When planing an e-commerce website there are a few major points to consider. Taking the time to prepare will save on development and programming time. You should have the goal of getting your site online and selling ASAP! Your site is not making you money if it takes too long to get done.
1. Register your Domain Name.
Brainstorm for domain names. Then go to a domain registrar and test some out. MyLink Hosting provides domain regsitrations here. You wll have to try several to find one that’s still available. You should register several variations of top level domains i.e. mystore.com, mystore.net, mystore.biz etc. This will prevent a competitor from grabbing up your names and redirecting them to his store!
Domain names average around 15 dollars per year each when you register a new name. If you really want a domain name that is already taken you can contact the owner, but the cost can be into the thousands of dollars. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a domain from a private seller, as you should invest in advertising for your new website rather than an expensive domain name.
2. What are you going to sell?
Figure out what you are going to sell. Do you need to buy inventory or is it drop shipped from another company? Research the selling terms and legality of the products you wish to sell. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that manufacturers have the right to establish that their products are “Premium” and not eligible for online sales. Other items such as Firearms are likely to have legal rules for sales both on the federal and state levels. Obviously bootleg or knock off products are just looking for trouble. Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows copyright holders to have your site shutdown and even take your domain registrations.
You will need to generate a list of your products. A spreadsheet will help out immensely. You will need to set your prices, get the dimensions, weight and photos of your products. Also record options, such as color and sizes. This is a lot of work and having it in a spreadsheet will help you and your designer get your cart online faster.
3. Get a Merchant Gateway.
There are several options for taking payment on your website. The easiest and best place to start is to set up an account with Paypal. Paypal accepts most credit cards and the security of your customers credit card info is completely handled by Paypal.
If you want to accept credit cards on your web site, you will need to contact your bank or find a merchant gateway provider (the most common gateway is authorize.net). Review rates and policies. Rates will vary depending on your products you wish to sell, your credit, and the amount of sales you wish to do a month. Merchant gateway providers allow you to receive payment for your items quickly while they work to settle with the customers credit card company They may not want to deal with high fraud items (such as event tickets) or high dollar items (such as precious stones/metal jewelry). Banks often have higher rates but offer the security and trust of your financial institution.
4. Get web hosting and SSL security
You will need to get the appropriate hosting for your website. Many shared hosts will disappoint you with internal limitations (you have to share resources with their other clients). Also you will need a dedicated IP address and an SSL for taking credit cards on your website. Logo7 Media can provide the right hosting plan for your hosting and SSL needs.
5. Hire a designer for you website.
Talk with your designer about what you want to sell and what kind of features you would like the shopping cart to have. Take a moment to find websites with those features so you can show your designer (a picture is worth a thousand words).
Ask your programmer about their experience with shopping carts and ask for some examples of their work. Ask about how they will go about programming your site (i.e. language, database, and if they have established code or will need to design it themselves). Logo7 media uses open source PHP code base for our shopping carts. This allows us to focus on design and features. Our carts will have more features than you will likely have thought about (integrated SEO, social media buttons, shipping options, payment gateways, taxes and sales reports.)
With an established code base we can rapidly get your website online sooner than someone who wants to start from scratch on the complex programming of a shopping cart. This time savings will help you make money sooner!
Now that your website is online, you will need to advertise just if you were a brick and mortar store. Update your letter head and business cards with the website URL. Determine who is your market and plan traditional print ads, online banner ads, and pay ads on related websites. Get your name out there and check out your competition and find ways to be better than them (pricing, service, value added items). If you like Logo7 Media can help you get started with your marketing plan.