Making the jump from basic website, to online sales and eCart web systems is a huge and often intimidating step, but it doesn’t have to be a leap of faith. With the initial investment costs involved in cart systems, gateways, merchant accounts and SSL domain protection, you should not trust your ecommerce website design to just anybody.
Over the past decade we have designed and integrated dozens of eCommerce and Shopping Carts Systems into websites. From basic Paypal sales of a single item or monthly fee, to WordPress Shopping Cart Systems (We love WooCommerce!), to extensive product sales for companies doing $1,000,000+ a year in total sales.
We have learned that there is no single best way to approach a clients needs, and to take each and every situation on its own merits. Sometimes a start up doesn’t need to invest in a full scale system, other times, a company may be putting themselves in a position where there is no room to grow.
Before you get started there are several things to consider
- Domain Name
Your domain name matters. It could be the difference between first page landing in search results and 20th page where no one will find you. What are you offering to the shoppers? Products? Services? What are the keywords that these possible customers will use to find the products they need? Consider using these keywords in your domain name, not just the name of your store. You domain name doesn’t always have to be your company or store name, look at us for example. We use our main product service and enjoy top google rankings because if it.
- Shopping Cart
There are many eCart systems available where for a monthly fee, they offer you a shared SSL (A secure encryption of your website to protect Credit Card transactions) as well as several basic templates for you to choose from. Other times you may need to build a Cart into a pre-existing website or wordpress theme. Sometimes you need to consider building a new site to accomodate a new store with room to grow in the future.
- Merchant Account
Any eCommerce site or Online Store requires a Merchant Account to process credit card transactions. The best one for you depends on your needs and charges can vary from 1.9% to 10% as well as per transaction and monthly fees. If you have a brick and mortar store, you should already have a merchant account that can offer you online services.
N.A.I. Multimedia uses and recommends PayPal’s business solutions for startups or stores with a minimum amount of products or sales. They have several new services that allow you to process credit cards on your website for low fees. If you expect higher sales, you should consider other merchant services that have higher monthly charges but lower per transaction fees.
- Payment Gateway
Merchant Accounts usually don’t offer a Secure Payment Gateway, in the real world a Payment Gateway isn’t needed to physically swipe a credit or debit card (but a 3rd party transaction system that protects that info usually is). A Payment Gateway provides a secure place for your customers to make payments that are processed by your Merchant Account Company and prevents hackers and thieves from intercepting credit card information. N.A.I. uses and recommends Authorize.net but your merchant account provider may have other suggestions. There is always a monthly fee for a Payment Gateway and also includes transactions fees which are usually less than that of a Merchant Account provider.
- Professional Photographs
I should have made this number 1 actually. Spending a small fortune to get your Online Store up and going, then saving money by taking product photos yourself, like you were selling on Craigslist or eBay is a bad idea. Single images and low quality images can have an adverse effect on a purchaser. If you want to take photos yourself, invest in 2 good lighting umbrellas and a white background as well as a quality digital camera. Don’t assume Adobe Photoshop can fix everything. Customers want to see large, clear images of products in different angles. They cant reach out and touch it so you need to offer them the next best thing. Don’t skimp on product images!
- Search Engine Optimization
This is the downfall of many novice web designers. Creating a professional eCart system doesn’t do anything for your business if potential customers cannot find it. Professional SEO is vital for the survival of an online store. Many all in one eCommerce packages are database driven and often this could hurt you search engine rankings. If someone is searching for a vintage record player and your product page is www.yourdomainname.com/cart.php/item?=233 and your competitors website shows www.yourdomainname.com/vintage-record-player/ then which page do you think will show up first in a search engine?For a business selling limited products, a static page for each product may increase your search engine rankings. For a business with an extensive amount of products, this could be a time consuming and expensive alternative so professional SEO to make changes to the database address may be needed.
Let us help guide you thru these issues, our experience in these systems can help you get your online store started on the right foot.
From product images, to shipping, to Credit Card transactions and gateways, we can help you thru every step of the way. Please contact us for a free, no hassle consultation!