Are you wanting to do business online?
InSite Creations of Toronto will work with you to help plan, prepare, develop and execute your e-commerce project with ease. Even once it is built, we will continue to provide further refinements to ensure that your site visitors are efficiently able to buy your products or services.
Definition of E-commerce
Electronic commerce (also known as ecommerce) allows people to exchange goods and services immediately and with no barriers of time and distance. Anytime of the day or night one can go online and buy almost anything you want.
The trick to entering this market smoothly is to find what you need to do before you have to do it.
Step 1: Planning
Questions to ask when considering selling product/services online:
- What are you trying to accomplish? think of your goals, mission, expectations
- Are you prepared to make the time and financial commitment?
- What is the likelihood that your products / services will sell online? Review the online sales forecasts for your type of product / service.
- How will your online store differ from that of your competitors?
- Are you prepared to deal with the customer support issues? Volume of messages, shipping, return policy, technical troubleshooting etc.
- Do you have or need a fulfillment strategy?
- What are the costs involved in selling your products / services online?
- How will you find your customers and how will customers find you?
- How soon can you be profitable?
- What features do you want your online store to have?
Make sure you have a general idea as to how online sales work, and what is involved with the process. This will help you talk with the developers and give you a clear understanding of your needs.
How does a typical ecommerce transaction process work?
Step 2: Preparation
Once you have gone through the process of planning, you should be able to be ready to map out your website with the various sections you want to have on your website. It is paramount that you work with a developer/designer who can interpret your requirements and come up with a workable solution that meet your particular needs and budget.
Things you need to know to set up your own online store:
Option 1 – own merchant account and secure server to accept VISA/MC/AMEX
A “bank account” established with a payment process for the settlement of credit card transactions. Any merchant who wants to take credit card orders must establish a merchant account. You can obtain this through your own bank or go through a payment processing provider.
Ex. your local bank, PSI Gate, InternetSecure, Global Payments, Canada Post
- application fee
- setup fee
- monthly fee
- discount rate
- per-transaction fee
- statement fee
- monthly minimums
- gateway fee
- minimum term contracts that you cannot cancel without penalties
- charge backs
- rolling reserves.
It is important that the web hosting company is capable of providing you with the level of service that you need to maintain your web store. A few things to look for are:
- Good uptime
- Good technical support
- Fast connection to the net
- Staff is knowledgeable about eCommerce
Obtaining a Digital Certificate
A digital certificate issued by a Certificate Authority certifies that a merchant and a particular website are connected, just as a photo on your driver’s licence connects your identity with your personal details. A digital certificate verifies to the shopper that the virtual store is actually associated with a physical address and a phone number which can increase the shoppers confidence in the authenticity of the merchant.
VeriSign is a leading Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate Authority enabling secure e-commerce, communications, and interactions for Web sites, intranets, and extranets.
Canada’s Top Hosting Reviews: http://www.hosting-review.com/hosting-directory/top-10-lists/top-10-ssl-providers.shtml
Finding a Provider of Online Transactions
Deciding on a provider’s package that fits your needs is perhaps the most important aspect in creating an ecommerce website. How many transactions do you expect to be completing in a month? How many products do you have to put on your website? How complex does the software need to be? How much are you willing to spend?
Creating or Purchasing Shopping Cart Software
Shopping cart software is an operating software application system that can be used to allow people to purchase your items, keep track of your accounts and tie together all aspects of your ecommerce site into one cohesive whole. Depending upon the number of products, features and functionalities you are requesting, one can have a very simple to complex backend to manage their accounts. The key points to consider are the navigation flow for the buyer, the order processing page and the ease of which to update and add new products. Many of the shopping cart software applications now come with easy administrative options to either integrate code for already built websites or the ability to create standalone sites.
Examples of standalone sites: OS Commerce, Zen Cart, Volusion
Utilizing the code to embed into your own site: 1ShoppingCart, X-Cart, PayPal Pro
Shopping Cart Plugins for WordPress: Shopify, Exchange, Digital Downloads
The above option can be quite costly for start up small businesses, so the other options to consider are the following:
Standalone shopping carts tied into PayPal payment gateway
If just a single item such as a book, or small inventory, create own shopping cart using PHP and tie into PayPal payment gateway.
Option 2: using a Payment Gateway service
If you want to set up a customizable yet affordable and effective small e-commerce setup, it is best to work with a developer who can assist with the setup of a customized shopping cart or purchase page and take advantage of the services of PayPal who is a subsidiary of eBay. This payment gateway solves all your requirements for having shopping cart software, security and need for merchant accounts.
PayPal benefits are the following:
- They have a large community of members
- They process all the main credit cards, no need to be a PayPal member for Payment off your website
- You can accept payment in most currencies – good for international sales
- You can withdraw money from PayPal at any time and it doesn’t cost you
- You can convert the money in real time from your admin
- Easy integration for websites
- PayPal is a Trusted payment Gateway
- No Monthly fees on PayPal
- Buyer Protection on PayPal
You only pay when you have a transaction, Small processing cost 2 – 3% per order through PayPal with no extra cost to the purchaser
PayPal provides multiple product solutions to help regardless of whether one to many transactions, subscriptions, instant payment notifications.
They provide tools for shipping and taxes.
Full capable program integration for database collection of data and manipulation
Step 3: Development
Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to find a developer whom you feel is competent to create the store front and backend system for you to manage and work with the data you collect from your customers. You need to understand the complexities and capabilities the online store can offer. During development, it is important to understand the user’s experience with the process, as well understand how you as the site owner, can take advantage of building more business possibilities, such as cross-selling, up selling, lead generation etc.
Step 4: Execution
After your store is up and running you will have to put a lot of time in making sure it is running smoothly. Troubleshooting, listening to peoples experiences with the transaction process, customer service with added requests or questions all need to be addressed. Testing and re-testing on every browser, operating system, ensuring that the major target market is being able to see what you want them to see and experience what you want them to experience.
Step 5: Refinement
As time goes on, you will soon have to make changes to update the content, bring new features to the homepage, and create innovative and lasting methods of getting people to continue to shop on your site. Online marketing, web copy that sells, excellent technical processes, user friendly navigation all play a major role in ensuring that the selling online is a positive and rewarding experience.