eCommerce – What is it? Do I Need It?

The definition is simple:  ecommerce is a commercial transaction that takes place on the internet.  When you buy something at, you are participating in an ecommerce transaction as is moving money from your savings account to your checking account with your bank’s mobile app.

Do I Need eCommerce?

If you sell a product, the answer to this question is obvious – YES!  Selling your products online expands your customer base to the entire country, or even world!

If you offer a service I suggest you look at your customers rather than the services you offer.  For example, I offer my services world-wide and all of my clients are comfortable buying online, so it makes sense to offer online payment options.  On the other hand, my husband’s residential rental business doesn’t offer a way for tenants to pay rent online because the majority of the tenants aren’t computer users or aren’t comfortable paying online.

Ask yourself – “are my customers comfortable with buying or paying over the internet? ”

eCommerce Terminology

checkout photoStore – the store contains all of your products or services plus the shopping cart, checkout and registration.  It is the total shopping experience.

Shopping Cart – where purchases are stored as a customer shops.

Product Listing – this is usually a list of all products, or all products in a category.

Product Detail – this is the page with the details of the products, images and the add to cart button.

Checkout – a process that involves several steps.  Usually the customer needs to input their name and address, choose delivery, and enter payment information.

Gateway – the connection between your site and your merchant account or bank.  You need this to process payments online.

Confirmations – these cover a series of emails that are sent to the customer when a purchase takes place.

Notifications – these are emails sent to the shop owner when a purchase takes place.


What eCommerce Options Are Out There?

There are three main categories of eCommerce solutions:

Buy Now Button

shopping cart photoYou don’t always need a full-fledged shopping cart solution – even when you sell products.  I recommend to my clients that if they are selling a few items or services, use PayPal buy now buttons.  They are simple to set up and add to your page.  If you are using WordPress to manage your website there are plugns which make it even easier to create the buttons and embed in a post or page.  The customer clicks on a button and is taken right to PayPal to pay.  When you set up the button you enter information about what is being paid for which is sent to the shop owner, along with the customer’s name and address.

Third-Party Provider

There are several flavors of third-party providers, ranging from just providing the shopping cart to managing your entire store.

For example, PayPal has an “Add to Cart” button which create a cart separate from your website that the customer can fill.  You just need to put the appropriate buttons on your site so they can add items, view their cart, and check out.  The actual products listings and details are on your own page.

At the other end of the spectrum are companies where you sign up for a store account and enter everything into the store which is hosted by the company.  Usually the company provides payment options for an easy, seamless experience.  You will have to pay more for convenience, however, as there are monthly charges associated with these stores.  Examples include: UltraCart, Volusion, and Shopify.


Self-hosted solutions put the store on your own hosting site.  You may pay a one-time fee to buy the software and have it set, but there are no ongoing costs other than routine maintenance and your merchant account fees.  If WordPress powers your websites, there are some very good plugins: Woocommerce and WP eCommerce which integrate the store right into your existing WordPress theme.  I’m a fan of self-hosting because a) I dislike monthly fees and b) I retain controls of all of my data.

In the next post I’ll talk about what you need to know when building an eCommerce Site.

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