What is Needed to Start an E-commerce Site?

By Jeff Ropelato
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You know that you want to start an online store, but how do you get started? Listed here are the essentials to get you well on your way to eCommerce shopping cart success.

Product

First of all, you obviously need a product or service to sell. This can be hard goods (physical) or soft goods (downloadable).

Hosting Service

After that, you need a place to host your website, called a hosting server. There are many hosting companies you can use, but you need to make sure your shopping cart software is compatible with the hosting server.

Website

Then you need a website. This can be an existing website to which you can add eCommerce capabilities or you can build the site from scratch. Some shopping carts come with website wizards that let you create a website with no html skills. Others offer to build the site with their design professionals.

Shopping Cart

The shopping cart is one of the most important parts to having a smooth e-commerce transition. Elements that are critical to a shopping cart should be, website wizards, Merchant tools, Shopping features, payment options, shipping and taxes configurations, statistics, and security. A truly great shopping cart is considered an E-commerce solution.

Credit Card Processing

Next you need some way of accepting online payments. This normally means credit cards. There are also other types of payments that the shopping cart should handle, checks, E-checks, cod, phone orders and person-to-person.

Merchant Account

Merchant accounts aren't the same as ordinary bank accounts even though ordinary banks provide them. These accounts allow a business to accept credit cards as payment for goods and services. In a way, merchant accounts act as a contract between the business owner and the bank. Rules defining how products will be bought, sold and paid for are set; any violation of these rules is considered fraud.

Payment Gateway

A customer enters credit card information to purchase your product or service. This data is passed to the merchant web server and a payment gateway through a secure socket layer (SSL)*. Once the payment gateway receives the transaction data, their software verifies all of the credit card information and then accepts or declines the credit card. The payment gateway sends an email receipt to the merchant web server and to the customer. Along with the email receipt, the payment gateway sends the order to the merchant bank. The money is subtracted from the purchaser's credit card account and placed in a 30-day holding merchant account owned by your business.

Marketing

Last, but most important, you need to have a strategy for marketing your site and attracting customers. The old saying, "build it and they will come", does not apply to websites. You need to have a good marketing strategy. This should include search engine optimization, pay-per-clicks, pop-unders, banner ads and affiliates just to name a few.

 
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