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General: Ecommerce And Online Stores

Understanding The Core Components Of Ecommerce

Credit card imageYour Customer's Payment Information
This refers to the information that your customer needs to provide in order to begin processing a payment. The most common payment methods are either credit card or PayPal.
Ecommerce store imageYour Online Store / Ecommerce Website
A website is considered an 'Ecommerce' site when it provides the features necessary to present products and services to a customer. Ecommerce sites vary in complexity and are often capable of embedding the payment gateway directly into the site itself.
Payment Gateway imagePayment Gateway
You can think of your payment gateway like a credit card machine, the actual device that processes the sale. A payment gateway takes care of securely processing a financial transaction between your customer's financial institution and your merchant account provider.
Merchant account imageMerchant Account
A special type of financial account that is authorized to accept credit card payments (personal accounts typically are not authorized to accept credit card payments, hence the term 'merchant' for 'merchant account'). Some merchant providers also act as a payment gateway provider, such as PayPal.
Financial account imageYour Financial Account
This refers to your personal financial account, usually a checking account. Funds that enter your merchant account are usually forwarded on to your personal account after a certain period of time.

Things To Keep In Mind

Your Customer's Payment Information

What type of payment methods do you expect your target customers to use Some customers may prefer one payment method over another, or may even exclusively work through one type of method (such as PayPal). As you offer more payment options, you can increase your potential customer base.

When you are selecting a payment gateway and merchant account service provider, try to select one that will support all of the payment options you want to give to your customers.

Your Online Store / Ecommerce Website

This is your online 'store front'. The basis for how you present your products and services to your customers is largely dependant upon the ecommerce software (such as Ecwid) that you choose to build your website with. Your ecommerce software is also responsible for interfacing with your payment gateway provider so that you can process sales through your site.

As you look for the right eCommerce software, we encourage you to keep these questions in mind. Note that very few businesses will need to consider all of the items mentioned here:

  • Does it calculate shipping costs and tax rates
  • Does it keep track of receipts and provide them to your customers
  • Does it notify you whenever you sell something
  • Does it support electronic products, such as music files
  • Does it support subscription-based products or services
  • How easy is it to use
  • How much can you customize it
  • Is it compatible with the payment gateway you want to use

If you are having trouble finding the right eCommerce solution for your needs, feel free to contact us and ask for help.

Payment Gateway

Do you want to sell directly through your website Some payment gateway providers, such as PayPal, will not allow your customers to provide credit card information through your website directly. Other payment providers can integrate with your online store in a way that allows you to process sales without ever having your customer leave your site.

What kinds of fees does the payment gateway require Payment gateways are never completely free to use because they need to cover their own costs associated with ensuring that they are current with the highest security standards. Some providers may charge a subscription fee, or a flat amount off of every sale, or a percentage off of every sale, or some combination of the three.

Most payment gateways will require you to have an SSL installed to your domain before they will process any payments for you.

Merchant Account

How soon do you want money placed into your account after you make a sale Some merchant services may take several business days to deposit money into your account after making a sale, while others may be able to do it within a single business day.

Many merchant account providers also offer their own payment gateway service as well.

First-Time Online Store Owners With A Low Budget

One Solution For Minimizing Up-Front Costs

We recognize that some owners' budgets don't allow them to fully invest in their business right away. We recognize that they are often looking for an inexpensive solution to get things started. What follows are a few simple suggestions that can help you get started with little to no cost. Keep in mind that free 'open-source' solutions tend to have a steeper learning curve than paid solutions, so be prepared to dedicate some time to learning the software.

  1. Use Mojo Marketplace to find and install a free eCommerce program onto your iPage account.
  2. Sign up for a merchant account at PayPal (choose their free option).
    • Because of how PayPal works, they might not require you to purchase an SSL.
  3. Build up your online store utilizing your eCommerce program and PayPal 'Buy Now' buttons.

You will need to work with the developers for your chosen eCommerce program and PayPal to resolve any technical details involved with the creation of your website. It will take some work and dedication on your part to pull everything together.

If you find your chosen eCommerce program is too difficult to use, we recommend using Ecwid instead.

Focus On ROI As You Upgrade Your Solutions

Prioritizing good ROI (return on investment) will help your revenue keep up with business costs. Improving your business will cost you time and/or money, but it should also increase your revenue (and hence, your budget). As you move your business forward, we strongly encourage you to investigate the following solutions:

  • Secure your site with SiteLock.
  • Market yourself online using SEO, PPC, LocalLift, Social Media, and other marketing solutions.
  • Install an SSL and introduce additional payment methods.
  • Consider hiring professional design services to make sure your site is optimized to convert visitors into customers.
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