You set up a retail business, you advertise in your
local newspaper, you get customers coming into your
store, and you receive payment at the cash register.
Create an online store, and...how do you get customers?
How do you receive payment? The concept is the same,
but the steps are different.
Step 1: Create your website
If you dont have web design skills, you can hire
a qualified web designer to create a website for you,
or you can use an online site builder. Think of it as
hiring an architect and an interior decorator compared
to setting up shop in an existing store.
Using a web designer
With the services of a web designer, you can have a
unique website template and website customized to your
specific needs. A web development team can also add
features such as Flash headers or any programming needed
for your site. If your company image is critical, a
custom-designed site that conveys the right professional
image is a must.
Using an online site builder
An online site builder is the budget way to go. With
site builder programs such as Site Studio, your website
can be online within minutes. A step-by-step menu allows
you to choose a layout and colors, and then add a site
description, a logo, and content. Your template may
not be unique, but your content will.
Step 2: Set up an e-commerce store
Your customers will browse at your website, select
some items, and then pay for them. When you set up an
e-commerce shopping cart, youre providing a way
for your customers to bring their purchases to the cash
register. The program you choose will allow you to enter
your products in the database and allow shoppers to
choose products when they click on Add to cart
or something similar.
Two well-known shopping carts, osCommerce and Miva
Merchant, both allow you to do these tasks:
Add, edit, and delete product categories and other
Set tax rates and charge tax
Receive payment via numerous online and offline payment
And much more
osCommerce is an open source program. Store owners
can set up their online stores using osCommerce with
no costs involved. For small stores, it has all the
features you need for an online store. Drawbacks of
osCommerce are that customization is not easy, and online
stores using osCommerce tend to look similar.
While Miva Merchant carries a price tag of $995, some
web hosts offer Miva Merchant licenses with their hosting
plans. If you choose Miva as your shopping cart, be
sure to host your site with a host that provides Miva
support. Its learning curve is steep, and it requires
the support of people who know how to work with it.
With the price and the steep learning curve, you get
more features, and you can customize the program more.
Add-in modules can be bought that perform a number of
tasks. In addition, a strong support community is available
in the Miva user group forums.
Step 3: Get a merchant account and payment gateway
When customers arrive at the checkout counter, you
need a way for their payments to be transferred from
their credit card accounts to your bank account. The
method you choose may depend on your sales volume.
For high-volume sales, an e-commerce merchant account
plus a payment gateway will meet your needs. A merchant
account provider authorizes the transfer of payments
to your account, and a payment gateway transfers the
information from your customers financial institutions
Most merchant accounts have setup fees, transaction
fees, monthly fees, and statement fees. The transaction
fees are less than what youd pay using a third
party credit card processor such as PayPal. With all
the fees, however, the overall cost is typically lower
only if your monthly sales volume is over about a thousand
For medium and low volume sales, PayQuake and PayPal
are viable options.
PayQuake offers three merchant account types to choose
from. Although they all require payment gateways, the
two smaller plans have no monthly minimums. You can
upgrade to a higher or lower plan if your needs change.
PayPal has become a household name. Customers can send
payment through PayPal via credit card or via money
that they transfer into their PayPal account. While
the fees per transaction are higher than with merchant
accounts, there are no setup or monthly fees, and you
dont need a payment gateway. You pay only when
you have financial transactions.
Fore more details about these options, see WebSite
Source Hosting Solutions: E-Commerce.
Step 4: Create a secure payment environment
A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate enables you
to receive credit card information securely from your
customers. When a payment page is using SSL data to
encrypt data, a small image of a lock appears at the
bottom right of the screen.
Some web hosts offer SSL certificates as part of their
hosting packages. If your web host package doesnt
include SSL certificates, you can purchase one separately.
With PayPal, no SSL certificate is required.
Step 5: Generate traffic
Your products are on display in your newly designed
store, your shopping cart is set up and ready to use,
and you have everything in place to be able to receive
payments securely. Now all you need are customers.
This is where marketing comes in.
Submit your site to search engines.
Advertise your site.
Keep your company name in front of your customers with
a regular email newsletter.
Add more content to your website to keep it fresh.
Monitor your website traffic to see where its
coming from and how you can increase traffic for key
For related information, see these pages:
Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization
Promote Your Domain
About the author:
Lois S. is a Technical Executive Writer for http://www.websitesource.com
and http://www.lowpricedomains.com with experience in
the website hosting industry.