In order to get the most for your business and provide the high-quality service your customers come to expect, your e-commerce website should encompass a few basic but important features:
- State your company’s overview, mission and/or vision
- Provide access that is simple and user-friendly, making it easy to navigate
- Include detailed product information
- Provide a shopping cart
- Provide multiple shipping and handling options
- Offer online payment processing
Setting up an e-commerce website on your own is not as difficult as it may seem. There are different ways to go about it and various steps to take along the way. It requires a relatively small investment of time and money, but it is both cost-effective and personally rewarding. If you are going solo, or you have a fairly small firm, it should not be too difficult of a task to accomplish. Fortunately there are inexpensive and simple e-commerce services available to aid you along the way.
Following is a step-by-step guide to setting up an e-commerce website:
1. First of all, you should begin with learning how to set up a website in general. A good start is having a look at our article that easily guides you through the various steps you need to take. Thanks to innovative technology setting up an e-commerce website is easy and you don’t have to be an expert – just about everyone can do it.
2. When setting up the website you will need an e-commerce hosting software program or service with a shopping cart feature. This will allow you to receive orders, calculate shipping and handling and sales tax, and send order confirmations. The cost for this will range somewhat depending on the program or service you choose. To help you get a bit more familiar with the topic we have written an article about a couple popular, and commonly used, shopping carts today.
3. Obtain an internet merchant account from your bank, as this will allow you to accept credit card payments online. This is essential, as this method of payment is very common. Another option is to search online for "credit card processing." This will provide you with access to various companies which offer accounts to new online businesses for this purpose.
4. You will need a payment gateway account. This is an online processor which links to both your customer's credit card account and your internet merchant account. This provides real-time information verification, processing of transfer requests and credit cards authorizations. Some of the most popular providers are Authorize.net, Cybersource.com and VeriSign.com.
Another option, and a less expensive one, is to accept online payments through PayPal. This is also a very common method of payment for customers. PayPal is an account-based system which allows anyone with an e-mail address to send and receive online payments securely using a credit card or bank account. PayPal is free, although the company charges a small percentage plus a separate transaction fee. Note that the company also has a product called PayPal Website Payments Pro, which offers a basic shopping cart feature and costs approximately $20 per month plus transaction fees.
5. Your website now needs a hosting service. Begin with having a look at what your needs are. What will your site require in regards to things such as bandwidth, disk space and features in general? Don’t forget to try out the support team before settling upon one. They are often a good indicator of the web host itself. Once you know your requirements it’ll be easier to pick a host and plan. Thanks to new technology and high competition in the segment e-commerce hosting plans are relatively cheap. Three plans that I have tried and found useful for an e-commerce website are:
Advertising your company's products online is a great marketing tool. While there are a few detailed steps involved in setting up an e-commerce website in order to maintain e-commerce hosting for your company, the effort will be well worth it. You will see your business quickly expand and bring you the success you have been looking for. You will be very satisfied with the results.