Web Malls and Multi-Vendor Shopping Carts

It’s often difficult for small business to get the attention they want on the internet. Sometimes the reason for this difficulty is that the small business doesn’t carry many products. Consequently, there aren’t many pages in the web site. From a search engines perspective, there isn’t much content, and content is what search engines crave.

To be sure, small business can and often do succeed on the internet. This is usually the result of specialized products, good SEO techniques, excellent content, and sometimes a few good back-links.

Still, for most small businesses, it’s difficult.

One way small business can increase their presence, and profits, on the internet is by teaming up with other small businesses. These partnerships are useful because they broaden the product base, increase web site content, and distribute maintenance and marketing costs.

From an e-commerce software perspective, small business partnerships create a few challenges. Security is the most mundane but the most important of these challenges. Without an e-commerce system that was built to manage multiple businesses (i.e.: vendors), it’s very easy for one company to either purposely or mistakenly change (or delete) the data that belongs to a partner company. This problem is multiplied as more companies become part of the partnership. Imagine 10 companies working in the same system with each company having unrestricted access to the data of every other company. In a matter of days the situation would become untenable.

This is how most e-commerce systems operate today. These systems have been written with the assumption that there is only one supplier in a given e-commerce store. While that is certainly reasonable for most companies, some companies would benefit by sharing their web site (and shopping cart) with other companies.

Fortunately, multi-vendor shopping carts come to the rescue. Multi-vendor shopping carts assume that a given web site may sell products from multiple vendors. Consequently the system is designed such that vendors have access to their data only. To accomplish this, each partner/vendor is assigned a unique user id and password. Their user id and password authorizes them to manage their data, and their data only.

Some multi-vendor shopping carts allow partners to share common web pages. In this way, a shopper may buy products from vendor 1, vendor 2, and vendor 3 on the same page. The shopper would never know that their order will be fulfilled by three different vendors. In other cases, the shopping cart may allow the partners to set up a virtual (or web) mall. In this case the shopper goes from page to page (or vendor to vendor) shopping for products knowing exactly who they’re buying from. Some multi-vendor shopping carts offer both.

In any case, multi-vendor shopping carts allow businesses to pool their resources, add to their product base, create lots of search engine content, and spread their administrative and marketing costs. It’s a great idea and many small businesses can benefit from it.

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