6 Things to Make Your Product Catalog More Customer - and Billing-Friendly,
Or How Not to Make a Mess of Your eCommerce Business Due to Poorly Compatible Billing and Product Catalog Functionality
Just like any complex process that consists of a mosaic of components and business-specific nuances, billing is hard to both implement and fine-tune. You not only have to take into account a diverse number of components and interrelations between them, but also be able to predict your future needs and plan over the long haul. This is a very difficult task, especially, if you have no previous experience with billing software and off-the-shelf billing solutions seem to be a misfit in your case, or are just overloaded with frills and, as a result, too costly.
While it is still advisable that you find a software provider, knowledgeable of the many things that need to be taken into account while building a product catalog and making it compatible with a billing system, below we will dwell on several important facets of the billing process that involve the interaction of a billing system with a Product Catalog. We’ll also provide several tips that can help you stay out of billing-related trouble, caused by your Product Catalog and billing system being at variance with one another. At first, about,
How It All Works
Regardless of whether your billing software is intended to help you make millions of dollars by selling utilities to the inhabitants of a bunch of megalopolises, or help you collect whatever your small sideline business has yielded, your billing app always interacts with a Product Catalog.
For a small-time eCommerce business, you hardly ever need to add to the Product Catalog something other than the products, or services you sell. You also need to indicate the prices of these products or services.
With more advanced and larger-scale eCommerce retailing, things, normally, get a lot more complicated.
If a product you want to sell comes with an after-sale service of some kind, or with a regional, volume, or seasonal discount, you need to indicate all the related interrelations in your Product Catalog. The same happens if your products and/or services are bundled, i.e. sold together.
For example, if you sell mobile phones via your eCommerce app, you may want to bundle some of your models with an accessory, such, as for example, a phone case, while also being able to grant your buyers a corresponding discount.
Any movement of funds across your eCommerce app, caused by the sale of a product or service, creates a charging event. The same happens if you engage in other commercial activities via a website, for instance, if you lease out equipment, run a car rentals business or boat livery, or grant loans.
Often, such as, for example, in the case of Telecommunications or utility providers, customers make regular payments, or pay on installment plan. Because of this, one-time and recurring charging events also need to be introduced.
All charges for products and/or services, sold via your app, are calculated by the Rating functionality of your billing software, taking into account the corresponding discounts and other pricing factors, as well as their various, often, intricate combinations.
So, how does one go about implementing the whole thing in such a way that nothing will collide, everything will be taken into consideration, and no overhaul of what’s been developed will, eventually, be required?
How To Make It All Work As Expected
There are several more generic tips we would stick to as developers of billing software and Product Catalog functionality.
They are as follows:
Focus on your Product Catalog and align the rest with this functionality. A Product Catalog is always central to any billing system.
Bundled products and services greatly affect the structure of a Product Catalog. Try to think of and list as many product and service bundles, as you can, prior to the start of the development effort. Make sure all the bundles are reflected in your functional specification and the billing system to be developed allows for adding more bundles you may require in the future.
Spend more time on working out an optimal hierarchy of product categories. While a large number of product categories makes finding a product difficult for the user, a small number of product categories entails longer product lists that are difficult to navigate and search too. In our reckoning, the best option here is to implement this functionality as an easily navigable tree.
Also, you can create several sites with varying look and feel, each devoted to one of your product categories and powered by the same engine. This will make your Product Catalog a lot more easily navigable and the products contained in it a lot more accessible.
One of the blunders a less experienced software development team can easily make is implementing the Price Management functionality of your eCommerce software as part of your Product Catalog.
We think that it is a lot more expedient to implement the Price Management functionality as a standalone module of your eCommerce application in order to allow for greater flexibility: you may want to postpone selling some of your products and need to adjust the prices in the offing accordingly.
Besides, it makes no sense to lump together your Product Catalog/billing software application and the Inventory/Warehousing functionality you use. This can, actually, often, be critical: without this partition you would, in most instances, be unable to allow for the flexibility your business needs. This happens because a number of parameters, used in inventory management and warehousing, are, frequently, irrelevant, or excessive for a Product Catalog. There can easily be differences in measurement units (simply put, you may be buying by the ton in crates and selling by the kilo in jars), and even, product names (you may want to re-name a product to make it more marketable on an overseas market), and so on.
Moreover, if you want to take advantage of seasonal upsurges in demand and be able to sell a product at a higher price later, the partition between your Billing functionality and your Inventory functionality is absolutely essential. You will simply be able to expose the snapshot of a product and a message to the effect that the product will be available at a later date.
Whether by design, fluke, or through your painstaking effort, but your business may go so well you’ll want to expand into an adjacent business area. For example, if you are, presently, in mobile communications, you may want to get into the utilities space and establish a business presence there: after all, why not, except for the business tools you have at your disposal must be able to support this move.
It will, most probably, be possible to enable the expansion and diversification of your business technically in any case. However, being able to foresee your future business needs and wants at the start of your business endeavor can, sometimes, save you a fortune. As far as a Product Catalog is concerned, this means exactly the following: the introduction of a product, or service from a different business area must not be more complicated than the mere configuration/creation of a new product line.
Business customers vary not only by category, but also individually. They want special prices, lines and data volumes. This means that ensuring the flexibility of your Product Catalog by providing the ability to configure several attributes within some predefined limits on the customer category level may not be enough to make your clientele truly happy.
Make sure your Product Catalog is flexible enough to support creating any given combination of your products and services, including bundles that comprise products and/or services from different business areas.
In conclusion, it should be noted that both sophisticated product catalogs and billing solutions are just the kind of software that can hardly be developed properly by a team that consists solely of software engineers and does not include one, or more highly qualified (and, preferably, Billing-savvy) Business Analysts. Active and close interactions of your business stakeholders (or some other your in-house experts, who know your business well) with your external billing software development team would also be essential to the success of your billing project.