Adapting To Electronic Commerce

Computer spitting out greenbacks As more businesses use the Internet to electronically market and sell their products, many of them are turning to an interesting source for help in using that technology-certified public accountants (CPAs).

Electronic commerce refers to transacting a variety of business functions over the Internet, such as sales, purchases, information and data exchange, including both business-to-business and consumer-to-business transactions.

CPAs are helping businesses develop a strategy for electronic commerce -- reviewing software and hardware needs, evaluating communications systems, and providing electronic work flow solutions. CPAs also have the ability to determine the profit potential of conducting electronic commerce. In addition, as part of a valuable new service, CPAs soon will be providing assurance with respect to the integrity and security of electronic transactions.

When electronic commerce works well, it benefits both businesses and their customers. One successful Web site, considered to be a model for all online commerce, is a virtual bookstore. Self-described as "Earth's Biggest Bookstore," (, the site allows its customers to order from a virtual inventory of one million titles. Most of the company's inventory is kept in suppliers' warehouses, keeping storage costs low.

Here's how it works. When a visitor types "David Brinkley" into the site's search engine, a list of matches is displayed, including David Brinkley's recent bestseller. The visitor can then click on the title to see a picture of the cover, read a description of the book, a book review, or a feature written by Brinkley about the book.

To purchase the book, the shopper enters his/her name and address. Regular customers can enter an ID and password so address information does not have to be rekeyed. If you don't want to enter a credit card number online, you can enter the last four digits and call an 800 number to complete the transaction. The customer receives an e-mail message that confirms the order and provides shipping details.

Other popular online purchases include travel-related services and computer products. Large retailers are also going online. Wal-Mart adds two hundred products per week to its Wal-Mart site-a popular place to purchase goods online.

CPAs suggest that before a company decides to sell on the Web, it should:

In response to today's rapidly changing business climate, CPAs are expanding beyond their traditional tax and audit work to provide technological solutions to business problems through relevant counsel and targeted information to their business clients.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization of CPAs with more than 331,000 members in public practice, business and industry, government and education. (NAPSI)

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