inFORM Decisions, the Irvine, California, software company best known for its forms-design and document-management applications, is going into the e-commerce business. Last week inFORM launched iShop, an out-of-the-box e-commerce application for OS/400 servers that includes a pre-built, Web-based storefront interface, secure payment facilities, and ready integration with ordering applications on AS/400 or iSeries servers.
While the hype surrounding e-commerce applications has died down considerably since its peak in late 1999 and early 2000, one cannot deny the advantages and business benefits of allowing customers to place orders directly over the Web. There are many toolsets and software applications that can take OS/400 shops to the Web, and many more out-of-work Web designers who could fashion a connection from a back-end OS/400 application to a front-end Web site, most likely running on a cheap Windows NT server.
But for those shops that want to run a native OS/400 application in its native language, there are fewer options on the table. That's why inFORM Decisions developed iShop, which it wrote in RPG with an HTML user interface.
The iShop contains the type of features you would expect to find in an e-commece application, including the capability to browse products in a catalog and place orders and to look up order status, order history, and account information. Administrators can control certain aspects of the look and feel of the Web site to keep it consistent with the company's color scheme, and payment can be made directly by credit card or indirectly through credit-card-processing services (like PayPal). The software also uses 128-bit encryption to secure the log-in process and to process credit card transactions.
On the back-end, iShop integrates with existing order processing applications. When orders are placed through iShop, the application will automatically notify preselected company personnel of the orders and will export those orders automatically to the back-end OS/400 application for processing.
The iShop also includes a dynamic pricing capability that changes the price a customer is charged based on predefined rules. This feature can establish a selling price based on a markup percentage over wholesale that can be defined by customer, product, product category, history, or other parameters. For example, if the item was bought previously, iShop can look at the current wholesale price, apply the markup used in the last sale, and calculate the new price.
This dynamic price calculation feature is unique to iShop, says Davis Yokana, director of internet development at inFORM Decisions. "Price variance calculations allow you to preserve the terms of any established agreement between the customer and vendor," he says.
Other features include automatic sales tax calculation and a history log that Web site managers can use to find information about visitors to the site. The iShop also has its own database that speeds data access and allows the product to be run independently of the back-end, OS/400-based application, if desired.
For more information, go to www.informdecisions.com