E-commerce has been around for more than 15 years now and people are increasingly comfortable opening their wallets online. However, I still come across a lot of websites that are a real turn-off to customers. Hopefully yours isn‚Äôt one of them, but just in case, here are my top four hints for making your website sleek, speedy and secure:
1) You need an SSL.
That stands for ‚ÄúSecure Socket Layer‚Äù. What does it mean? It means that a special form of encryption is used to protect the details of everyone who sends you information via your website. If you go to any big site such as PayPal.com or Amazon.com, look for two things. First, the http:// address will become https://. Second, there will be a little yellow padlock at the end of the bar that contains the website address.
SSLs cost between $70 and $150 per year and you can buy them from nearly all web-hosting companies. For this small price you protect your customers` information and you protect yourself. Without an SSL, your company could well be legally liable for costs resulting from the theft of people‚Äôs personal data.
2) You need an online merchant account.
PayPal.com is the most widely accepted, but 2Checkout.com and Authorize.net are also strong contenders. They can handle the invoices and recipts automatically for you. If all you have is a form on your site to collect people‚Äôs data, then you will have to create all the paperwork yourself. On average, these merchants take around 3% of the payment but the ease-of-use make the cost worthwhile.
3) You need an Open-Source Shopping-Cart.
What does Open-Source mean? It means that the code needed to make the cart run can be viewed and changed by anyone. That means that if you decide that if you want to change from web designer that you are working with, it is easy to find another who can help. If you go with a shopping cart that is sold by just one company, then you will find yourself working with them forever after. Best of all, open-source software is free.
So which ones do I recommend? OSCommerce is the cream of the crop. Over 100,000 stores have been built with this software and it has the widest available number of extras available, including code that can integrate it with QuickBooks. Also good are ZenCart and VirtueMart. All three are well-documented with community forums to help you find answers to your questions.
4) You need a niche.
I find it hard to imagine people making money by opening a general store on the web. You don‚Äôt want to find yourself competing with Amazon.com and WalMart.com. However, one smart businessman from Marietta has made millions of dollars by just selling banjos (banjo.com) and unicycles (unicycle.com). Focus on whatever it is that you‚Äôre good at and don‚Äôt try to expand until after you‚Äôve become successful.