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An Introduction to Ecommerce

Are you looking to sell online but don't know where to start or know how it all works?

You can read our simple guide to ecommerce below and discover how easy it can actually be to enter the global marketplace.

Please note this is not an exhaustive study of ecommerce, but a guide for the curious or inexperienced online trader. Feel free to use it as a step forward to the online presence that best suits you.

What is Ecommerce?

Quite simply put, ecommerce or "electronic commerce" is selling or trading online. To the layman or small business owner this can often be seen as an area reserved for the bigger players. The truth is that now days anyone can get involved and sell online and your competitors probably already have. As long as you have a product or service that people want to buy you can sell or market it online.

How do I get started?

To get up and selling online there are a few things you will need or need to know:

  1. A domain name (.com etc.)
  2. A web hosting account
  3. A website or webshop with products or services for sale
  4. A way of taking payment from your customers
  5. A way of fulfilling orders (sending the products out)
  6. A way of attracting new and returning customer
  7. A way of keeping in touch with customers for repeat business

Domain Names

This is the starting point for your online venture. Domain names are booked by you for a given period. This is typically 2-10 years.

To book a domain you need to visit a domain registrar. You book the domain and they register it to you on the official registry.

When the domain expires you are given a chance to rebook it before it goes back on the open market.

Web Hosting

Before you put your website online you need a place to house it. This is done by setting up an account with a webhost. The webhost will cut you a chunk of space on one of their special computers connected to the internet. This is called a server or a webserver.

Once your hosting account is set up your domain needs to find it. This part often confuses people. You can book domains and webhosting through one company or you can book them through two separate companies. Either way the domain deeds to find the webspace.

If you book your domain name and webhosting through the same company they both usually find each other automatically. If you book them through two different companies you need to direct or "point" your domain to your webhosting account.

The end result that you need is that your domain finds where your website will be sitting.

Website/webshop

When you have a live domain and webhosting you can set up a website or webshop. This can be done in several ways but for the sake of this article we'll look at online website builders and uploaded systems from a third party.

To enable the layman to build their own website most webhosts today offer online website builders with their hosting packages.

To use this feature you would simply login to your webhosting account and use their online "drag and drop" builder. This enables you to build your own site using familiar methods with no need to understand the underlying code that websites are written in. The benefits of this are simplicity and ease of use. The downside is that often advanced features are sometimes not there or require an additional charge to enable them. This varies from webhost to webhost and prior research is recommended before signing up.

The second way is to have a third party set up a website/webshop for you. While this has a cost attached it will save you time, save you having to understand the complexities associated with ecommerce and get you up and running and hopefully making money with a faster development time.

While building your own website can be fun you have to ask if it is the best use of your time. Paying someone to set you up a website so you can sell asap is sometimes the better option.

Payments

To take online payments for orders you need a payment gateway. There are many payment providers to choose from with Paypal being the one most people are familiar with.

In a nutshell the website/webshop compiles the customer's order and sends a request to the payment gateway for payment. The payment gateway takes the payment on your behalf and sends the customer bask to your website/webshop.

Each payment provider has charges for their service and these vary depending on volume and value. Thorough investigation is needed before selecting one.

Order Fulfillment

Once the customer has ordered you need to fulfill (send out) their order.

In its simplist form you toddle of top the post office and send out the order yourself. If you have large order volumes or simple don't want to do it yourself there are fulfillment companies that can do it for you.

Again these come with charges which need investigating.

Attracting Customers

A website/webshop will only make you money if you have people visiting it. Luckily today you can buy exposure via systems like Google Adwords or other pay per click traffic companies.

Basically you pick the terms or "keywords" that best describe what you are selling and you get exposure in the search engines or on listings sites for those terms.

You can set a budget so once your budget has been spent you exposure stops. This is great for having fixed predictible costs and no big shocks at the end of the month.

Keeping in Touch

One of the best way of generating new and repeat sales is to keep in touch with your customers. This means having a mailing list on your website or some built in system of mailing out to your customers is essential.

Regular emails with offers, specials or just plain old news helps build a relationship with your customers for mutual benefit. Getting customers on the ladder of loyalty is a great way to build good relationships.

Important: Mailing lists and/or newsletters need to be by voluntary "opt-in" where the customer actively chooses to receive your mailouts. Additionally all messages sent out mush have an unsubscribe link on them so the customer can choose not to receive anything from you.

To Round Off

Increasingly there is more and more choice with website/webshop systems to get you up and selling in a the global marketplace. Many have a proven history of success and reliability and do all the things you will ever need. From a simple cart taking small orders to a large database driven system taking orders and keeping in touch with the customer, it's all available. The secret is knowing just which one to chose.

Obviously there is a bit more to it than that but really, that's the basic structure of a standard ecommerce setup. Add as many whistles and bells as you like and make the whole system as large as you like but the fundamentals above will always be there.

Summary:

  • Ecommerce is trading online and selling products or services
  • Getting involved is fairly easy and needs a few basic elements
  • Trading online exposes your business to a larger market
  • A larger market means more potential profits
  • Pick the right system and it's fast and low cost

Can We Help?

As and When Admin offers full website and ecommerce services. For more information, guidance or a no obligation quote please get in touch for an informal chat.

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