Building an eCommerce website or simply adding an online shopping cart to an existing site can seem like an overwhelming task. There are so many options available including: selling on popular online marketplaces (like eBay, Etsy or Amazon’s Handmade Marketplace), adding WordPress plugins to an existing site, using services such as PayPal, or creating an online store using eCommerce software. Many of the eCommerce solutions available today will handle many (if not all) of the components you need.
In addition to an online storefront (or simple shopping cart), you need: payment processing, website building & hosting, inventory management, marketing and even CRM (customer relationship marketing) tools. Given the wide variety of options, you should be able to find a solutions that requires either zero technical skills or build-it-yourself options. With the right solution, you can get a store up quickly and easily.
To give you a basic understanding of what goes on behind the scene, let’s take a look at this simple list of the main components of selling online.
- Shopping Cart Software which enables you to organize your products, upload images and manage the checkout and payment services. This is often accomplished with scripts, eCommerce software products, WordPress plugins or services such as PayPal.
- An SSL Certificate (Secure Socket Layer) and a dedicated IP address to secure your customers’ transactions.
- A Payment Gateway which is the software that forwards your shopping cart transactions to the payment processing system (which allows you to accept credit cards). PayPal is an example of a payment gateway.
- A Merchant Account with a bank or financial institution where you will receive your payments.
Getting Started With eCommerce:
There are many ways to go about getting an eCommerce store for your business. If you want to do it all yourself, you will need to create a website, and because it is an eCommerce site, you will need to have shopping cart software, inventory management software and at least one payment processing service. In addition, you will need to obtain a domain name and buy web hosting for your site. Some of this can be done by others. For example, you can have someone else design your website and do the work yourself. However, it often makes more sense to obtain all of these needed items from a single source.
3 Reasons for Choosing a Complete Solution:
- It is faster to get your business on the Internet.
A company that provides all of these services has skilled professionals to do a job that is better than you could do yourself, and they have a streamlined operation. So, they are able to produce a finished product for you in a short period of time. This can easily shave months off the time it takes to get your eCommerce business up and running on the Internet. One of the biggest obstacles you will face as an online business owner is getting started. A business that provides all-in-one eCommerce solutions knocks down this barrier for you.
- The end product is better
Attempting to do all of the work yourself can lead to issues with compatibility. Trying to integrate a shopping cart program with your website can become a nightmare. When this happens, it can be difficult to get help because there are many shopping cart programs and many different types of website designs. With an all-in-one solution, compatibility issues have already been worked out.The same is true with payment processing. Often you will need to educate yourself about the entire process of processing your customers credit cards in order to get everything working right on your website. An all-in-one solution already has everything you need to process all of the major credit cards for your eCommerce site.
- Maintenance of your site is non-existent
Everyone will have problems with their site from time to time, but when you have an all-in-one solution, you’re outsourcing the back end of your website. For example, backups for your site are done automatically, and everything associated with your site’s security will also be taken care of. This frees you up to do what you do best, and that is selling your products.Before traveling down the road of do-it-yourself eCommerce website building, you owe it to yourself to investigate all of the services that an all-in-one solution will provide you. In addition to website building, free shopping cart software and payment processing, many companies also offer marketing solutions for your website. This makes an eCommerce package even more attractive, because online marketing can be difficult and time consuming. (Note: Some free eCommerce solutions are for a trial period and you will need to sign up for monthly or annual billing to continue using them.)
Before you decide which eCommerce solution is best for you, take into consideration the following.
Your Current Situation:
- Will you be selling digital downloads, services and/or physical products.
- Do you currently have web hosting with a SSL certificate and private IP address?
- What is your time frame for launching?
- What is your budget?
Software Features that You may Need:
- Bulk uploading of products
- Catalog search
- Credit Card Processing
- Order/customer tracking
- Email notifications and invoices
- Multiple shipping & sales tax options
- Secure checkout & order processing
- Inventory management
To learn more about which options will work best for you, check out this article by Sara Angeles on BusinessNewsDaily.com. Their staff researched and reviewed several eCommerce and shopping cart solutions from multiple vendors.
Additionally, they have a questionnaire that will help guide you through choosing a solution based on the following criteria:
- Your plan is to build an eCommerce site from scratch.
- You’ll be redesigning an existing eCommerce website.
- You have an existing eCommerce site that you want to maintain or update.
- You’re looking for eCommerce/Shopping Cart software to add to an existing site.
What are your thoughts? Do you have an eCommerce website (or do you have plans for one)? Do you have a shopping cart or are selling products through an online marketplace? What has been your experience? Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and recommendations.