Based in Dublin, I recently bought a book through amazon.co.uk from a third-party UK reseller. The amount was deducted in pounds sterling from my credit card by Amazon, while the book was shipped from Lakewood in Washington State. Ultimately my book arrived via US airmail and the payment was deducted by my credit card company (in Euros) from my bank account. Shortly after the book arrived I received an email from Amazon asking me to comment on the service provided by the reseller.

Sound complicated?

Yes, and I probably haven’t considered all of the parties on whom this transaction depended. The third-party who authorised and processed my credit card payment for example.

Selling networks are complicated, but for everyone except the customer. A customer visits a website looking for a product or service and is presented with the greatest amount of choice. He finds the product he wants at the price that he’s happy with and pays with his credit card. The product arrives by post in a number of days. Simple. Happy customer.

To make this work with numerous partners across multiple jurisdictions the retailer must put in a lot of effort, making sure that from end-to-end the process is watertight. This apporach provides significant opportunities, not just for pure etailers, but for traditional retailers who want to sell online. The web offers greater opportunities for retailers to offer the widest range of products and services to their customers than has previously been possible.

Those who succeed will make it simple for the customer, regardless of how complicated it is behind the scenes.