5 Quick Steps to Ecommerce

Start selling on the web in 5 easy steps. Covering design, shopping carts, merchant accounts, SSL, and promotion- everything a budding online merchant needs to know.

Selling on the web is just a few steps away. Though setting up an online storefront may seem like a monumental undertaking, having a game plan can make it far easier. This article will briefly touch on 5 steps, from building your site, setting up your storefront, getting a merchant account and SSL, to promoting it.

Step 1: Website Creation
Having an online store means having a website. Finding the right host for the new venture can be one of the most daunting tasks in the entire process. There's no substitute for a little research and planning. Think about how many pages and products the site will sell. Try to come up with a best estimate of the kind of resources your site will need, then shop for a host accordingly. Always choose a host with 24/7 support, since this isn't just a small hobby site, it generates revenue and needs to have near perfect uptime. Choose tools to build your site that are familiar and comfortable. It is important to build a compelling site, otherwise patrons may never make it to the store.

Step 2: Setup Your Storefront
Picking a storefront software is not hard, but the decision is one of the most important. Storefront software comes in all shapes and sizes, and each program has benefits and drawbacks that will change depending on the needs of the potential client. For instance, some carts are better suited to fewer products, some are able to handle very large amounts. Hosts may offer a variety of carts, and not just one. Since the shopping cart will be the method through which the products are managed, it's of utmost importance the cart and the user "get along." Once the choice is made, it's very difficult to change shopping carts without downtime.

Step 3: Merchant Account
Having a store stocked with products means little if customer's cannot pay for them. The most trusted way to accept payment on the web is with a merchant account and payment gateway. Merchant accounts allow customers to enter their credit card numbers into the shopping cart and have the merchant charge their cards directly, without the aide of a third party processor like PayPal. A payment gateway is the software used to facilitate and manage these transactions. Merchant accounts, like hosting packages and shopping carts, come in myriad forms, each suited to different needs. Always be sure the merchant account, payment gateway and shopping cart are compatible. If there's any doubt, the best place to inquire is with the merchant account provider.

Step 4: SSL
The store's potential customers have products to buy and a way to buy them, but they will be hesitant to do so if their personal and credit card information isn't secure. This is where SSL certificates enter the picture. Through an SSL certificate a customer's personal information and credit card number are encrypted when sent from their home browser, through the shopping cart, to the merchant account. This security gives customers peace-of-mind when doing business with the shop. With reports of identify theft and credit card fraud on the rise, there is simply no way an online store will be successful without a security certificate. There is little shopping to do here, as most security certificates provide an equal level of protection.

Step 5: Promote the Store
With all the elements in place, the final part of the plan is making sure all those potential customers show up. Site promotion isn't so much a last step as it is an ongoing process to keep the vital flow of unique customers coming to the store. Your website host should provide some tools to help the promotional process. There are two basic strategies that can be tried separately or in conjunction with one another- search engine marketing, and advertising. Search engine marketing concentrates on making the store visible to people using the "big three" search engines, Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Advertising is a more direct approach of buying banners and ad space on websites whose customers would likely be interested in buying your products. Success in search engine marketing could be as costly as direct advertising, depending on what kind of products the store sells. A combination of both strategies is generally best.

Note: These articles are provided for general interest and content purposes only, and should not be construed as "support" materials. Triple Web Media does not guarantee the information contained within.