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Starting an e-commerce website: 4 things you need

An e-commerce website can be easy to set up and add incredible value to your business model. Selling things online: it’s a thing we do now! Even if you have a traditional brick and mortar store, chances are a customer has asked you, “Can I buy your product online?” If you say no, at best, your business looks like it’s behind the times. At worst, you lose potential customers.

So let’s get those products on your website and start driving that business! What you need:

First thing needed for an e-commerce website: a… website.

This is… kind of obvious, I know. It’s also not 100% required, because there are third-party sites where you can sell your goods (places like Etsy and even Amazon). But those places will also take a small percentage of each transaction as commission, so you’ll want to factor that into your plan (but, you won’t need the rest of this list, so it DOES simplify things, at a cost.) If you decide to go for it on your own with a traditional e-commerce store at your own domain, you’ll want to get that set up first. (me! I can help you build your website!)

Shopping cart system

How your product offerings are organized and presented to the customer is important! Eye-catching photos, detailed descriptions, and clear pricing for different options will make a big difference in the user experience. There are countless “out of the box” shopping cart systems, or you could integrate your site with a third-party service like Shopify. The downside of these options is that sometimes you are very limited in what you can do with the product organization, pricing options, etc.

If you’re finding the out of the box solutions lacking in flexibility and customization, WordPress has a robust plugin solution called WooCommerce that will easily add e-commerce functionality to your WordPress site. Or, if even that doesn’t quite fit, you could hire a developer to build a custom product catalog, and integrate that with a service like FoxyCart to process the transactions. I have personally done several WordPress/FoxyCart combinations, and my clients have been very happy with the results.

Payment Gateway & Bank Account

When someone buys something on your site, you need a way to communicate that information with your bank. So first, you’ll need to set up an internet merchant account with your bank- it’s simply a special bank account that will allow you to accept online credit card payments. An internet merchant account will come with a payment gateway to connect everything together and you’ll be on your way to processing online transactions and selling your stuff!

Security Certificate

All online credit card transactions require an SSL certificate to encrypt the data and keep it secure. If you are using a third-party solution, like Shopify or even FoxyCart, the SSL setup is provided for you (included in the fee you pay for their services). If your e-commerce section is built into your main site using an out of the box shopping cart system, or a custom-built shopping cart with WooCommerce, for example, you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate from your webhost and have your web developer integrate that into your website.

Setting up an online store can seem daunting and complicated at first, but once you find a solution that fits your needs, putting all the pieces together is easy! Hire me to build your e-commerce website! 🙂


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