Tablet-Commerce1Most ec-bp.com readers work for bricks-and-mortar stores, or for the suppliers that feed these retail outlets. How much do on-line purchases matter to them? Plenty. It's not just that on-line activity pulls away revenue that might otherwise be yours; laws and regulations aimed at on-line shopping often impact consumer relations in physical operations.

Facebook is currently in court in San Jose, defending a class-action lawsuit which accuses it of having received many millions of dollars from subscribers too young to consent legally to the payments. Whatever the outcome of this particular case, consequences are sure to follow: online vendors, credit-card companies, consumer-protection agencies and legislatures will all move to protect themselves and/or the subject minors.

That's all there is to say about Bohannon v. Facebook at this point; our legal sources tell us it's still too early to reach any definite conclusion. Along with StorefrontBacktalk, which appears to be watching this most closely and always brings keen insight to retailing matters, we'll report more over the next month about how COPPA and related laws are likely to affect you.

Spring-clean of your Supply Chain

In the meantime, May for ec-bp.com is devoted to looking at "Supply-Chain Operations". Other contributors will bring you ideas on how to streamline your logistics, even beyond eb-bp.com's traditional emphasis on EDI methods.

Along with the physical flow in the supply chain from manufacturer to store shelf or Web shopping cart, this is also a time to clean up the flow in the other direction: payments. Make the most of your working capital by learning how efficiently different payment systems operate, and incorporating their characteristics in your budget and operating plans. Can you predict how quickly your bank will credit merchant-account receipts, and what percentage will go to disputes or other chargebacks? What are your losses on retail checks received, and would you clear more by changing your menu of payment methods?

The good news in researching such questions is that, more and more, the answers are turning up in the public record. Books like Dwolla For Merchants and the just-released second edition of PayPal APIs complement more traditional cash-management textbooks. Whether your commerce is purely digital, cash-only, or somewhere in-between, the real point is that you can use much of the same supply-chain theory to analyze how money flows through your organization and how automation of sensible policy helps you make the most of it.

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