Whether you are selling products or services, adding eCommerce functionality to your site makes sense. According to the Wall Street Journal, 70% of shoppers “prefer to shop their favorite retailer online”.
When adding eCommerce functionality to your site consider the following:
How many different products/services will I sell?
If you are just selling one or two things, you might be able to get by without a full-fledged store.
Do I want to track inventory?
Some applications will let you keep track of inventory, alerting you when you run out of (or are low on) stock and event automatically posting “out of stock” notices on your site.
What kind of payment gateway will I need and what are the associated costs?
You may already have a merchant account to process credit/debit cards, but not all merchant accounts have a “gateway”, which is a service that allows you to collect payment online. You may need a third-party gateway which will add another 2-5% cost onto your transactions. Or you may choose to use something like PayPal or Square as an adjunct to your offline merchant account.
Should customers be able to log into an account to see their order and shipping progress?
Customers love transparency and the ability to log into an account and see if their order has shipped and get a shipping confirmation number is a feature that may increase loyalty.
What kinds of “terms and agreements” do I need?
When you run an online store you need to make sure everything is clear and most contingencies thought out in advance. Specificially you need to consider:
- Shipping guarantee (what happens if the shipment is lost or stolen?)
- Product guarantee (if the product is defective)
PayPal offers some out-of-the-box solutions if you are just selling a few products and services. It is easy to set up and buyers do not need a PayPal account to pay by credit or debit card.
PayPal will also function as a merchant account for full-featured sites and is usually included as a default gateway by most eCommerce applications.
Want to learn more about using PayPal on your site? Contact me for a consultation.
If you use WordPress then there are several solutions for you. WP eCommerce and WooCommerce are two I’ve used extensively for full-featured stores. Both are free, but offer additional plugins that add advanced functionality to the store.
For events, Event Espresso works as a plugin to WordPress – you’ll access all registration information within WordPress itself. I have also used EventBrite with WordPress. With EventBrite you manage your events through their site, and embed registration and event information on your own pages.
While these aren’t the only solutions available, these are the most popular. Schedule a consultation to talk about what eCommerce solution will work best for your site.
Third Party Solutions
There are a number of third-party eCommerce providers. With these companies you set up an account (which generally includes a merchant account), add your products, style your store and start selling. They generally charge a monthly rate and a per purchase charge. The format of the store – the look and feel – can be difficult to change and you may lose flexibility in how your store operates.
With a third-party provider, you store exists on their server – so the URL may be different from your website url.
My role in managing third-party eCommerce solutions is generally limited to formatting the store to have a look and feel that is similar to your website, however I can set up your store for you. Contact me for a quote.