of the Ecommerce Module by Eve Andersson of ArsDigita
Before reading this, make sure that you have read about setting up your ecommerce module. This document takes up where that one leaves off and covers all the components of operating your on-line shop with the exception of customer service, which is a submodule in itself.


These are the states that an order can go through:
   +-------- IN_BASKET <----------------+ (if authorization fails --
   |            |                       | it might also temporarily go
   |            |                       | into FAILED_AUTHORIZATION
EXPIRED      CONFIRMED------------------+ before returning to IN_BASKET)
          |                  |    
          |                  |
               |        |

An order can also be put into the VOID state at any time by the site administrator. (Note: these states are actually stored in all lowercase in the database, but it's clearer to use uppercase letters in the documentation.)

An order is IN_BASKET when the customer has put items into their shopping cart on the site but has not indicated an intent to buy (if they stay there too long they go into the EXPIRED state; "too long" is defined in the parameters/yourservername.ini file; default is 30 days). When the customer submits their order, the state becomes CONFIRMED. Only then do we try to authorize their credit card. If the authorization succeeds, the order state will be updated to AUTHORIZED_PLUS_AVS or AUTHORIZED_MINUS_AVS. AVS stands for Address Verification System (for more information on AVS, read the ecommerce chapter of Philip & Alex's Guide to Web Publishing. Because AVS is flaky and unreliable, we treat AUTHORIZED_PLUS_AVS orders the same as AUTHORIZED_MINUS_AVS orders. If an order fails, it goes back into the IN_BASKET state and the customer is given another chance to enter their credit card information.

Problems occur if we don't hear back from CyberCash or if they give us a result that is inconclusive. In cases like this, the order state remains in the CONFIRMED state. A scheduled procedure sweeps the database every once in a while looking for CONFIRMED orders that are over 15 minutes old and tries to authorize them. If the authorization succeeds, the order is put into the AUTHORIZED_PLUS_AVS or AUTHORIZED_MINUS_AVS state. If it fails, it is temporarily put into the FAILED_AUTHORIZATION state so that it can be taken care of by a scheduled procedure which sends out email to the customer saying that we couldn't authorize their order and then saves the order for them (a saved order is one in the IN_BASKET state with saved_p='t'; it can be retrieved easily by the customer later).

Once an order is authorized they are ready to be shipped. An order which has some of its items shipped is PARTIALLY_FULFILLED and orders for which a full shipment is made are FULFILLED. It remains in the fulfilled state unless all of the items in the order are returned, at which time it becomes financially uninteresting and goes into the RETURNED state.

Individual items in an order also go through a series of states:

IN_BASKET -----------+
   |                 |
An item starts out in the IN_BASKET state. When the order it's in becomes authorized, the item becomes TO_BE_SHIPPED. Because partial shipments can be made on orders, SHIPPED is a state of the individual items, not of the order. There is currently no mechanism for putting an item into the ARRIVED state but it could be used if you were to set up a method of data exchange with FedEx's database to get the actual arrival date and arrival detail for each of the packages you ship. If the customer returns an item to you, it is put into the RECEIVED_BACK state. Like orders, individual items can also be put into the VOID state (e.g. if the customer changes their mind or if you run out of stock before you can ship it).

OK, so what can you actually do with orders? You can:

On an individual order, you can:

Gift Certificates

As you know from setting up your ecommerce module, you can configure whether to allow customers to purchase gift certificates for others. These are the states that a purchased gift certificate goes through:
        |                   |                     |
Regardless of whether you allow customers to purchase gift certificates, you can always issue gift certificates to your customers. Gift certificates that you issue automatically go into the AUTHORIZED state.

There are a few fundamental ways in which purchased gift certificates differ from assigned gift certificates. Purchased gift certificates are sent to some recipient who may or may not be a registered user of the system, along with a claim check. These gift certificates must be claimed upon order checkout in order to be used. Issued gift certificates, on the other hand, are given to registered users of the system and are put directly into their gift certificate balance. There is no need for them to be claimed because there is no ambiguity about who the gift certificates belong to.

All gift certificates have an expiration date (this is necessary so that your liability has a definite ending point). A customer's gift certificate balance is equal to the sum of all the unused portions of each non-expired gift certificate they own. When their gift certificate balance is applied toward a new order, the gift certificates that expire soonest are the first to be applied.

Things you can do with gift certificates:

Site Upkeep

Besides the most important task of filling orders, there are some other things that need to be done once in a while.

Naturally, you'll want to rotate your product recommendations every so often to keep your site looking fresh, even if your product database doesn't change. You will also need to periodically approve/disapprove customer reviews (if you've set reviews to require approval) and perhaps view some reports to make sure everything is going as you expected.

Dealing with Problems

A log of potential problems is maintained by the system when it comes across issues that it is unable to resolve. These problems (hopefully infrequent) will need to be resolved by hand.

Continue on to the Customer Service Submodule.