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A guide to setting up a custom e-commerce web site

  • Ever had thoughts on selling products online? Dreaming on becoming the next Amazon? The following paragraphs detail the basics on setting up a professional looking and functioning custom e-commerce web site.

    Basically, an e-commerce web site consists of 4 main components,
    1) Your store product pages
    2) Shopping cart
    3) Gateway account to process payments
    4) Merchant account to accept credit cards and where the payments will be deposited

    Lets take an in depth look into each main component, starting with,

    E-commerce store product pages
    Basically, these pages will contain all necessary content for your product/s. Be sure to write keyword rich content that speaks and sells to the customer. High quality images also help sell your product. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words as they say. Putting yourself in your customers shoes really helps this process. What do your customers want to see or read before they feel comfortable enough to buy from you. Does your site ensure a safe, easy and pleasant shopping experience? Or does it scream unorganized and clutter? How you present your product ultimately reflects on how your customers perceive your web sites professionalism, safety and efficiency.

    Shopping cart
    So you managed to create product pages that converts visitors to actual customers well. Great! Now comes the hard part. Pay extra attention on the entire shopping cart experience rather than just the mechanics of the cart. This is because your customer’s experience with the service is what will make or break your business.

    Your shopping cart should address the following components correctly.

    1. A method to allow your customer to view and select items for purchase easily and intuitively

    2. A backend admin system for you to add, edit, and delete items for sale

    3. Efficient tracking of orders, fulfillment and product inventory

    4. Generating sales reports and data into your accounting and overall conversion management tools

    Shopping carts can be developed from scratch (most expensive method, but allows for maximum functionality and design customization) or a third party application like Yahoo stores or Paypal (least expensive method, but with little to no customization. All web sites using Paypal for example, have very similar looking shopping carts. This may be perceived as having a lack of funds to properly develop the site or simply, finding the easiest/cheapest solution). Which method you choose is ultimately up to you and your development budget. You need to ensure your customer has a pleasant and efficient shopping experience, and structure your checkout steps accordingly. I will be focusing mainly on developing an ecommerce site from scratch.

    Web site security is paramount to e-commerce sites. You will need to secure everything from when the customer enters their personal information right up the conclusion of the checkout sequence. Be sure to install and implement a Secure Server Certificate (SSC), a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and a Secure Protocol (HTTPS)

    These abovementioned proves you are who you say you are for the customer’s peace of mind. Not to mention encrypting the entire checkout process to prevent hackers from stealing your customers personal data. Verisign and Thawte are reputable companies that provides these certificates.

    A secure database is essential for storing all your customers purchase and personal information. This is THE #1 SECURITY RISK so be sure to encrypt the data! Protecting your clients data will ensure you will not face issues of lawsuits and financial ruin down the road.

    Transaction Processor (Payment Gateway)
    These accounts assists with the processing the Credit Card transaction on your behalf. It is not unusual to incur a handful of fees with this sort of account, and there is a wide variety of Gateway processor companies to choose from. Be sure you do proper research and are 100% clear on what the fees are before you commit.

    Merchant Account
    You’ll need a merchant account if you wish to accept Credit Card transactions online. These accounts accept and hold the credit card transaction money. Visit your local bank to see if they offer such accounts. These accounts are readily available in most national banks. In some cases, you can get both a merchant account and transaction processing services from the same organization. These all-in-one solutions often provide a simpler method of web site integration, but they do necessarily provide the best rates. Again, do your research.

    Last but not least, you need to have a method to ensure and measure customer satisfaction with your service and/or product. The customer service and experience is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect to a running a successful online business. The actual product is secondary.

    Visualscope Studios provide comprehensive Ecommerce web site solutions. Contact us for all your online business store needs.

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