small and medium-sized business (SMBs) market. Some popular examples include:
- Shopify: Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that provides a comprehensive set of features for building and managing an online store. It includes tools for website design, product management, order processing, payment processing, and marketing automation.
- BigCommerce: BigCommerce is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that provides a range of features for managing an online store. It includes tools for product management, order processing, payment processing, shipping, and marketing automation.
- Squarespace: Squarespace is a website builder that includes e-commerce functionality. It provides tools for creating and managing an online store, including product management, order processing, payment processing, and shipping.
- Wix: Wix is another website builder that includes e-commerce functionality. It provides tools for creating and managing an online store, including product management, order processing, payment processing, and shipping.
- Volusion: Volusion is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that provides a range of features for managing an online store. It includes tools for product management, order processing, payment processing, shipping, and marketing automation.
These solutions are designed to be easy to use and affordable for small and medium-sized business, while still providing a comprehensive set of features for managing an online store.
Additional E-Commerce Resources
As e-commerce continues to grow in importance, Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are seeking out additional resources to help them navigate the digital landscape. Fortunately, there are many helpful links and resources available to assist small and medium-sized business in everything from building and launching an online store to managing their digital marketing campaigns. These resources can provide valuable insights and tools that can help small and medium-sized business achieve success in the competitive world of e-commerce. In this response, we will provide a list of some additional resources and helpful links for Canadian small and medium-sized business related to e-commerce.
- Canada Business App: A mobile application created by the Government of Canada that provides small business owners with access to important information and resources, including e-commerce support. Available for free on the App Store and Google Play.
- Canada Post E-commerce Solutions: Provides shipping and fulfillment solutions for Canadian e-commerce businesses, including discounts for small business customers. Offers a range of services, such as package tracking, delivery confirmation, and returns management.
- BDC E-commerce Tools and Resources: The Business Development Bank of Canada offers a variety of e-commerce resources and tools for small businesses, including webinars, guides, and financing options.
- Shopify Learn: A free resource hub for e-commerce entrepreneurs that offers courses, workshops, and other educational resources on topics like marketing, product development, and customer retention.
- Digital Main Street: A program funded by the Government of Canada that provides free digital transformation services and support for small businesses, including e-commerce tools and resources.
- Canada Revenue Agency: The federal agency responsible for administering tax laws and regulations. Provides guidance and resources for small businesses, including e-commerce businesses, on topics like tax obligations, GST/HST registration, and payroll deductions.
- E-commerce Canada: An online resource hub for e-commerce businesses in Canada that provides news, articles, and industry insights on topics like marketing, logistics, and customer experience.
- Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB): A non-profit organization that advocates for small businesses in Canada. Offers resources and support for small businesses, including e-commerce tools and advice.
- Digital Strategy Fund: A program created by the Canada Council for the Arts that provides funding for Canadian arts organizations to undertake digital projects, including e-commerce initiatives.
- Trade Commissioner Service: Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) can help companies that are ready to start doing business online with customers abroad, or those already selling internationally.
Glossary of e-commerce related definitions, terms, and acronyms:
Our e-commerce toolbox will include many terms and acronyms that may not be familiar to all business leaders. Please take the time to read through this list of definitions to get a brief explanation on each item. You can refer back to this section if there are terms in the the toolbox that are unfamiliar to you.
- E-commerce: Electronic commerce, which refers to buying and selling products or services over the internet.
- B2B: Business-to-business e-commerce, which involves transactions between two businesses.
- B2C: Business-to-consumer e-commerce, which involves transactions between a business and a consumer.
- C2C: Consumer-to-consumer e-commerce, which involves transactions between individual consumers.
- UX: User experience, which is the overall experience a user has while interacting with a website or application.
- API: Application programming interface, which is a set of protocols and tools for building software applications.
- PPC: Pay-per-click, which is a model of digital advertising where advertisers pay each time a user clicks on their ad.
- ROI: Return on investment, which is a measure of the profitability of an investment.
- Fulfillment: The process of receiving, processing, and delivering customer orders.
- Dropshipping: A fulfillment method where a retailer does not keep inventory in stock but instead fulfills orders by directly shipping products from a supplier to the customer.
- CMS: Content Management System, which is software used to create, manage, and modify digital content on a website.
- SEO: Search Engine Optimization, which is the process of optimizing a website to improve its visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
- CTA: Call-to-Action, which is a button, link, or image on a website that encourages the user to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
- CDN: Content Delivery Network, which is a network of servers that helps to distribute website content to users based on their geographical location.
- Domain: The unique name that identifies a website on the internet, such as www.example.com.
- Responsive design: A design approach that ensures that a website’s layout and content adapts to different screen sizes and devices.
- SSL/TLS: Secure Sockets Layer, Transport Layer Security, which are security protocols used to provide secure communication over the internet, particularly for sensitive data like credit card information.
- Landing page: A single web page designed to be the entry point for a specific marketing campaign or promotion.
- Analytics: The collection and analysis of website data, including user behavior, traffic sources, and conversion rates.
- A/B testing: A method of comparing two different versions of a webpage to determine which one performs better, by measuring user behavior and conversion rates.
Online Store Definitions
- Shopping cart: The software that allows customers to select items for purchase and proceed to checkout on an online store.
- Payment gateway: The service that processes online payments for an online store, such as PayPal or Stripe.
- Chargeback: A dispute initiated by a customer with their bank or credit card company over a charge made to their account, which can result in a refund being issued to the customer and a chargeback fee for the merchant.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
- Retargeting: The practice of advertising to customers who have previously visited an online store, with the aim of bringing them back to complete a purchase.
- Customer lifetime value: The total amount of money a customer is expected to spend over the course of their relationship with an online store.
- Shipping zones: Geographic areas that an online store can define to set different shipping rates or methods based on the location of the customer.
- Upselling: The practice of encouraging customers to purchase more expensive or higher quality products than the one they are currently considering.
- Wholesaling: The practice of selling products in bulk to other businesses at a lower cost per unit, rather than selling to individual customers.
- Inventory management: The process of tracking and managing the stock of products available for sale on an online store, including stock levels, product variants, and supplier information.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Definitions
- CRM: Customer Relationship Management, which is a strategy for managing interactions with customers to improve customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty.
- Contact management: The process of organizing and managing customer data, such as contact information, preferences, and history of interactions.
- Lead scoring: The process of assigning a numerical value to a lead based on their level of interest, engagement, and likelihood to become a customer.
- Sales pipeline: The visual representation of the stages in the sales process, from lead generation to closing a deal, typically managed within a CRM system.
- Churn rate: The rate at which customers stop doing business with a company, which is an important metric for measuring customer retention and loyalty.
- Marketing automation: The use of software to automate marketing tasks, such as email campaigns and social media posting, to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
- Sales forecasting: The process of predicting future sales revenue based on historical data, market trends, and other factors.
- Customer engagement: The level of interaction and communication that a customer has with a company, which is an important metric for measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Social listening: The process of monitoring social media channels for mentions of a company or brand, to understand customer sentiment and respond to feedback.
- Data analysis: The process of analyzing customer data to gain insights into their behavior, preferences, and needs, to inform marketing and sales strategies.
Digital Bookkeeping & ERP Definitions
- ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning, which is a software system that integrates different business processes, such as accounting, inventory management, and customer relationship management.
- General ledger: The main accounting record that summarizes all financial transactions of a business, typically organized by accounts such as assets, liabilities, and revenue.
- Cost accounting: The process of tracking and analyzing the costs of producing goods or services, often used to improve profitability and efficiency.
- Financial reporting: The process of preparing financial statements, such as balance sheets and income statements, to provide an overview of a business’s financial performance.
- Budgeting: The process of creating and managing a budget, typically using software tools to track expenses and revenues and to forecast future cash flows.
- Payroll: The process of managing employee compensation, including salaries, benefits, and taxes, often managed within an ERP system.
- Cash flow management: The process of tracking and managing a business’s cash flow, often using software tools to ensure sufficient cash reserves and to optimize cash usage.
- Electronic invoicing: The process of sending and receiving invoices electronically, often using an ERP system to improve accuracy and efficiency.
- Financial analysis: The process of analyzing financial data to evaluate a business’s performance, identify trends, and make informed decisions.
- Audit trail: A record of all financial transactions, including who initiated them, when they occurred, and any changes made, often used for auditing and compliance purposes.
Document Digitization Definitions
- OCR: Optical Character Recognition, which is a technology that converts scanned images of text into machine-readable text.
- Document management system: A software system for storing, organizing, and retrieving digital documents, often including features like version control and access permissions.
- Digitization: The process of converting physical documents, such as paper or microfilm, into digital format for storage, retrieval, and sharing.
- Metadata: Information about a digital document, such as the author, date, and keywords, that helps with organization and searchability.
- PDF: Portable Document Format, which is a file format developed by Adobe that can preserve the formatting and layout of a document across different devices and platforms.
- Cloud storage: A type of digital storage where data is stored remotely on servers accessed via the internet, often used for secure document storage and collaboration.
- Version control: The process of managing different versions of a document, including changes and revisions, to ensure accuracy and consistency.
- Document security: Measures to protect digital documents from unauthorized access, alteration, or distribution, often including encryption and access controls.
- Electronic signature: A digital signature used to indicate the signer’s intent to agree or approve a document, often used for legal or contractual purposes.
- Records management: The process of managing an organization’s documents and records throughout their lifecycle, from creation to disposal, often including policies and procedures for retention and destruction.