Consider the following scenario. You recently discover that people around you enjoy this particular device/craft/thing that you create in your spare time. Everyone is telling you, “You should sell this online! People would totally pay for this!” Unfortunately, there are a few other people you know who are considering selling items similar to yours. You need to move fast. How do you get an e-commerce store set up quickly, beating them to the punch? Here’s a few tips on getting that store up and running ASAP.
Create A Website
You have to start here. You need a website in place as a foundation to build your store on. Here’s where people are going to come to see what you have to offer, put in an order, and of course pay for it. You may also want to register a domain. There’s a lot of software out there that lets you build your own site. Once the site is built, you also need a host, and the best route to go is via a web hosting company.
Get A Shopping Cart
With the site in place, you now need a shopping cart program that will take customer orders, figure out shipping costs, and send order notifications.
Secure A Merchant Account
In order to accept credit cards online, you need to set up a merchant account with your bank. If you don’t want to go that route, there’s always companies that do credit card processing. But at the end of the day, it’s best if you try to work through your bank.
Set up A Gateway
PayPal is a good example of a gateway, an online processor that makes the connection between your merchant account and the customers’ credit card accounts. You need the gateway in order to authorize credit cards, verify information, and transfer requests.
Once you’ve done all of the above steps, it’s time to hit the web and tell people who you are and what you offer. You might want to start with friends and acquaintances, especially the ones who said you should do this in the first place! Let them start spreading the word. Get a Twitter account, a Facebook page, whatever it takes.
For those of you who prefer to shell out a little more money and do a lot less work, there’s always the shortcut approach like hosted e-commerce solutions. A company that offers hosted solutions takes care of all of the heavy lifting, and leaves you with the fun stuff such as site customization and design details, as well as promotion, of course. The host handles all of the nuts and bolts of the e-commerce store, all the technical and financial matters, though each company has different plans and pricing levels. If you don’t feel confident in handling things like financial transactions, then this may be the best option for you. There’s a ton of these companies out there, each with its own pricing. It pays to shop around.
Also, a word of warning about free e-commerce sites. Most sites that offer a free plan provide only basic services; if you want anything fancier, you need to invest in optional add-ons, and that’s where you start paying. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
No matter which way you choose, it’s true that today’s Internet offers the aspiring e-commerce entrepreneur easy access to the buying public. All you need is a product, an idea, and the willingness to jump in. Go for it!
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