eCommerce 101

eCommerce 101

You ve heard that selling online is a fast way to make money, but where do you begin? Here are a few steps to get you started:

Product

First, you need something to sell on your eCommerce website. You can sell tangible items (hard goods) like clothing, or downloadable data (soft goods) such as software or you can sell a service, like a resume-writing service. Whatever you choose, pick something you enjoy.

Hosting Service

You need a place to host your website. eCommerce web hosting businesses rent space to store your website on the internet, where customers have fast, 24-hour access to your website.

Website

If you don t already have a website, you ll need to pay to have one built or get tools to build one yourself. Many eCommerce services offer website building tools so you can create an excellent website no matter what your computer skill level is. If you already have a website, you can add eCommerce tools to it with eCommerce software.

Shopping Cart

A shopping cart that reassures customers makes all the difference in a transaction. An intimidating shopping cart frightens away customers; they want to know what s coming next. Pick a shopping cart that keeps customers informed during the purchase.

Customers want to see all your shipping choices and payment choices before they have to enter any credit card information. Try samples of the shopping cart you re considering to be sure your customer s buying experience is straightforward.

Merchant Account

Merchant accounts aren't the same as ordinary bank accounts even though ordinary banks offer them. A merchant account gives you, the merchant, a place to deposit credit card revenue as you receive it.

With merchant accounts, you ll typically have a 30-day holding period before you can withdraw the money. This wait protects the bank since you may be liable for credit card payments rejected by the credit card issuer after approval. (This happens when a customer proves to the credit card company that the charge was fraudulent.) You ll sign an agreement with the merchant account provider that includes detailed rules.

Credit Card Processing

To sell on the internet, you ll need a way to accept online payments. And because credit cards are common, you will need a credit card processing service. If you want to be flexible, consider services that handle other payment methods too, such as eChecks, COD orders, telephone orders or mailed checks.

Payment Gateway

When a customer enters credit card information to buy from your website, the information travels though a payment gateway on a secure internet connection. The payment gateway is the go-between from your website to the credit card processing service.

Once the payment gateway receives and verifies the data, the gateway accepts or declines the credit card. The payment gateway sends an email receipt to the customer and to you, the merchant. Then the credit order is sent to your bank. The credit card processing service deducts money from the buyer s credit card account and adds it to your merchant account.

Marketing

Finally, you need a strategy to market your website so potential customers will notice it. Top eCommerce web hosting companies offer you some basic tools so you can learn the ins and outs of online marketing. So ask about your marketing choices before you commit to a hosting plan. Once you are online, try all the marketing tools in your arsenal, master the tools that work best for your website and you ll soon be on your way to eCommerce success.

 

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