An online store is simply a website that lets you sell your products directly to your customers. It accepts payment on your behalf and customers know they need to pay you first. This is great for cashflow – you get cash even before you have delivered the products!
An online store is also known as an e-commerce website.
An online store lets you sell tangible and intangible products. It is better if you can sell intangible products as customers just need to download your product once they’ve paid. Tangible products on the other hand need to be packed and shipped.
No matter what you sell, here is an overview of the ecommerce website set up process.
Register a Domain Name and Get a Good Web Host
Setting up an e-commerce website or online store is similar to setting up a regular website. First you need to register your domain name as well as get a reliable web hosting provider.
As with regular websites, the domain name and web hosting comes with yearly renewable fees.
Set up Your Online Store
Next, you need to set up your online store. What sets a regular website apart from an online store is the shopping cart software and the payment gateway.
You can either design the online store yourself or you can also pay a professional to do it for you. (We provide an all-in-one ecommerce website package so contact us if you’re ready.)
Although free shopping carts are available (do a search on Google and you’ll see how many turn up), you still need to be able to configure it to the look-and-feel of your website.
You need to have a basic working knowledge of how shopping carts work, what features it offers and how to integrate this into your overall website together with the payment gateway. For most website owners, this is too much of a hassle when all they want is to start up their online shop or e-commerce website and start selling straightaway!
An easier way is to buy a ready-made or commercial shopping cart software. Commercial shopping cart software is built to ensure you can do your online business transactions right away.
Choose Your Payment Gateway
The payment gateway is a separate service and should not be confused with the shopping cart software. You have to sign up or register with payment gateway provider to process the payments which come through your website when a customer buys from you.
When a customer clicks the “Buy” button on your online store, the shopping cart software connects to the payment gateway. The payment gateway then processes the information on the order form and more importantly, verifies the credit card details and accepts payment on your behalf.
As a service provider, the payment gateway will charge you, the online store owner, a fee each time a transaction occurs. The fees vary so it is best to always compare fees from different payment gateways before you register with any payment gateways.
Pay attention to the fees that the payment gateways charge. Some charge a one-time sign-up fee in addition to transaction fees. Others allow you to sign up for free but again, transaction fees apply. Compare the fees carefully because some transaction fees can be quite high (and eat into your profits!). On top of that, some will charge a fee whenever they mail you your cheque.
If you have a small number of items to sell and you know how to configure the codes in your website, you can use the free and simple merchant tools provided by certain online payment solution providers such as PayPal.
If you don’t think you have the technical knowledge needed, source for a web designer or web solutions provider who knows how to set up an ecommerce website. While you are setting up the site, think about the future: will you be maintaining and updating the ecommerce website by yourself or will you outsource the job to someone else?
Think Shipping or Product Delivery Methods
Think about your shipping methods. How will you send the product to the customer and how much will it cost the customer? For online transactions, it is a given that the customer pays for shipping.
Therefore, you need to check out the various postal or courier rates (both local and overseas) so that you can calculate these rates into the overall purchasing price when the customer buys from you.
Want to start an ecommerce website to start selling online? Contact us for some easy ways to start or you can also get ecommerce consulting and advisory assistance from us if you are not ready to start yet but want to know your options. We offer both ecommerce consulting and ecommerce website solutions to business owners.