Selling products online requires a much different layout than your run-of-the-mill blogging site. Let’s take a look at the things you’ll need to think about when setting up an eCommerce website and help explain why they cost more to create.
First let me tell you what we are yet to cover in this article.
We do not assume that an e-commerce website is a single web page with some embedded PayPal button codes.
PayPal buttons are great and work well for those selling a few items, but we are taking e-commerce to the next level and giving the customer the best online shopping experience.
Most modern eCommerce websites are apps. They have a user interface, system settings, store data in a database, and track the workflow of processes. Let’s touch on some of these aspects.
You can think of an e-commerce website like a game with actors acting out their scenes.
The main players in the e-commerce website are:
* Consumer – buys products
* Website owner: posts purchased products and gets paid
* The e-commerce application: the interface between all actors
* Payment Portal: handles payment transactions (more on this later)
* Corporate/enterprise bank account: the website owner’s business bank account (more on this later)
The main process of buying from an e-commerce website (the ‘game’) takes place as follows:
1. The customer browses the product catalogue
2. The customer adds a product to the basket
3. The customer purchases the product and enters the payment system.
4. The e-commerce application contacts the payment gateway
5. Payment Gateway provides a secure payment entry form and delivery details to the customer
6. Customer can securely enter shipping and payment information
7. The payment gateway contacts the merchant bank account of the website owners
8. The merchant bank account processes the payment transaction and returns control to the payment gateway
9. The payment gateway returns the customer to the e-commerce application
10. E-commerce app notifies customer about successful (or failed) payment
11. An e-commerce application notifies the website owner of the purchase
12. The owner of the website sends the product to the customer
Of course, there are a lot more details to each step, but hopefully you get the general idea that setting up an eCommerce app is a little more involved than your regular blog-style website . . . .
Where do you start?
It sounds silly, but the first step you need to take is to think about the types of things you will be selling online.
Are these products, ie. physical items requiring packaging and distribution or services provided by you or another vendor, e.g. Professional grooming of yaks.
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How many products or types of services will you offer? Local or International? Are the others seasonal? Do you have limited stock levels for certain items? Are you planning to take advantage of special offers and discounts? Do you like yaks?
This leads to questions about the client and payment.
Who are your customers? Where are they? How are they going to pay? credit card, check, PayPal? What bank account will I need to set up?
And then there are support questions.
How do you handle returned products? How are fees reimbursed? How do you handle complaints?
Thinking about the products and services you are going to offer is very important because the first thing a web designer will ask you when asking for a quote is “How many things do you sell and to whom?”
The reason, of course, is time and cost.
Selling 50 products to just the UK customer base using PayPal requires a very different setup and is therefore more expensive than selling 1000+ products internationally and accepting credit card payments.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key application areas of eCommerce.
The e-commerce app
Essentially, an eCommerce application is a custom content management system (CMS). So in addition to updating posts and blogs, it specializes in updating products and services and supporting business functions.