eCommerce Checklist – Are You Ready?

Thinking about selling a product, a product line or a variety of products on your Web site? Here are a few things you will need to think about before and during the process of setting up your eCommerce Web site.

Choose the Right Shopping Cart Software

There are many off the shelf eCommerce solutions. Some are free (open source) and some aren’t. You want to choose a cart that:

1. Has all the features you need now and in the future
2. Is constantly updated, upgraded, patched and improved
3. Is supported by a development team.
4. Is Secure.

There’s nothing worse that purchasing shopping cart software and then being unable to reach the developers or support when you have a problem.

Budget

You must determine what you are willing to spend for the options and functionality you need.

Shopping cart software costs range from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Developing a custom cart from the ground up can cost even more.

The free options may sound good at first until you run into problems or need support that is non-existent. Which leads us to…

Support

Support of a cart is the probably the most important aspect. If you have a problem, (and you will) does the software provider provide live support?

Do they have a phone number on the site for support?

Do they charge for support.

You may be surprised by the number of software providers that do not even provide a phone number.

Cart/Server Setup

The shopping cart should be professionally installed on your server by a qualified server admin or the cart software programmer. There are typically many server/cart configuration options that can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the environment.

A database will also need to be setup and tied into your cart.

Also be sure to choose a cart that is compatible with your server operating system. Typically, Linux servers will run PHP and Perl solutions and Windows servers will use .ASP and .NET applications.

Choose whom you will use to ship your product

Typical Options:
UPS
FedEx
USPS (United States Postal Service)
DHL

Choose how you will calculate shipping cost

Some options would be:

* Live rate lookup
* Weight based table
* Price based table

Live Rate Lookup

Our shopping cart software supports Live shipping rate lookup. This means that it will return a shipping cost to the customer based on the actual product weight plus packaging.

(Setup varies depending on service selected)

We recommend the live lookup option if possible.

You will need to provide the weight for each product. (Including packaging)

Weight Based Table

Alternately, you can use a weight-based table.

Weight based Table Example:

Total Order size (weight) Shipping Price
0 – 29.99 = $9.50
30 – 59.99 = $4.50
60.00 and up Free ($0)

Cost Based Table

If you choose shipping rate by cost of the product, you will need to setup a shipping rate table and associated costs.

Example of a Cost based shipping table.

Total Order size (dollars) Shipping Price
$0-$24.95 = $9.00
$24.96-$49.99 = $5.00
$50.00 and up Free ($0)

Note: The free is just an example of what you can offer. You do not have to offer free shipping.

How will the package arrive at the shipping office?

* Shipper picks up package from you on a regular basis
* You deliver the package to the shipping office

This will impact your shipping cost.

Things to consider:

* Package size can impact cost of shipping
* Handling charge. You have the option to add a handling charge
* What countries will you ship to?

Note: Shipping is a VERY important aspect of setting up your eCommerce shop. Setting shipping rates too high is one of the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment.

Product Categories

You will need to determine how many product categories you are going to need and how many products will be in each category. It’s best to start of small and add products over time.

Product Images

You will need product images.

We recommend a professional photographer. It is essential that your photos be of top quality. In some cases you may be able to get them from the manufacturer.

A poor quality image looks unprofessional and will not help sell your product.

However, if you choose to take the photos yourself, try and follow these guidelines

* Use light backdrops (not white)
* Try and use natural sunlight or studio lights that produce no shadows

You will need a thumbnail image and a larger detailed image. There is a variety of good photo editing software on the market. Paint Shop Pro is a good low cost, multi purpose editor.

Adobe Photoshop is the top of the line software tool for photo editing, retouching and compressing your images. The choice of professionals.

Photo Naming Convention

Be sure and categorize the images and give them descriptive names. If you use numbers, be sure that they correlate with the product description detail “Photo Name” (see below). Typically save in .JPG format.

Delivery Options (if third party is doing the work)

* Burn to a CD or DVD and mail to us
* Zip and email (if less than 5 megs)
* FTP – Publish on your site or specified site

Product Description

For each product, you will need a written description.

You will need a Short description (one sentence) and a Long description (paragraph or more).

You want to attract and intrigue potential shoppers so be sure to use interesting copy that is full of adjectives and possibly a bullet list of features in the long description.

Product Details

Depending on the cart used, you may have to adhere to the following format. Use a Word document or Excel worksheet for each category. Please name the document/worksheet relevant to the category, i.e. name it Widgets, if the category is Widgets.

Category:
Item Name:
Description Short:
Description Long:
Photo Name:
Item or product #:
Sort Code:
Shipping Weight:
Price:
Keywords associated with product:
Options: (color/size/scent/etc.): (If applicable)

Merchant Account/Taking Payments

What is needed to accept credit cards online?

You will need a merchant account and a payment gateway.

Options:

A. If applicable, use your existing merchant account and setup an authorization gateway (authorize.net, Linkpoint, etc.) that will interface with your merchant account through your cart and handle the transactions in real time.

B. Setup a new merchant account and payment gateway. This is the most professional setup and will instill confidence in your customers.

C. Interface with PayPal. (not recommended for serious eCommerce) This is the absolute last choice. This would be considered unprofessional and could cause you to lose business. Consider this only if your are on the lowest budget.

Security

All transactions should be encrypted via SSL (Secure Socket Layer) This requires a security certificate to be installed on the server. There is a variety of SSL vendors such as Verisign, Thawte, GeoTrust and many more. This is an absolutely essential for any site accepting credit card payments online.

Other configurations:

Take you time and go through all the configuration options. Shopping carts are complex programs and there are often 10 or more page of configuration options. Each option should be reviewed to determine if it’s right for your store/product.

Ultimately, setting up an eCommerce solution takes a lot of thought, time and effort. Advanced Web Site Publishing has setup hundreds of eCommerce solutions. We are also experienced in all facets of running an eCommerce site. Let us recommend the correct solution for you.

The Days of Expensive Ecommerce Shopping Carts Are Now Over – Prices Over $1500 Are an Overcharge

I have been actively creating ecommerce shopping cart websites for myself and clients for over 15 years now; during this time, there has been a drastic change in both the platforms and technologies used to create ecommerce websites, but precious little change in the prices that some unscrupulous ecommerce companies are willing to charge their unsuspecting clients.

Here’s what got me thinking

Just the other day I came across a company ( who shall remain nameless ), who we’re specialist in Magento ecommerce websites – charging their customers upwards of $3000 in order to have a shopping cart website built for them. As someone who works with Magento on almost a daily basis, my first thought when I came across their prices was: ‘but why?’

Why $3000 to me just seem ridiculous

You see; Magento is an open source ecommerce platform that is given away for free by most companies that offer cPanel website hosting – so where exactly does the company I mentioned get their “$3000+” figure from?… is it purely a labour charge?

I really hope this article serves as both an educator and money saver for anyone who is looking to set up their own ecommere website.

How to set up your own ecommerce shopping cart website

Setting up your own ecommerce shopping cart website really is not hard once you have the know how. There are just a few important things you will need:

  1. A Domain name (www.YourWebsiteName.com).
  2. Website hosting ( This is where your website will “live” on the internet ).
  3. A payment processor
  4. SSL certificate
  5. A nice theme & design for your store

Step by step

1. Domain Name

In order to find and register your website domain name, I recommend you use a well established domain registrar such as Godaddy.com.

On the Godaddy.com website you will be able to search for the availability of any domain name, register domains, and change the nameservers of the domain in order for it to point to your web hosting.

2. Website Hosting

Who you choose for your websites hosting will play a very important part in whether your ecommerce website set up process is troublesome or stress-free.

I recommend that you choose a web hosting provider that provides the “cPanel ” environment with their hosting – as this allows for easy installation of several free ecommerce shopping cart platforms, including: Magento, Zen Cart, Os Commerce and even WordPress.

Once you are inside cPanel, you can then look for the ecommerce software of your choice and commence the installation process.

The ecommerce platform you choose will be dependent on your needs, requirements and level of ability.

3. Merchant account / payment processor

Gone are the days when you had to have a massive budget and a perfect credit rating in order to be able to accept and process payments via your website.

You can now simply sign up for an online payment processor such as PayPal, who will handle all the payment processing and fraud checking for you. They will usually take a small per transaction fee for their troubles.

4. SSL Certificate

Although not essential to do business, it is essential to make sure your customers will feel comfortable about submitting their personal information via your website – as everyone cares about their personal information.

Installing an SSL certificate from a reputable provider encrypts your customers sensitive personal information.

Offer your customers extra peace of mind by clearly displaying that your website encrypts their personal information via SSL.

5. A nice theme and design for your store

Although not essential, having a nice theme for your ecommerce website can really help to create a good first impression.

The majority of ecommerce platforms out there will have a universal theme that everyone who installs the shopping cart will receive. For customers landing on your website first impressions count; it can be the difference between a sale or not.

I recommend that you invest in a professional theme for your ecommerce website as it should pay dividends in the long run.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much as I have writing it – and that if you are in the market for an ecommerce website you’ll realise there is absolutely no need to pay ridiculous prices for an ecommerce website.

Joomla Web Design Company Adding Extra Value to Ecommerce Websites

The virtual world has lots of money and so we find infinite entrepreneurs joining the crew. However, at the end of a day, websites have to be enhanced with applications which improve its functionality.

A Joomla web design company offers web designing services which make use of Joomla templates. This species of companies has become the prominent companies for designing websites which meet the contemporary demand of the virtual world.

The templates of Joomla are quite compatible with ecommerce applications. It means web administrators can easily input new applications for gathering ecommerce information. Well, the usage of Joomla is flourishing everywhere due to its cost-effectiveness. So if somebody says that it costs you lots of money than it will be no less than a myth. In reality Joomla web designing costs a less amount of money which can be witnessed with the current price of any Joomla web design company.

One more alternate means online entrepreneurs can choose if they would like to design a Joomla website with zero investment programs. Yes, it is possible and for this purpose, entrepreneurs can opt for free Joomla web design templates and other related software which are available on the Internet. It is not necessary that one has to be a professional web designer for creating outstanding websites. So why not try some creative work right away.

Business means competition and if entrepreneur has to be permanent then he should be a consistent performer with the spontaneous supply of innovations. And Joomla is the right breeding place for innovations and no entrepreneur will run short of ideas and techniques to give a hard competition. To start a new venture at a personal level will be a mammoth task but if one takes the necessary help of joomla web design company, then it will ease the difficult effort to a great extent.