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What Do I Need to Know About Starting an Ecommerce Site?

February 3, 2021

If we learned anything from 2020, it was the necessity of a being able to serve our clients in a variety of ways and the importance of a good Ecommerce platform. Even though many small businesses are open, they must deal with restrictions and reduced capacity, and many are looking to move more of their customer interactions allowing some form of purchasing and payments online. This can be an incredibly daunting and difficult task for someone unfamiliar with the required steps of creating a good Ecommerce site and protecting your customer’s data.

Web design is incredibly important when creating an ecommerce website. Consider that around half of all sessions occur on a mobile device. This means that your website must work well on all devices: phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop.

Other than making sure your site is pleasant to look at and use, there are many different pieces of information that need to be gathered before you begin the task of adding Ecommerce to your site (even if someone else is building it for you). We have broken these into 5 major categories:

Products:

You will need quality and consistent images of all your products. How you display your product on your website can influence the perception of the quality of your product and service. If people cannot see your products, they are not going to fly off your online shelves. People will buy only from stores they trust. Poor quality images do not project a high trustworthiness rating to visitors.

Quality product descriptions that showcase the features and benefits of your product are required for every product. Think “What is this” and “Why should I buy this particular item?” It is best to write this assuming that your end client has little to no knowledge of the product.

If your product is a digital download, you should think through file size, watermarking, and number of downloads – is it something you want to only make available to a certain number of people or unlimited quantities available to everyone? Also, you need to think through how you will protect your digital downloads to prevent purchasing once and distributing to unlimited users.

You cannot discuss products without also considering pricing!

Are you going to sell retail only, or offer wholesale discounts? Will you provide discounts at various quantity levels? Will you run periodic sales or close out pricing? Allow coupons to be used? Will some like items be priced differently? For instance, XXL sizes cost more than regular sizes? Or some colors be higher priced than others?

Inventory:

If you are selling products, you will need to consider how you will track inventory, especially if you sell both on-line and off-line. Few things can cause more frustration than a customer purchasing and paying for something online that cannot be delivered because you are out of stock and replenishment is weeks or months away. If you use a Point of Sale (POS) system for shopping in store, will your system work with your website Ecommerce application so that both systems reflect real-time sales?

If your products have variants such as color or size, you will need to know this to provide the correct product to our customers. You will also need to decide if these variants will require selling each variant as a separate stock tracking unit (SKU) for inventory purposes.

Payments:

Assuming you are going to accept credit card payments on your site (and you probably should) there are five parties involved in every online transaction:

1) Your Customer.

2) Your Payment Gateway Provider.

3) Your Payment Processor.

4) Your Bank.  

5) You and your shopping cart.

Most businesses already accept credit card payments; however, these typically are credit card present transactions. You may need to set up or add additional services with your bank and payment processor to take payments directly from your website.

PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) compliance and protecting your customer’s transaction information is critical, requiring encryption of all information exchanged between your website and your customers. Accepting credit card information directly on your site is going to mean an SSL (Secure Socket Layer encryption) certificate is an absolute must.

Optionally, you may decide to send customers to third-party payment providers like PayPal or Stripe. These are great options for low volume transactions because they will not incur monthly fees like payment gateway providers and they also mean you are more protected against hacking or a breach of customer data, since all that is handled on the provider’s site.

Lastly, you may offer pay at pickup or call for payment. This might be a little more complicated to keep track of, but many Ecommerce applications have this option built into their interface.

Taxes:

You can include your taxes in the product price or have them applied at checkout. Applying them at checkout is more common and easier to report. If you sell certain products or services, calculating tax might not even be required. And if you sell a mix of taxable and non-taxable items, make sure your Ecommerce platform can handle both. Also, depending on your location, you may have to break out state, county, municipality, and/or local taxing district taxes. Taxes may be determined based on shipping location or destination, all determined by various state and local laws.

Selling products nationwide opens additional potential tax collecting and reporting requirements and a more extensive tax interface. Check with your CPA or tax advisor to see how this may affect your transactions.

Shipping:

Shipping is one of the more difficult things to tackle, because often shipping goes by weight, or if you try to use flat-rate shipping boxes, it can be difficult to determine at checkout how much each order will total. There are various methods for adding shipping charges to your order. Determine how you are going to charge shipping, whether on a per-product basis, or based on order total. You can also decide if you want to offer in-person pick up options.

There are a few direct integrations you can use to determine actual shipping fees, but these integrations need to know product weights, box dimensions, and user account info for the given service (USPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.) to determine your specific fees from shipping location to customer location.

All of this can be overwhelming if you are trying to work through these things on our own. Generally, this process will be much less intimidating and go much smoother if you work with a company that has vast experience in working with small companies implementing Ecommerce.

If you considering adding customer payments or Ecommerce to your website and have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. We have been providing Ecommerce solutions for more than 19 years.

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About the author

Isabelle Gonzalez is ProFusion Web Solutions' Marketing Manager. She is here to help answer all your marketing quesions, and assist in any way she can as you strive to grow your business. Send her an email at belle@profusionwebsolutions.com

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