Frequently asked questions about: electronic commerce sites
What is electronic
commerce, and how is an e-commerce site different from a "regular" one?
commerce is an online process that enables web site visitors to view and
select merchandise, place an order, and submit payment, all directly from
your web site. An e-commerce site, in essence, functions as an
automated sales machine.
At its most basic level, an
e-commerce site needs a way to display and describe merchandise, a way to
place an order, and a secure payment method for customers to use a credit
card. These features are components of an e-commerce site, but do
not, in and of themselves, comprise the site.
The only real difference
between a "regular" and "e-commerce" site is that the latter incorporates
these additional components to enable online sales. A web site can
be built around these components, or they can be added to an existing
What do I need for
An e-commerce site, if it is to make the sale, has to anticipate and
answer questions, overcome objections, and generally inspire confidence on
the part of the visitor.
We can set up a fast-loading, easy to use site to sell your products.
The success of the site, though, is up to you. Obviously, you have
to have a product that someone wants to buy, but some degree of
salesmanship also is required. It's really not enough just to show
your product. Your web site has to sell it You'll need clear
digital photographs, showing your products in the best light possible,
with full, informative descriptions.
Although the focus is on
your product, you'll also need to reassure prospective customers about
your reliability as an online vendor. Although a well-designed web
site goes a long way in gaining trust, anything you offer in the way of
reinforcing the idea that you're "for real" will help to make the sale.
How does it work?
Once it's been set up, an e-commerce site functions as an automated sales
machine. Customers select and order merchandise, enter payment
information, and submit their order.
The web site automatically notifies you via email, telling you an order
has been placed. You then retrieve the order information, fill it,
and process payment through your selected payment gateway service.
What is a payment
An e-commerce site requires some type of payment gateway- a secure way to
collect, transmit, and process buyer information, and to enable you to
accept payment via Visa, Mastercard, or other credit cards.
This usually involves a merchant account with a credit card processor,
which usually requires that the site be hosted with a service that
provides a secure server for safely encrypting buyers' information.
Once you have a merchant account, the web site can be configured to store
order information for manual processing, or to utilize a "real time"
interface for automated processing.
For relatively small or
low-volume sites, there are alternative payment gateways that don't
require a merchant account or secure servers for your site. Although
these were once very awkward for customers to use, they have evolved into
viable alternatives for many online sellers to accept credit cards.
Either way, the web site
must be able to transmit the order details to the payment gateway, and
notify you that an order has been placed. Any of our e-commerce
enabled sites perform these basic functions, and many more are available-
depending on what you need for your situation.
a shopping cart?
Besides allowing customers to select multiple items, the shopping cart
component typically tallies up the order, calculates basic taxes and
shipping, collects information from the buyer, and transmits the total to
a payment gateway.
More advanced carts function as a total online sales solution, providing a
way for you to add, delete, or change merchandise descriptions, track
inventory levels, confirm shipment to your customers, and more.
We offer basic and
advanced shopping cart facilities, depending on your needs and future
require expensive hosting?
Not necessarily. We'll show you where to host a full-fledged
e-commerce site, complete with advanced shopping cart and secure server,
for as little as $20 monthly. If you don't really need that much
flexibility and use one of the alternative payment gateways, we can host
your site for as low as $10 monthly.
What other expenses
Aside from the design, construction, and hosting of your site, your
payment gateway service will charge a percentage of your transactions, and
may charge a "per transaction" fee.
Merchant accounts through your bank or other credit card service provider
may require set up and/or subscription fees. These vary by provider.
Automated payment processing is usually an extra-cost option for a basic
Alternate payment gateways charge very small or no setup fees, but have a
higher rate for transactions.
Where can I get a merchant account?
We do not provide merchant accounts- getting an account that suits your
needs is up to you. If you currently accept credit cards, you might
check with your provider about accepting online transactions.
Our advanced shopping carts interface with the real-time payment gateway
authorize.net, one of the largest and best-known online payment
If you don't need real-time processing, you can use any processor that
allows manual transaction entry.
How can I accept
credit cards without a merchant account?
Not everyone needs (and not everyone can qualify for) a traditional
merchant account for online credit card transactions.
We can set up your site to interface with
2checkout.com, two viable alternatives for online sales with no
merchant account required. The user interface for these payment
services is almost as smooth as it would be with your own account.
Besides being less
expensive to set up than a regular merchant account, these alternative
services don't require a secure server for your site, so you can take
advantage of our low-cost, no-charge domain name hosting plan.
Can I change my selected payment gateway service?
We can set up two kinds of e-commerce sites. At the low end, sites
set up to interface with PayPal or 2checkout.com are "hard coded" for
these services. Changing them would require extensive work.
Our full-service sites can easily be reconfigured to interface with PayPal,
a manual merchant account, or automated services through authorize.net.
What else is involved,
and how much does it cost?
Like any web site, the cost of setting up an e-commerce site varies with
its scope, complexity, and your degree of readiness. Since
electronic commerce is essentially an optional component for a "regular"
web site, we suggest you