One of the many bonuses of ecommerce transactions is increased accuracy of data, due to four reasons:
- Customers generally key or enter data themselves.
- Data entered by customers are stored for later use.
- Data entered at the point of sale are reused throughout the entire order fulfillment process.
- Information is used as feedback to customers.
An analyst needs to be aware of the advantages that have resulted from ecommerce and the electronic capture and use of information.
Customers Keying Their Own Data
First, customers know their own information better than anyone else. They know how to spell their street address, they know whether they live on a “Drive” or a “Street,” and they know their own area code. If this information is transmitted by phone, it is easier to make a mistake spelling the address; if it is entered by using a faxed paper form, mistakes can occur if the fax transmission is difficult to read. If users enter their own information, however, accuracy increases.
Storing Data for Later Use
After customers enter information, it may be stored on their own personal computers. If they return to that ecommerce site and fill out the same form to complete a second transaction, they will witness the advantage of storing this information. As they begin to type their name, drop-down lists will prompt them with their full name even though only a couple of characters were entered. By clicking on this prompt, the full name is entered and no further typing is necessary for this field. This autocomplete feature can suggest matches for credit card and password information as well, and this information is encrypted so that Web sites cannot read the information stored on the user’s computer.
Companies that want to store information to enable faster and more accurate transactions do so in small files called cookies. Personal information can only be accessed by the company that placed the cookie on the user’s computer.
Using Data through the Order Fulfillment Process
When companies capture information from a customer order, they can use and reuse that information throughout the entire order fulfillment process. Hence, the information gathered to complete an order can also be used to send an invoice to a customer, obtain the product from the warehouse, ship the product, send feedback to the customer, and restock the product by notifying the manufacturer. It can also be used again to send a paper catalog to the customer or send a special offer by email.
These ecommerce enhancements replace the traditional approach, which used a paper-based procurement process with purchase orders sent via fax or mail. This electronic process not only speeds up the delivery of the product, but also increases the accuracy so that the product is delivered to the correct address. Rather than reading a fax or a mailed-in form, a shipper uses the more accurate electronic version of the data. Electronic information allows better supply chain management, including checking product and resource availability electronically, and automating planning, scheduling, and forecasting.
Providing Feedback to Customers
Confirmations and order status updates are ways to enhance feedback to customers. If a customer receives confirmation of a mistake in an order just placed, the order can be corrected immediately. For example, suppose a customer mistakenly submits an order for two copies of a DVD rather than one. After submitting the order, the customer receives an email confirming the order. The customer notices the mistake, immediately contacts the company, and has the order corrected, thereby avoiding having to return the extra copy of the DVD. Accuracy is improved by better feedback.