When it comes to figuring out the functions, quantities, qualities, operations, and all of the rest of your E-commerce requirements, it can be a really challenging process. If you happen to own some experience and expertise in website design and programming, it's still a challenge. It takes a lot of planning, a great deal of answering questions, and even some research on what's out there in the current market. If you're new to the E-commerce arena, it's even more challenging as you “don't know what you don't know.” You have to figure out what you need and what you want as part of your E-commerce requirements.
We're not saying this to scare you or make you feel intimidated. We're saying this because we want to assure you that it's real – and it can be done and done well.
If you're starting your E-commerce site, here are some things that you need when considering your e-commerce requirements:
A reputable site provider with great reviews for customer service.
There are a lot of companies out there that offer E-commerce hosting. Some of these companies present a great presentation that looks like they know what they're doing. Many of them are truly very good, but some of them are not as good as their sales presentations. Do your homework and find out what others are saying about them. The general rule in this area is this: you will get some very revealing comments about a company if you do a Google search and read what was has been posted. Either you will see raving reviews, or you're going to see scathing complaints. Rarely will you get any neutral comments.
An easy process to receive the customer service you need.
You might think that you don't have to look at the reviews, especially as they relate to the level of customer service you will receive. The reason is simply because you might be “tech-savvy” and can figure out most everything that's going on. If you're thinking that's the case for you, you're most likely to be wrong. The reality is that you will be contacting customer service for something, either because you need help getting something right, or because there's something on the provider's end that they need to do for you. Either way, you're going to be partnering with them – and you're going to want to have a good relationship throughout the process as part of your E-commerce requirements.
Easy functions for Google Analytics, links, tags and other functions for search engine optimization resources.
Setting up search engine optimization resources is a critical step for every E-commerce site. You want for your customers, both present and future ones, to easily find you. Many people figure it's pretty easy to set these things up in a site. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. In some cases, the provider makes it very difficult to add HTML code into their pages. For other providers, they end up requiring you to have to use code to do the work. The better providers have fields and functions to do this work without having to get into the HTML code in the pages – which should make it easier. However, you want to make sure that their functions actually work. Again, look at the reviews and have a expert look into what set up to make sure it works for your E-commerce requirements.
Strong security functions.
This point should be very obvious, and it should be a basic E-commerce requirement. However, it's not always the case. Make sure your provider has 128-bit security as a minimum requirement. Additionally, check certificates and ensure that everything is running as advertised. Not only should the financial transaction portion of your invoicing process be secure, the whole transaction should be secure. The vast majority of providers offer this level of security, so you shouldn't accept anything less than this.
Multiple options for payment processing.
Now that the payment processing market is getting a little bit more competitive, there are some new players in the field. That's not necessarily a bad thing. You want to make sure that your preferred payment processing company is one that your E-commerce site provider will accept – and vice versa. Many site providers offer PayPal, but then the selection can vary differently from provider to provider. Do your homework and study the payment processors that your prospective E-commerce site providers are able to offer.
Consider payment processing fees.
Talking about payment processors, be aware that transaction fees can vary differently from company to company. Rates can vary as much as 3%, which can get expensive if you don't do your homework. You want a reputable payment processor that offers great security, doesn't beat you up on chargebacks, and is easy to use. Research the current rates and services these payment providers are currently offering and check reviews as well.
To meet your E-commerce requirements, you need to decide what you want. Here are some questions that you will want to answer:
How many products or services do I want to offer in my site?
Some E-commerce site providers are really great at building sites that offer a small selection of products and services. Additionally, they charge less for these site because they don't require so much processing speed and capabilities on their servers. Make the mistake of expanding your product and service offerings by a large amount, and you could regret the decision. Conversely, there are site providers that can easily handle thousands of products or services, but they don't necessarily have the look and functions.
You can balance these qualities by forecasting what you need now and what you'll need later. Some great site providers offer scalable services so that you don't have to pay for a huge site in the beginning, but you have the power of a large site if and when you need it. Do your homework and see what you can get in regards of level of service and number of items.
What products and services do I want to offer in my site?
This question should also be obvious. It's become obvious, though, that many people miss this question when planning for the site. Selling a shirt requires different resources than selling a trip to Cancun. If you have a combination of products and services, you need to see how you're going to manage these items on your website. Staying with the shirt analogy, you may have to deal with sizes, colors and styles. These may seem simple at first. When you get deeper into the installation process, it can easily get more complicated.
Make a point to determine all of the products and/or services you are going to offer when the site is launched. Determine how you're going to manage them within your site. Most site providers allow for you to have a 30-day trial. When you get to the point that you've made your final selections of providers, put items into the site and see how they are managed.
How much detail do I need to have to manage my inventory in my site?
Similar to the previous question, you need to know the details of your items. You want to think about how the site will maintain the number of items in inventory. What happens when items are sold out? Do you want for the out-of-stock item to be removed from being seen on the site? Or do you want for people to order more so that they item gets shipped when it is back in stock? Do you want for your site to maintain information about your items, including your vendor's stock numbers? All of this information is important, but it is even more important when it comes to your E-commerce requirements.
Do I want my website to link to my accounting program, such as QuickBooks?
As technology gets better and E-commerce site providers are able to build programming that links to accounting programs, the divide between E-commerce and accounting programs disappears. Frankly, it makes a lot of sense for your site be able to “talk” to your accounting program and vice versa. Until someone builds an “all-in-one” E-commerce and accounting program, which is probably coming soon, we want the two programs to work well together.
To meet these needs, there are “plug-in” programs which allow the two programs to work together. Check out what your accounting program recommends in conjunction with your prospective E-commerce requirements for site providers. Always look to see if you can make this process work seamlessly.
How much time do I have to build and manage this site?
For many of us, it's all about cash flow. We don't have the money to pay someone to build an extensive site, so we try to do it on our own. However, this process can ultimately be more expensive. We can end up working on tasks and projects that don't have any direct improvement on our cash flow. We can always stay busy, but that doesn't mean that we're making money.
Take some time to figure out what you can do well and what you need to delegate as part of your E-commerce requirements. If you don't have any experience in building an E-commerce site, do yourself a favor and talk to people who build them for a living. The market for these services is truly a global one. Many people now understand how to meet E-commerce requirements in the marketplace. You can find some great resources all over the world who can do the work for an affordable price. Do what you do best, and do those things that will improve your cash flow.
How much time do I have to devote to social media marketing and search engine optimization?
As with the previous question, you need to plan on putting time and resources towards promoting your site. This includes social media marketing and search engine optimization. Your site needs to be seen and it needs to be promoted for people to want to do business with you. Creating the “word-of-mouth” reputation that is the secret to growth is important, and it starts with social media.
Don't just assume that you can throw money at marketing and it will produce results. Find those people who are really good at social media and search engine optimization. Let them do great work for you to promote your site.
These points should get your mind thinking about what you need to do. If you have more questions, we encourage you to look through the resources here at OnlineAdvisor.com. We also encourage you to give us a call or drop us an email – and feel free to ask questions from us.