Ecommerce – nothing is simple


E-commerce has many components. Since the main purpose is to make money you need to process credit cards. This isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.  It also can spring some interesting surprises.

sem[c] ‘s client The Samurai Business Group presents a number of events every year. It order to improve the process both for the business and its clients we introduced Brown Paper Tickets, an online events aggregator. Samurai had maintained their own shopping cart on their website but decided it was wise to begin phasing it out for a variety of reasons. The new approach offered a better user interface, better calendaring and good attendee tracking capabilities. The only hitch was that Brown Papers Tickets required one of a set number of merchant account providers for credit card processing. Samurai’s provider was affiliated with

Mary Ahart at Matrix Payment Systems got the ball rolling quickly and in less than a day we got things setup, tested and into production. So far, so good… right?

The next day we heard from Mary that their risk management TriSource Solutions LLC had discovered a problem with the Brown Paper Tickets website.


Incredulity was our first response.  How could a well establish company like this have missed such a problem?  Admittedly it was a bit obscure: they had included Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned companies in their list of countries in which they claimed to deliver tickets. Trisource accurately assess this as a risk and Brown Paper Tickets, when notified, quickly agreed to correct their problem. Trisource proved why Mary could cite their great track record in preventing online fraud. Your e-commerce success can all go away if you are defrauded. You are warned.

For a search friendly website which comes first: What or Software?

The Argonne National Lab in collaboration with the Chicago Institute of Art has conclusively proved that Pablo Picasso painted masterpieces using common housepaint:

This supports a more general idea that if you know what you are doing it doesn’t necessarily require any special tools or supplies to get it done. Picasso thought the type of paint he used to be so unimportant that he never discussed it. He didn’t decide that he wanted to do something with housepaint and wound up with “Guernica”. Quite the opposite.

We consulted on a project recently on which a particular platform for e-commerce was of interest to the client.  There are several businesses under the same ownership and this platform was used for e-commerce on one of their websites. We have developed using this platform and our clients have found it to be a very good approach to e-commerce. The project overview was to refresh a legacy website that wasn’t working. The website had ineffective navigation and, as a result, a visitor had little chance of discovering much.

We prepared a proposal based on reskinning the content after using the sem[c] process to discover how best to optimize it. We included an innovative approach to utilizing an advanced search function of the e-commerce platform they had not used in their previous project. Our proposal was accepted.

The kickoff meeting revealed a very large amount of previously undisclosed information pertinent to how the businesses worked and their very different audiences. That is to say that is became very clear that part of the difficulty with the legacy website is that it really needed to be two. It also became clear that neither of these two websites would be doing e-commerce. Another surprise was that one of the websites needed to access information that the company was contractually prevented from showing on the Internet. Most importantly there was internal disagreement about all of those points.

The next day our client terminated us.  The reason given was that we were not exclusive specialists in the e-commerce platform that was used for their e-commerce site. The only thing clear about what they needed to do with “our” project meant (to us) the platform was not a good fit to best fulfill their needs. Perversely, doing the project with that platform had become their only requirement despite their lack of clarity about what to do.

Your online presence needs to make it clear to your audience what you offer of value to them. The software you use is only a means to that end. It can help or hinder your goals. It’s very unlikely that a visitor will be so impressed with your unusual use of a serverside technology that they buy muffins from you.