Getting Started with eCommerce

Ecommerce Overview

Imagine your shop or office or showroom is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; you have no staff to pay, no monthly rent, and even you don't have to sweep the floor. This is no longer a dream but only one of the few advantages of e-commerce. You only need a business website, and that will bring your prospect from everywhere -- from advertising your business to selling products and services - seamlessly without involving any other medium.

Ecommerce or electronic commerce has been around the globe since the mid 90s. However, it is not until recently, that ecommerce is getting more and more acquainted among the web users. Starting an e-business is challenging, as it will make you visible before the entire world and also improve your chances of success in business.

Getting Started

To take advantage of e-commerce, careful plans need to be drawn up. Designing an e-commerce website is not enough, you should concentrate on promoting the site as well. You must have a proper business plan - know what products or services you need to be competitive online, know your customer base better and get proper financial backing to start your online business.

Knowing the target audience is very important, as you have to make sure that you are fulfilling their expectations. You should make a prior plan that will decide where you want to see your company in next 5 to 10 years. If you have correct solutions, e-commerce will definitely bring success for you.

Think what you need to be competitive online

There is an array of existing e-commerce models and new opportunities that are constantly evolving. To remain competitive visit the website of your competitors and compare them with your own website - compare their site designs, product ranges and services, search engine rankings, keywords and back links [how many site slink to them]. By understanding your business needs and customers' requirements you can sketch out your plans.

Use a transactional model where e-commerce is used for direct selling of goods and services online. For example, software and music can be sold and delivered online. But for other tangible goods, physical delivery is very important. You will have to inaugurate fundamental changes in your business procedure including in:

  • Pre-sales advice and support
  • Marketing
  • Deliveries and return
  • Invoicing and payments

You can involve in pre-sales activities through online brochures that will have a version of your promotional materials on your site. Other options include e-mail campaigns, online advertising through banners on other relevant websites that are popular and can redirect visitors to your site.

Post-sales support includes using the Internet to automate customer support in order to reduce the number of routine customer service calls. Whichever model the customer choose, there should be ways to define his/her expectations. This will help you to understand the sales leads, customer's choices and on what you should further improve to remain competitive online.

Ecommerce Plans

As you build your e-commerce business, it is very necessary that you have a proper well-laid plan. You should make perfect plans about your advertising, sales services, post-sales services, marketing, merchandising and transaction processing. You should concentrate on:

  • Customers -- who are your target customers and what they need? How will you get customers again and again to your storefront?
  • Merchandising -- what type of products will you offer and how will you display them before your customers?
  • Promotions -- how will you promote merchandise and services and give incentives to your customers that will attract them for further purchase?
  • Sales services -- how will you reply to any of customer queries and solve their problems?
  • Fulfillment --  how will you pass orders to the fulfillment centers so that the goods are immediately picked, packed and shipped to the customers?
  • Marketing data and analysis -- what information about sales, advertising trends and customers you can gather? How will you make use of it to make decisions?
  • Brands -- how will you communicate with your customers so that it will reinforce your unique company image?


Here are a few things you require before starting your business online:

Merchant account

This is an account that is created so that a business or individual can accept credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of electronic payments. This is also known as payment processing.

To process a transaction, a merchant is charged a fee called a discount rate, which is a percentage of the dollar amount of the transaction. An additional fee (transaction fee) is also applied for each transaction that the merchant processes.

Following are two companies that provide affordable, and reliable merchant accounts for your e-commerce. 

1) PayQuake -- This setup does not demand for any annual fee unless you have used the service for 60 days. No cancellation fees are charged and require a small annual fee of $49, a percentage rate of 3.59%, and a transaction fee of 40 cents and a $9.95 monthly gateway fee.
2) PayPal -- It works directly with Miva Merchant e-commerce software. It costs nothing to sign up for a personal account. It helps customers to do business conveniently and cost-effectively using credit card and is ideally suited for small businesses, online merchants, and individuals.

Payment gateway

This is a simple interface between your e-commerce website and your merchant account. There are two types of payment gateway: Integrated gateway and Payment link.

Integrated payment gateways use an API to securely connect to the gateway server. The software collects your customers' information and securely passes it to the gateway server and waits for an approval. This gives you complete control over the payment process. However, a security certificate is required for this type of gateway.
The other type i.e. payment link moves the customer to the gateway's secure server. All payment information is saved on the gateway server. Once a transaction is done, user gets a mail from the payment gateway.

Verisign is one of the most preferred payment gateways for many merchant account companies and banks. The other popular payments gateways are, LinkPoint, ViaKlix etc.

Secure Certificates

Secure Certificate (using SSL technology) gives your customers' confidence in your identity and reliability. This security also adds credibility to your online businesses. Your customers also feel that their information is kept strictly confidential and privacy is maintained by you.

SSL or Secure Socket Layer allows you to get information from your customers in a secured environment. This information is then sent to the server in an encrypted mode.

Secure Ecommerce Page


The most important aspect of an e-commerce site (especially for small businesses) is marketing. So while designing your site make sure you have spaces in your website for marketing. It can include features like e-mail marketing, banner advertising, search engine marketing, website monitoring, and other tools like keyword optimization, meta tag generator, broken link and sales guide.

Keep track of everything

To track your customers you need to assign a banner ad specific code and use that code in the referring URL that links the websites to the ad. The links keep track of where you come from, and also stores information about customers, orders, advertisements, stored in a single database that are designed to make it easy to report on different data. Whether, it's the total sales, cash transactions or customer feedbacks, you should keep track of every petty thing.

Shopping Cart

A shopping cart is a piece of software that completes the e-commerce or online business. Your customers view your product catalogs, select their choice of products, keep them in shopping basket, place orders through online ordering form, pay through credit cards or other mode of payments, specify the shipping method and its done. The shopping cart does everything on behalf of you. It is the shopping cart that brings your customers' purchases to the cash register.

With shopping cart software, you can enter your products in the database; your customers can view these products, review them, make necessary modifications if required, and ultimately order them by clicking on "Add to Cart" or something similar.

One of the main advantages of shopping cart is: it lets you selecting things from any online store without any login user id and password.

Here is an example of You can select any item and add it to the shopping cart by clicking on the Add to Shopping Cart button. You don't require any user name and password for this.

Ecommerce Example

However, when you proceed to checkout, you need to sign in.

Ecommerce Checkout Page


Once your customers choose their product, you can calculate taxes, determine shipping costs and securely process the customer's preferred method of payments. Whether they want to pay through credit cards or directly through cash (offline facilities), you should have all ready methods. There is a payment order-processing interface where the admin can approve, or reject the order. Once the admin approves the order, the product is delivered and money is deducted from the customer's account.

You should be aware of the different taxes like sales tax, state tax for domestic business and formalities like tariffs, custom fees and potential charges for international business.

Build your customer base

You should make a perfect customer base by sending a word about your website. Use traditional advertising venues like bus ads, billboards, direct mails, radio spots, and television commercials or even cost-effective high quality banner ads and pay to have them placed on other websites that cater to your customer base. Improve on your advertising and marketing facilities to attract more visitors to your web site.

To stay in this e-business field, you should advertise for your product, implement innovative banner ads, deal with affiliate marketing techniques and consider further about sponsorship procedures. You need to constantly revaluate your online presence and with perfect intelligence, diligence and skilful observation, keep discovering the ever-changing needs of your customers.

And then you can continue forever with your e-commerce.

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