Blog: company stores 101
While many company stores are open to the public, some clients require a more limited form of access. They may not want the general public viewing the store at all, or they may only want specific people to be able to place orders or see certain products. Your storeBlox CS Company Store includes a variety of methods for controlling access to the store itself, as well as the products within it. For access to the store as a whole, there are four different possibilities:
- Public Access: This is a normal, publicly available store with no restrictions on access
- Public Access – Registration not required to place orders: A variation on the above, this allows users to order products and check out without even creating an account (also known as Guest Checkout). This can be useful if you get mostly one-off orders.
- Closed Access: A visitor cannot access the store at all without a user name and password. This is a locked down site, with all user access managed by you or the client, by creating user accounts for authorized users.
- Limited Access: This is like Closed Access but allows for registration of visitors who have an Invitation Code. In general, this is going to be the preferred method of handling password-protected company stores, because it allows new visitors with an invitation code to register and gain access immediately. Unless you need airtight control (and don’t mind managing every single user in the store), Limited Access will be your best bet for a restricted store.
One other method of controlling overall access to a store is restricting by email domain. This can be in addition to other restrictions, or it can be on its own. If you restrict by email domain, a visitor cannot create an account without using the correct email domain, e.g. email@example.com. This is often a reasonably foolproof method for making sure that only the employees of your client’s company can register at the site and place orders (assuming you don’t have Guest Checkout enabled).
Finally, as we discuss in detail separately Building Mini Stores using Group Features, Groups are a fantastic way to restrict which products any given user in a store can view. Why would you want to restrict product visibility in a store?
- Private Categories: If your client has a public store but has a few items that are only available to employees, Group-based category restriction handles showing those restricted products to employees only.
- Department-specific products: Some companies have products geared toward specific divisions or groups within the company – for instance, the marketing department might be able to order sell sheets and signage, while the rest of the company can only order apparel and hard goods.
- Multiple locations: Sometimes different locations need different product mixes, but you don’t want to manage multiple stores and your customer doesn’t want to pay for them. Group-based access can create virtual “mini-stores” for each location.
Group-based access to categories handles all these scenarios easily; just assign a category to the appropriate groups, and storeBlox CS handles who gets to see what. For more detail on Group management, check out our Company Stores 101 post here Building Mini Stores using Group Features!
Some company stores don’t carry any inventory; everything is custom-ordered and drop-shipped to the customer. But most company stores have at least some inventory, and many are a hybrid: inventory for fast-moving, high-volume items; drop shipment for everything else, like items that require a custom logo or a name drop. By combining inventory and drop ship items, you can cover all the items your client might need.
Inventory in your storeBlox CS company store is easy to enter and maintain yourself, but it’s also robust enough to handle just about anything you want to throw at it. Here are the basics:
Product Settings: At the most basic level, a product that you carry in inventory needs to be set up to Track Inventory. When a product is set up to track inventory, the available inventory can be displayed on the product page of your company store, and the inventory will decrease as orders are placed. In addition, you can set a Warning Level so that you’ll receive an email whenever that product reaches a certain level, so you can re-order it. Finally, you can specify whether or not a product can be Back Ordered if it’s out of stock. If this box isn’t checked a customer cannot complete an order for an item that exceeds current inventory.
Managing Inventory: Once you’ve set up inventoried products, you need to enter the actual amount you have on hand. storeBlox CS gives you a handy, one-screen tool for entering all your inventory information at once:
Just as importantly, the Manage Inventory screen is where you handle ongoing inventory adjustments. Ongoing adjustments occur when an inventory action occurs outside of a normal purchase transaction in the online store. For instance, someone might call in an order, or someone from the marketing department might be able to pull items directly from inventory. Your customer might also occasionally just decide to drop a product entirely and destroy them or give them away. Manage Inventory handles all of this.
Reporting on Inventory: Most programs with inventory typically involve an agreement with your client. They may take ownership of the inventory or they may want you to own it, in which case they (hopefully!) agree to order a certain amount from you. In either case, you need detailed reporting to make sure everything lines up.
Two storeBlox CS reports can handle most of your needs here: the Inventory Report, which provides a full transaction history of every inventory action in a store in a specified date range; and the Inventory Valuation Report, which gives you and your customer a detailed snapshot of the total value of all the items currently held in inventory. Even if you don’t think you need this report now, it’s good to get acquainted with it, because sooner or later the bean counters (yours or your customer’s) are going to come along asking for details on the monetary value of what’s stashed in that warehouse.
For more advanced programs, ask us about inventory integration, where we can set up your store to talk directly with your warehouse or accounting package, automatically!
If you’ve ever been given a gift card for your birthday, you’re familiar with the concept of “stored value”. Gift cards (or “stored value” or “retained value” cards as they’re sometimes known in the retail industry) are just one way to give customers a limited amount of money to spend at a store or restaurant.
While your storeBlox CS company store can process normal credit card transactions, it also has numerous methods for giving customers money to spend. There are a lot of reasons you might want to do this:
- Your client wants to limit the amount of money their customers can spend
- Your client wants to reward an employee
- A client’s department (a group within the company) has a fixed budget that they cannot exceed
A storeBlox CS company store has three primary methods for handling this:
Gift Certificates: Gift certificates in storeBlox CS work pretty much the same way they work anywhere else; you assign a dollar value and an expiration date, then storeBlox CS generates a unique code. This code is used by the customer when they place an order.
Every gift certificate has an audit trail, which is a fancy way of saying we track all the transactions against the gift certificate, right there on the certificate itself, including the final balance:
Budgets: Budgets are kind of like gift certificates on steroids, and they are used for a different purpose. Gift certificates are meant to be handed out to anyone, where budgets are assigned to specific users or groups to control spending.
Two other big differences you’ll see in budgets from gift certificates: You can continually modify a budget as needed, adding or subtracting funds down the road (and even adding notes as to why!). Budgets also have built-in detail reporting of usage, and these reports can be exported to your favorite spreadsheet program whenever you like!
Points: Points stores are a topic unto themselves, but points are simply an alternative “currency” that a store can use when regular dollars are not desirable. Points have two distinct advantages over other methods of storing value.
First, points can be accumulated. That means that your client can use points to reward employees for, say, safety or performance, and the employees can collect points over time to get the things they really want. 30 points might get them a shirt, but if they have six straight months of perfect safety they can get that iPod Touch they’ve been craving.
Second, using points may have accounting advantages over other methods of giving customers money to use (we’re not accountants, so please talk to your friendly CPA about this). Since things like gift certificates can store value, your client may be “on the hook” for that dollar value until it’s used or the gift certificate expires. Points usually have no real dollar value, so the accounting implications are often less complex.
Look for a separate Company Stores 101 on points stores very soon!