Church eCommerce: Checkout and Fulfillment Options

If you made it this far in the eCommerce series, you can only guess that this last piece is about the checkout and order fulfillment process. The checkout process is obviously very important, as your customers are trying to give you their money, and it is your responsibility to make it as easy as possible. Also, your stocking and shipping practice is the other half of that contract. How quickly you can get your product to your customer, and how much you can automate it is a big piece in making your church's checkout and fulfillment options truly work for you.

Checkout Options

  • Hosted Commerce Service: This is where you do not have any eCommerce functionality on your website. Although you may have products featured, and offer to sell them. The moment they wish to purchase, they are transported to another site and service altogether. This would be like having a space on the Amazon market place, where they handle pretty much every aspect of the cart and checkout process.
  • Punch-Out Commerce Service: Probably the easiest solution for processing payments is to use an external provider. In part four of my series on donations, I give some examples of these services; but the most common provider is PayPal. While they are easier, their services do come at a price. Often you are charged a flat fee and/or order total percentage. Additionally, many of these companies handle the sales funnel, which includes asking for, or confirming the shipping address, as well as the shipping method. What you need to pass over to them various on provider; so I will not delve into it here. However once you collect the information, you pass the visitor to a separate website to fulfill the transaction. In the end, these services make it easier to stand up an eCommerce store on your website; especially if you have a small team.
  • Self-Hosted Commerce Engine: Feeling ambitious and want that next level of control? Then instead of launching off to a separate website to accomplish the transaction, you can do it yourself. Here you will need to worry about gathering the shipping address, adding on shipping charges, and handling the payment. This does not mean you actually process the card yourselves; but integrated the credit card processing software into your website. There is still a fee, but it will be lower than using a punch-out service, and there is more control over the experience people have.

Order Fulfillment Options

  • Make-On-Demand Services: A new model for stock management is simply not to have any. There are services that create and distribute products on a per-order basis. They keep the digital artifacts on file, and as the request comes to them, produce the items and ship them. This obviously reduces the amount of risk involved in creating a product like books, DVD's, and CD's. You do not have to make a large minimum order of your first run, and the concern of getting your money back. Nor do you have to worry about getting a large order that you must delay because of low stock. These companies also do you the courtesy of shipping the product as well, which requires less assistance from staff. Of course the drawback is that you make less money per transaction, but the reduced risk and overhead may be just what your church is looking for.
  • Self-Managed Stock: There are production companies that will gladly mass-produce a book or CD for you. Typical minimum orders are often in the hundreds, but the advantage here is cost. Your per-item price will be lower, and you can enjoy larger profit margins on each purchase. Yet you will need to contend with managing a stockpile of products. This may mean buying in bulk with only a hope of selling all of the products; which is large financial risk for smaller churches.

Action Item: Depending on the amount of risk you wish to take, select a type of checkout and fulfillment options best fit your church website. For my book, it was a product which I did not expect to sell a lot of; so I went with a make-on-demand service and avoided the checkout process altogether. The self-publishing company CreatSpace handles the entire process for me. While I make very little money on my book, it involved only an investment of time to publish my work. See what works for you, set up your storefront, and get marketing your product to your audience!

photo courtesy of Kolobsek

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.