Even before the unprecedented events of 2020, online businesses were thriving. Now that the pandemic continues to bring about profound changes in all aspects of our lives, establishing an online presence is even more important. Before you jump in head-first, however, it is important to learn about the various pieces of technology that you will require in order to ensure your success.
Establishing your ecommerce website.
Your website is the way your online consumers interact with your business. Since first impressions are vital, one of your primary jobs is to come up with a website that shoppers want to visit and that inspires them to purchase your products and/or services. Whether you design the site yourself or hire someone to do it, keep the following tips in mind:
- Be sure your site is mobile-friendly. Increasingly, shoppers are using their smartphones to browse the internet, search for bargains, and follow through with the sale. Your site should be responsive, work well with touchscreens, and facilitate easy navigation and fast checkout for smartphone users.
- Come up with an effective domain name that describes your business so that new users can find you.
- Make your contact information visible at the top of your homepage.
- Make navigation easy, with five or fewer top-level tabs, and subcategories. Provide easy buttons that take users back to the homepage from any location.
- Design your site with uncomplicated fonts, bullet points, and clear graphics.
- Present a clean and uncluttered page with a mix of text and images.
- Facilitate faster download speeds by optimizing images, keeping software updated, and only doing business with a website host that is reliable and can meet your bandwidth needs.
- Ensure that each page contains a clear call to action and an easy way for users to follow through.
- Use your “About us” page to start a personal relationship with customers. Help them to feel like they are working with human beings, not a robot.
In short, do everything you can on your website to maximize the shopper’s experience and stay one step ahead of your competitors.
Sign up for a merchant account.
If you have set up your enterprise, you probably have initiated a relationship with a bank or credit union and opened a business account. This is a vital step in starting your company, but it is different from a merchant account. In simple terms, your merchant account is a conduit that allows you to process credit card and other electronic payments, hanging on to the funds until the transaction can be approved and the transfer made to your business account.
It is important to realize that your merchant account is more than a holding cell for your cash. In addition, the company that provides the service can also work to protect you from fraud and keep your transactions secure by turning on their Address Verification System (AVS) and the Card Verification Value (CVV). These additional steps help to ensure that your customers are who they say they are and are not using false or stolen credit cards. You might also consider asking your merchant account vendor if they can provide you with software that allows you to remotely capture customer signatures since they are your most reliable form of identification that can be shown during the chargeback process.
Decide on a payment gateway.
When a customer makes an electronic payment, all of the information associated with the transaction is first manually entered by the buyer into your shopping cart software. It is then sent on to software known as the payment gateway, which acts as an intermediary for all of the players involved in the process. After the information has been conveyed to the payment processor, the card association takes out its share of the transaction costs and ensures that there are sufficient funds in the customer’s account. Approval is granted by the card issuing bank, which transmits the information to the card association and the merchant, with the payment gateway confirming the sale. Because payment gateways are an additional service that costs even more money, you might elect to go with an all-in-one service that combines both the merchant account and the payment gateway.
Get your hardware and software.
No matter what products you sell, you need a physical infrastructure for your online business. It must include the following:
- Server software. This provides the necessary files to your website and enables your customers to see your pages via their web browser.
- Web tools. These allow you to compose the aspects of your website that customers see, including text, graphics and other content. Examples include Notepad ++ and Visual Studio.net.
- Databases. These compendiums are where vital information about your products and customers is stored. Information that you keep there will include item images, text descriptions, prices and sales data. You will need technology such as PHP or My SQL to facilitate seamless communication between your website and your database management system.
- Networking. In order to be compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) and to maintain customer trust, you should institute protocols such as secure sockets layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS) that furnish you with a secure connection to the internet.
When all of these elements are in place, you can expect a website that both you and your customers can rely on for consistency and security.
Get ready to process payments.
Payment processing equipment enables you to accept cash from buyers, and there are many choices on the market. There is no better time than now to get your ecommerce business off the ground. Equip yourself with a comprehensive suite of technology, and you will be selling your products and services to customers before you know it.