Making the decision to open an ecommerce site can be overwhelming and can leave you with more questions than you have answers at the end of the day. There are some elements of ecommerce, like the shopping cart, that you may never of given much thought to prior to researching the right cart for your ecommerce set-up, which is why this article is dedicated to the topic.
Sadly, the shopping cart is given too little attention when you stop to think that it is the most important component of the entire system. Think about it, regardless of the merchant account you choose it will process your credit cards, there’s nothing else it can do for you. Nor does it matter where you register your domain name, if it’s available it’s yours for the taking. But all shopping carts are not the same by any stretch of the imagination.
Sophisticated website shopping carts can automate your marketing, allow you to track and do split testing of your ads, make it possible to offer your customers a payment plan through recurring billing, put an affiliate program at your disposal. Unsophisticated shopping carts, like the freebies you get from your hosting company, can’t do any of these things.
It’s easy to want to use PayPal and avoid having to make decisions about a shopping cart or any of the other ecommerce components. But offering PayPal and only PayPal makes you look unprofessional. What if the customer doesn’t have a PayPal account? Do you want to risk that your customer will go and open an account in order to do business with you rather than just go some place else to shop?
Here are the steps to opening an ecommerce site:
Choose a good domain name (with a dot com ending) by using a keyword tool that shows you the terms people are searching for in your field. You can get your feet wet with a free trial of Wordtracker which should serve your needs.
Register. Once you have a keyword rich domain name see if it’s available and if it is register it. 1&1 and GoDaddy are good places for registering domains. Names get snapped up every second so once you decide on one register it right away and then just let it sit “parked” until you’re ready to do something with it. Also purchase your personal name if it’s still available.
Find a host for your website. When it comes to hosting your site, HostGator offers some very good options, one of which is the ability to host multiple sites for one low monthly fee. Don’t feel obligated to host your website at the same place where you registered your domain name. You can, for example, register your domain name at 1&1 and host it at HostGator very easily. This allows you to get the best that both sites have to offer, since 1&1 offers good prices on domain names, and HostGator, as mentioned, offers a great deal with unlimited hosting at one low price.
Choose a merchant account. You want a company that makes it simple to conduct ecommerce, which is not necessarily the bank where you have your checking account. It’s best to go directly to the bank itself rather than those who are offer the services of the bank as a third party. You might look at UnitedBankcard and continuing comparing from there. You want a company that’s competitive when it comes to fees.
Choose a payment gateway company. Just as you would need a terminal to swipe your customer’s credit card if you had a brick and mortar outlet you need to capture credit card information in your online shop as well. This is the role of the payment gateway. It takes the credit card information entered into your shopping cart and encrypts it, it then facilitates the transfer of information between all parties involved so that the money ends up in your checking account within a couple of days. A good place to look when it comes to payment gateways is Authorizenet.
Choose a shopping cart. You now know that it does a lot more than just calculate the purchase and take shopper information. As stated earlier it is one of the most important components to the process because it can make things very simple for you. It can serve as your database as well as communicate with your accounting software and many other things you will appreciate. A robust shopping cart has the ability to make you much more money than a freebie is capable of so it’s not the smartest place to skimp.
There you have it, the components of an ecommerce set up. Again, the most important decisions include first choosing a good keyword rich domain name, and second, to choose a sophisticated shopping cart.