NetSuite Beefs Up E-Commerce Services

January 16, 2007

By Richard Morochove

One of the difficulties that any small e-commerce business faces is integrating the flow of information to and from its Web site, which is typically hosted by a service, and its accounting software, which usually resides on a local PC or server. You can periodically upload new inventory data and download new sales data to keep things in sync, but that approach doesn’t work as seamlessly and efficiently as it should.

One solution is NetSuite, a venerable online service that handles business accounting and financial management and can also host a financially integrated e-commerce Web site. While NetSuite boasts impressive accounting capabilities, until now it did not offer much flexibility for handling high-end e-commerce needs.

The latest round of improvements to NetSuite significantly enhances its Web site creation and management capabilities. I looked at a beta version of NetSuite version 11, which adds feature after valuable feature for e-commerce businesses, particularly those that sell through different channels, such as retail and wholesale, and those that target international markets.

However, these improvements come at a cost. Feature-rich NetSuite isn’t designed for a budding business on a tight budget. You will spend $1100 per month or more to gain access to the broad range of services that it offers.

Multiple Sites Supported

NetSuite now lets you manage multiple e-commerce Web sites, each with its own domain if necessary. Each site is capable of providing multilingual product descriptions and handling payments in multiple currencies: For example, a site visitor from the United States could read product descriptions written in English and price them in U.S. dollars, while a visitor from France can click on a menu and choose to view descriptions in French and prices in euros. You can establish one site to target consumers, while another aims at wholesale dealers with lower prices and higher minimum purchase requirements. All sites can draw from the same product inventory data.

Every e-commerce app can show you what you sold, but NetSuite now lets you see what you almost sold. NetSuite tracks shopping cart abandonments, so that you can view what products shoppers selected but ultimately opted not to buy. You can then try to capture this lost business by offering the shoppers a special coupon or another incentive.

If you’re a budding Amazon.com, you can use some of the same tools as the big guys to boost sales, such as the automated upsell/cross-sell that recommends related products and ones that previous buyers have purchased.

NetSuite now supports digital downloads for electronic products, a useful feature for sellers of e-books, software, and digital music.

E-commerce sites are often heavily dependent on visitors referred by major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. NetSuite tracks which search terms are most productive in attracting both visitors and sales. The reports can distinguish between the results from free, natural (sometime called “organic”) search referrals and pay-per-click search engine ads, which cost you money.

From NetLedger to NetSuite

NetSuite is now almost unrecognizable from the original service launched years ago, when it was called NetLedger and was marketed as a $10-per-user-per-month basic online alternative to Intuit’s QuickBooks. NetSuite has moved so far upscale that there’s little overlap between their markets now. Today’s NetSuite might appeal to QuickBooks users at the very high end, who are probably running QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.

NetSuite’s new international e-commerce and Web site creation and management services are currently in beta testing and should be available to NetSuite users in the second quarter of this year.

NetSuite’s base price is $499 per month for a single user. Additional users cost $99 per month. The Site Builder and Site Analytics services cost an additional $299 per month each, regardless of the number of users. That sounds like a lot of money, but it includes accounting and finance functions, Web site hosting, and other capabilities such as calendar and task management. A free trial is available.

NetSuite is overkill for a mom-and-pop operation selling a couple of thousand dollars worth of merchandise per month. However, if you sell at least $20,000 per month and are looking for a platform that would support your business revenue growth to $200,000 or $2 million per month or more, then NetSuite could be just the e-ticket.

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Tech at Work: Free Web Service Offers Simple Interface to QuickBooks Data, News

November 7, 2006

By Richard Morochove

Intuit QuickBooks users who’d like a light dose of their finances topped off with the news and weather might want to check out MyBizHomepage. The advertiser-supported Web service is free (although registration is required) and lets you monitor key financial figures from your QuickBooks file while also supplying you with useful news information.

QuickBooks, of course, comes with its own financial dashboard, summarizing key financial data from your small-business accounting records. However, all these details could be overwhelming if you’re not an accountant. MyBizHomepage.com offers a simplified dashboard that may deliver just enough financial details to give you an overview of the business, without the mind-numbing detail.

In addition to financial figures from your business, the Web service can display up to six panels of other information, updated by RSS (Really Simple Syndication). There are also links to other Internet business resources, including articles and templates.

Customization Options

MyBizHomepage gives you a few customization options for the Web panel. For example, you can add up to two RSS news feeds of your choice and change the order of the panels. The other four panels feature news from MyBizHomepage, CNN, local weather, and a list of your e-mail contacts.

You can add contacts manually or import data in CSV (Comma Separated Values) or vCard format.

Importing your accounting data from QuickBooks to the online service is only a little more complicated. To link your QuickBooks data to MyBizHomepage, you must first export from within QuickBooks your chart of accounts in Intuit’s own IIF format. Then visit your account profile on MyBizHomepage and upload the IIF file from your computer to the online service. MyBizHomepage keeps track of your IIF data updates; periodically, you’ll need to repeat the export/import process to keep your online dashboard up-to-date. This could get tiresome if you want frequent updates, and it makes the service better suited for people in very small businesses who don’t use their accounting program every day.

Key financial figures from your QuickBooks accounting data, including cash, receivables, payables, and inventory, are monitored on a monthly basis for up to 24 months. You can view trends using bar graphs or display a chart of the actual numbers.

Not Customizable Enough

Aside from the problem of having to upload current data, MyBizHomepage would be more useful if you could select the items you wish to monitor from a menu. For example, a services-based business may not have any inventory to track; instead, payroll expenses may be more significant to the business and well worth following.

I’m also a little concerned about the implications of uploading confidential business financial information to an online service. MyBizHomepage says it’s secure, of course.

MyBizHomepage may not be worthwhile for financially savvy QuickBooks users. However, its dashboard is simple enough to set up and use. You can easily test this free service to see if it’s helpful to you.

MyBizHomepage

  • http://www.mybizhomepage.com
  • PCW Rating: 76
  • Value: Easy to use, free, simple financial dashboard for QuickBooks users, but requires time-consuming data export/import process to be current.
  • Price: free (registration required)

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