Maintaining the Back End

As you grow your business, keep track of how your fulfillment operation works so that it can grow with your business. Investing in good recordkeeping enables you to not only provide customers with tracking numbers and copies of invoices but also see what's working and what's not so that you can make necessary improvements.

Deciding on a database

You have several choices for storing your business information. Many online businesses create one or more databases to store these types of data:

  • Customer information
  • Order information
  • Payment information
  • Product information

Sometimes a business owner chooses a database solely because it can “talk to” the shopping cart or Web site software that the business uses. At other times, the database was installed first and the business owner wants to ensure that all other products can communicate with it. Other small-business owners organize their information by using spreadsheets in a financial program such as Microsoft Excel.

The key for you is that your database — in whatever form — needs to be accessible and searchable. You and your employees need to be able to see your data easily. You use your database to answer questions about your business (such as “How many customers do we have?” or “Which orders are ready for shipment?” or “Who still owes us money?”) and to store information about how your business is doing financially.

Your order information database should list not only the products that someone ordered ...

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