Getting started with E-Eommerce

Posted on April 22nd, 2014

Posted By Muktesh Ashdhir | Comments

Getting Started with E-Commerce

E-Commerce offers a number of benefits and advantages for many small, big and other businesses that are worth exploring. An e-commerce venture is somehow less expensive to set up than a traditional store.

For instance, selling merchandise online can allow a small business to tap into a customer base beyond your hometown, state or region. Many small companies use e-commerce to sell and ship products globally.

 

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Online Infrastructure

Although setting up a website which is capable of completing e-commerce transactions and fulfill all the basic requirements of an e-commerce isn’t too complicated, there are a number of consideration to be taken care of before start selling online.

The first thing to think about is your Web hosting platform. Make sure your hosting package must have enough bandwidth and server space to add e-commerce capabilities to your site. Hosts like Edenhost.com provides value for money hosting solutions especially for e-commerce.

Because you’ll have to insert product images and descriptions, along with online shopping cart software, an e-commerce site will likely need more storage space than a typical small business site or blog.

If you don’t have a site, most hosting providers offer specialized e-commerce packages with templates and shopping cart software that makes it fairly easy to add (and update) product descriptions, images and the payment information needed to complete a transaction.

A perfect domain name is also  very important for an e-commerce website as it represents your business and quite helpful in seeking customers and spreading your business.

 

Shopping Cart Software

A significant part of your e-commerce infrastructure is ‘shopping cart software’. To a business owner, online shopping carts are critical because they manage the site’s merchandise descriptions, images, inventory, customer information and payment data.

Shopping cart software comes in two basic forms —hosted and licensed. Hosted shopping cart software is provided as a service that you access and manage online. For a monthly fee, you can add or edit information as you need, and the software takes care of your e-commerce sales and purchase data.

Licensed shopping cart software performs the same functions, but you purchase a software package that you install and administer.

Choosing the right package depends on your needs and technical expertise. For companies starting out, a hosted shopping cart provides e-commerce capabilities without the need to install and manage the software yourself. For companies with larger inventories and technical ability to manage a shopping cart, a licensed package usually offers more flexibility and customization.

Many Web hosting providers offer shopping cart software services and packages designed to meet the e-commerce needs of small businesses.

In addition to shopping cart software, you’ll also need a way to receive online payments. If you have a merchant account, you can simply add the appropriate data into the shopping cart software. If you don’t, PayPal, Square and several other online payment systems may offer a good alternative to a merchant account.

 

Choose a Payment Service Provider

A Payment Service Provider (PSP) is a company offering online payment solutions. These range from complete solutions – which include both an Internet Merchant Account (IMA)and a Payment Gateway or, for those businesses that already have an IMA, just a Payment Gateway.

what to look out for when choosing a PSP for your business:

  • Real choice: Whether you already have an IMA and just require a payment gateway, or you need a complete solution, including the Internet Merchant Account, a PSP should offer you flexible solutions targeted at your needs, not their capabilities.
  • Ease of integration with your shopping cart: A good PSP should provide you with a variety of ways to collect card details and process payments. For example, they should offer you a Virtual Terminal if you need to process telephone payments. But most important of all is the PSP’s ability to integrate with your chosen shopping cart solution. Many PSPs have solutions that are already integrated with shopping carts, which means you don’t get a choice. Not good.
  • Competitive rates: Shop around for the best rates. Set-up fees and transaction costs vary greatly. But also consider the relative long-term costs. For example, check for services not included as standard and look for areas of weakness, such as a limited fraud solution or fee-based (rather than free) support. These may impact on your ability to grow your business efficiently without additional cost.
  • Reporting and administration facilities: A PSP should provide you with reporting and administration tools to manage your merchant services in real-time, 24/7.
  • The latest fraud protection: When you’re accepting card payments online, fraud is often the single biggest threat to your profits. Any PSP worth a second glance must provide the latest anti-fraud measures, protecting you from costly chargebacks. 
  • Security certification: Your PSP should be Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard Level 1 compliant. Accept nothing less.
  • Ample technical support: Integrating and maintaining a payment processing solution is never going to go without a hiccup, so you need to ensure your PSP is there to help you (and not at a premium charge) whenever needed.

 

Site Security

Another important consideration is trying to protect your site from hackers interested in trying to steal customer or financial information. If you accept credit cards, for instance, there is a number of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards you’ll need to understand and with which to you’ll need to comply. Offering your customers secure transactions is vital to the success of your e-commerce business. SSL is the most significant thing when it comes to the security of your e-commerce website as it protects your site from hackers and other threats, it keeps your financial information and procedure safe. SSL is must if a website is using online payment gateway like debit card, credit card, etc.

It’s also helpful to require the use of strong passwords on your site and shopping card software, and to install software updates as necessary to reduce the odds of your site being hacked or victimized by online criminals.

Successful e-commerce requires paying attention to a number of technical, business and security details, but the potential profits, global reach and comparatively low start-up costs make e-commerce an attractive opportunity for companies of all sizes.

 

Promotion

Once your site is up and running, you’ll need a way to get people to visit it. There is a variety of ways to promote a website, including:

Interacting with customers and prospects on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, can help you attract online shoppers.
Providing interesting content on your site, and updating it regularly, can help search engines find your site and bring in people researching the products you’re offering.
Pay-per-click advertising with search engines can be effective in attracting potential customers. You can specify how often you want ads to run, as well as a daily budget for your ads.
Email newsletters and direct mail can also help inform customers or other people who may be interested about your site.
Like any promotional effort, it’s important to keep track of your results so you can continue with effective investments and avoid wasting money on promotions that don’t work.

 

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About Muktesh Ashdhir - Muktesh Ashdhir is a B.Com graduate student with economics and currently preparing for the entrance exams for M.B.A