E-commerce is growing year on year according to Net Magazine in the last 5 years in the U.S alone online sales have exceeded the $250 billion mark. This is quiet a staggering amount and is only set to increase. But what do we really know about E-commerce and over the years what have we learnt about selling online? We will delve in to platforms that are used and the do’s and don’ts of E-commerce.
My first experience with E-commerce was back in 2001. We wanted to launch a site that selling products online, great so simple! Well not really, we decided to take on a PHP developer that was recommend by the I.T Company we used. Online shopping platforms we thin on the ground so we decided go with osCommerce the O.S standing for open source. osCommerce are still going today.
The P.H.P developer was very keen at the beginning, and you could not fault his commitment. But as time went on you could see he clearly was learning on the job. The end result was a failed project. It was agreed that our faith in the developer had come to an end, and the lack of knowledge of how E-commerce would really work in our business. But all that being said you need a start somewhere. So going forward what did we learn from this experience? Well planning is everything, and an online Store should not diversify from any other business values. Here are my steps to a successful online business.
I just wanted to touch on the subject of planning as this article wasn't meant to cover the business side in great depth, but here are a few things to take on board.
Like any business you need a plan of action of how your going to make your idea work. Even if you don’t need finance it really a must to nail-down what it is you want to achieve. This sounds obvious but many company's have never even thought of doing a business plan and wonder why it never got of the ground. The steps of writing a business plan can be found at Write you own business plan.
The steps of writing a business plan can be found at Write you own business plan. Let say we have already got our design in place and we are now looking to apply it to a platform.
Choosing the right platform for your site needs to obviously fit your budget, and although there are many to choose from I am just going to cover three.
This is really a fully loaded E-commerce solution, there is not much Magento can’t do. This is not really for the faint hearted and I would really recommend using a Authorised Magento Partner This platform is used mainly by large corporates with big budgets so make sure you know what you're getting yourself in to.
It may be that you work for a large corporate that needs exactly what Magento offers, and with eBay now owning the company you can be sure it is going to be around for sometime. The back-end to Magento can be quite daunting, but after being shown the basics can be quite easy to take on, like adding products, pricing and so on.
Magento key strengths.
- It uses PHP, MySQL.
- It works on template based systems on the design side.
- Has hundreds of plug-ins ranging from free and pay options.
- Store can be integrated with eBay, Amazon stores and Facebook to enhance your sales.
- It works with all the major payment services.
- One installation can be used to set up multiple domains for different shops.
- Support is only given from Magento if you have the enterprise edition, which costs upwards of $10,000 per year.
- Because of the file size it is regarded as a slow loading package.
- Upgrading to the latest version of Magento requires a tandem running site and cannot be just upgraded from the push of a button.
This works as a plugin for Wordpress and has become rather popular in recent times. The plugin is free and there are also free and paid themes. You could also get you developer to design one from scratch if you wanted to.
The interface has simple configuration via the back-end of the CMS and is one of the beauties of Wordpress on the whole. The client seems to be much more comfortable updating the images, texts, prices, etc than say a Magento site. The V.A.T and shipping calculation functions are well thought out and seems adequate for most purposes. There are additional paid plugins from Woo Commerce and extensions for third party developers.
Woo Commerce plug-ins
- Woodojo function suite for managing your Woo Commerce plugins and features.
- Sensei, a course working teaching tool.
- WooSlider, an image carousel for pages etc.
- Project by Woo Commerce a design planning tool.
This solution is really suited to a small business with the need to get their business online with as less fuss as possible. I'm not sure how well this plug-in is funded but my concern would be that this could not be supported in the future. But this is not a major concern I guess as products could be exported to another solution in the future. In fact the mighty Magento had a hosting solution called Magento Go that on 1 February 2015 stopped it services. One of our customers needed to find a new solution and decided the Woo Commerce would do the job.
This is the only one of the three that is a fully hosted solution. It comes in the three price levels according on the data storage, percentage per transaction and feature. The lowest is the Basic $29, the Professional $79 and unlimited $179. Now this all looks pretty good considering what you get, the most popular services which is the professional version.
Security is important for both your company and your customers, but what security is essential? It is advisable to use a secure connection for online checkout and make sure you are PCI compliant. Use strong SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] authentication for Web and data protection.
Don't keep sensitive data on your store, there is no reason to store thousands of records on your customers, especially credit card numbers, expiration dates and CVV2. Of course, for email and marketing campaigns you’ll want a record of names, emails, phone numbers, and perhaps addresses of your customers.
Ensure DDoS protection with cloud-based services. Distributed Denial of Service attacks have grown in frequency and are increasingly sophisticated. In response companies can sign up to cloud-based services that “scrub” any unwanted traffic. Some of the higher end services offer managed DNS services to provide transaction capacity and make it more difficult for DDoS attacks to be successful.
For cloud-based DDoS protection to work, you need to send your traffic through a good DDoS protection service that has scrubbing nodes that filter legitimate traffic back to your site. This move alone can eliminate a significant cost for companies which try to mitigate against this common attack on their own.
Cloud approach can also help deliver to an online business a 100% DNS resolution, which improves the availability of internet systems as well as the communications between your site and your customers.
Obviously PayPal would be included in this list - it’s one of the world’s most widely used payment systems. It acquires processing for some 8 million payments every day. As of this writing, PayPal has over 137 million active accounts in 193 markets and 26 currencies around the world, which makes it easy to transfer and request payments. Other PayPal perks include accepting checks through a smartphone’s camera, a card swiper, and allowing customers to make a purchase without leaving your site. Ebay also has PayPal in it’s arsenal of company so it is a favourite for Magento.
It’s been stated that Authorize.Net is the most widely used payment gateway on the internet - probably because it’s been around since 1996. Currently, there are over 375,000 merchants handling more than $88 billion in annual transactions safely through credit cards and e-checks.
- Amazon Payments
Amazon Payments is a safe, easy and convenient method for users to receive money by using Amazon’s API. Users can also send money via ACH (Automated Clearing House). Since almost everyone has an Amazon account, all your important information has already been stored.
WooCommerce allows WordPress users to create their very own eCommerce shop. There are several neat features that make this payment processor worth your time. Besides being vendor and customer friendly, you can run coupon campaigns, manage your store’s daily activities, learn about shipping and tax rules, and view your store’s overall performance.
I hope this summary has helped on making your choice on the different platforms and prices. And good luck in your first stages in E-commerce.