One of the most thriving sectors of the Internet is eCommerce. People are getting more and more used to buying from Internet shops and every year the volume and value of sales increases a lot. If you are interested in opening your own eCommerce web site here are a few essentials you should know before you start.
The first thing you will need, is, of course, a product or service that you can sell. If you do already have a shop, you can open a website that will sell the same products to a wider audience. The number of products you sell will be a big factor in the type of hosting package you require. For example, if you have less than 20 items, you could set the website up on a very small hosting account. If however you choose to list hundreds of products, you will probably need more disk space, more bandwidth, and more options like databases and a secure connection for accepting payments.
Since the crucial part of eCommerce is getting paid, let’s take a look at the many payment options offered. In fact, there are two basic options – gathering payment information directly or hiring a third-party service to process credit cards.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
If you plan to get or already do have a merchant account which allows you to process credit cards you will need to have a web site with a secure connection. The secure connection provides a method to encrypt sensitive information so that it cannot be intercepted and read as it travels across the Internet. If you don’t have a secure connection (indicated by https at the start of the URL) customers won’t feel safe and this will reduce their chances of buying from you.
In order to get a secure connection, you will need to apply for an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. These certificates are issued by companies such as Thawte which will ask you for some information which can be verified concerning your identity and location. Once you obtain the certificate it must be installed on your web site. For this you will need a unique IP address – available at an extra cost from most web hosts. You might have to pay an extra fee to get the certificate installed.
Third Party Gateways
If this option sounds too complicated, you can alternatively go with a third party service that will handle all the financial transactions for you. When they complete a sale, your customers will be redirected to the web site of the payment service where they can provide their credit card details. Some of these services might ask you for setup fees and charge you a commission for each sale, and some others (such as PayPal) charge nothing for the set up and simply ask for a percentage of each sale.
A shopping cart is a script which you can install in your hosting account. They can make the whole eCommerce experience more automatic by organizing your products into categories, creating pages that will describe the categories as well as individual items, allowing you to keep track of returning clients, and suggesting other items for the customer to buy before they check out. You can also make your customers rate the products they have just purchased from your shop.
Whilst providing a structure for your online business, shopping carts can provide a more satisfying shopping experience. Many hosting packages include free shopping cart scripts like Miva, Agora, osCommerce, and Zen. When you choose an eCommerce package, make sure it will support your chosen method of payment gateway. For instance, if you already have a merchant account with your local bank, use that as your basis for choosing a shopping cart which can support that particular method of payment.
Martin Redford is contributing editor at WebDesignArticles.net. This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.