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Ecommerce Essentials

By: Josh Ewin at MrEwin

Submitted on Tue, Jul 25th, 2006 12:00 am

Making the leap from a brick and mortar business to an online business requires a shift in perception and understanding of the essentials. Many business owners and managers have become rooted in the fundamentals of operating a traditional business and have a difficult time initially understanding what it takes to sell online. We'll cover the 5 basic ingredients for Ecommerce Success in this article.

Website
While it is not impossible to transact ecommerce without a website, for the purposes of this article, we'll assume that your business plan revolves around generating sales and fulfilling orders via your organization's own website. With this in mind, I ask that you repeat the following mantra with me each morning, "our website is the lifeblood of our business". For, without properly planned, organized and maintained website, most of your efforts to extend your business to the web will be in vain.

Shopping Cart
The term shopping cart' is simply too loosely defined to encompass everything that an ecommerce application can and should do for your business. Your shopping cart is the nuts and bolts of your online business; the programming, and databases that allow customers to select their desired products and purchase them. However, there is much more that your shopping cart can do for you; like sales and inventory tracking, affiliate management, shipping calculations and so on.

When selecting an ecommerce application, take the following into consideration: Who will be fulfilling your orders? Will your organization be able to easily add new products and adjust or remove old or out dated inventory from the system? Are the applications that you are considering compatible with the major search engines (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Lycos, etc)?

Payment Processing
Although I'm certain that someday in the distant future, online cash transactions will be entirely possible; today's ecommerce relies on digital forms of payment primarily the credit card. It is possible that your business already has a merchant account, and accepts credit card payments. If this is the case, then you are already familiar with and understand that you need an account with a merchant bank and a terminal in order to process credit cards.

In the world of ecommerce, the same rules apply; however, your customers will not swipe their cards through a terminal (at least not yet!), but rather, they will enter their credit card details in a form on your website. This form then passes their information to your merchant bank, via something called a payment gateway. A payment gateway is simply a program that performs the same action as the terminal that a user would normally use to swipe their card.

If you already have a merchant account, your credit card processor will most likely have a payment gateway available to you. If not, you'll need to select one from a vast array of options. An important note to remember however, is that different payment gateways come with different options and your payment gateway will need to be compatible with your shopping cart and merchant account.

For more information about processing payments online, please contact Douglas Olsen at Card Service International, 1.866.999.6632.

SSL Certificate
The SSL Certificate is perhaps the most overlooked component of ecommerce. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. When any data is passed over the Internet, it is susceptible to the prying eyes of hackers and other nefarious parties. While an email about your cousin's Bah Mitzvah is important, this information is certainly not as sensitive as let's say, your customers' credit card information.

enter the SSL certificate. An SSL certificate (also known as a cert' in the industry). An SSL certificate, provided by one of several major authorities (i.e. CA, or Certificate Authority), encrypts the customer's data before it is sent to your website; at which point it is decrypted and processed. SSL Certificates range in price from $100 to $2000 annually, depending on the level of encryption and insurance.

Hosting
Hosting is a largely misunderstood concept to those that are new to ecommerce; however it is very simple in principle. A web host provides a computer that is always connected to the Internet, which your website is stored on. Although the actual application of web hosting becomes much more complicated, that's it in a nut shell.

In order for your visitors to be able to visit your website, it must be connected to the Internet. Makes sense, right? Furthermore, it must be connected to the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week via high-capacity communications equipment. This ensures that your website is always available for visitors, regardless of the time of day or volume of visitors (also known as hits') to your website.

Written by Adam Byerly, Director of Sales. For more information regarding web hosting services, please contact Jim Andrews at H2oh Hosting.

About the Author

Josh Ewin
MrEwin
MrEwin.com is an E-Business Analysis blog containing up to the minute articles, reviews and interviews with industry leaders regarding the current state and future direction of e-commerce.

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