E-Commerce Newbie

How to start an online business

 
 

How to Build an Online Store

Once you have decided on your stores domain name you are ready - 
So how do you build an online store?

There are hundreds if not thousands of options for building web stores online so finding the right one for you can be very confusing. However it breaks down quite easily into 2 categories.

1/ Selling Physical Products 

2/ Selling Digital Products or Affiliate Products

Selling Physical Products 

 If you are a Brick & Mortar store thinking of developing a web site or an How to Build an Online Storeinternet marketer selling products from home via mail or dropship. You need to make 1 decision, do you intend to sell 1 product at a time (like this site) or allow your visitors to purchase multiple items via a shopping cart. I highly recommend option 2 for physical products.

 I am going to assume you are interested in the shopping cart option if not please see Selling Digital Products

Shopping Carts

Hopefully you haven't jumped ahead & rushed out to buy website design software. If your site is going to be a store then it needs designing with software developed to build online stores.

Using purpose built web store software, you will design a professional looking site with all the backend features required to run it.

Don't waste your time on free or inferior scripts - You are going to spend allot of time uploading all your products & designing your site - You will find yourself having to do it all again if you make the wrong decision now!

You may not know what you need right now but these are just some of the features you want your shopping cart solution to include.

  • Customizable Design Templates
  • Unlimited Products & Categories
  • Real time Shipping Rates
  • Live Order Tracking
  • Search Engine Friendly
  • Telephone Ordering
  • Customer Saved Cart
  • Wish list & Registry
  • Paypal & Google Checkout
  • Coupons & Gift Certificates
  • Extensive Graphical Reporting
  • Affiliate Program Support
  • Quickbooks Export

 You are now faced with 3 options a locally hosted shopping cart, a hosted shopping cart, or a remotely hosted shopping cart.

Locally Hosted Shopping Carts - Are programs that you install on your own hosting account. You usually have the option of purchasing future updates at an additional cost.

Hosted Shopping Carts - Your website is hosted on the shopping carts server you pay a monthly fee depending on the amount of products you have.

Remotely Hosted Shopping Carts - Similar to Hosted Shopping carts except your site is on your own hosting account.



So Which Option is Best?
 

If you don't already have a website or a hosting account I would recommend a Hosted Shopping Cart, the server is configured correctly to work with the shopping cart, SSL is included (required for credit card transactions) & any changes or updates are included.

Two of the best Hosted - Online Store Solutions I have found are..

3D Cart - Offers FREE "Switch" Move an existing Web Store to 3D Cart

 3D Shopping Cart
  • Easy to use administration interface
    (No programming knowledge necessary)
  • No contracts & No hidden fees.
  • Multiple designs to choose from.
  • Fast and reliable hosting.
  • Accept credit cards, checks, etc.
  • Toll free shop support.
  • Search engine optimized shops



Summer Cart

 Summer Cart
  • Fast wizard-based installation
    (No programming skills required)
  • Customizable. Flexible. Scalable
  • 39 built in Currencies + Multi Language
  • Content Management Based Design
  • Import products from MS Excel,
    OpenOfice Spreadsheet, or CSV file
    (Handy for Dropshippers)
  • Customize layout with drag-and-drop
  • Summer Cart supports the latest SSL
  • 100% SEO Shopping Cart 

NOTE
I have featured these 2 providers based on ease of use & for being SEO Friendly. Check any of the existing site demo's & you will see Category's & Product descriptions in the URL's.


Locally Hosted Shopping Cart

If you don't want to pay a monthly fee, or already have a hosting account then buying the software & installing on your server is the next best option.

Your main decision here will be cost based as software updates will be offered in addition to the script. Most will offer 1 year free or paid Lifetime upgrades.

Recommend Locally Hosted Shopping Carts

Sun Shop

  3D Shopping Cart
  • Easy to use administration area
  • Fully customizable
  • W3C XHTML 1.0 Compliant
  • Toll-free phone support
  • Advanced feature list
  • No monthly fees
  • Real-time credit card processing
  • Real-time shipping rates
  • *NEW* SunShop iPhone Tool
  • SEO Friendly User-Defined URLS 

Interspire  

 Inspire Shopping Cart
  • Completely browser based
  • Drag and drop layout customization
  • Generate invoices & packing slips
  • Full content management system
  • Sell in multiple currencies
  • Flexible tax settings & options
  • Per-product inventory control
  • Fully SEO optimized by experts 

Note..
You may have picked up that I consider Search Engine Optimization very important. Unless you have a completely unique concept or niche, your Online Store is going to have products similar to many other sites.

Having product descriptive URL's will give you a major advantage over your competition.


Remotely Hosted Shopping Cart

The only time you should consider a remotely hosted shopping cart is if you already have a website & you wish to integrate a shopping cart into it.
It is much easier to build an online store using the purpose built carts i have already featured.

Saying all that if you do already have a site & wish to incorporate a store I recommend these solutions..

VeraCart

 Veracart Shopping Cart
  • Cut & Paste Integration
  • Programming / coding skills NOT required
  • Compatible with your website GUARANTEED
  • Integrates with your website design
  • Customer shops on your website
  • Image zoom (exclusive feature !)
  • Detailed Reporting
  • Sell worldwide
  • SEO Friendly URL's 

 E-Junkie - Recommended for Digital Products as well as Physical Products

 e-junkie.com
  • Cut & Paste Integration
  • LightBox Shopping Cart -Pop Up
  • Shipping and packaging calculator
  • Sales tax and VAT calculator
  • Inventory management
  • Discount codes
  • Affiliate management
  • Globalized
  • Your URL's 

Selling Digital Products or Affiliate Products

How to Build an online store for Digital Products

You may like & can use any of the above shopping cart builders however for delivery of digital products you can simply add "Buy Now" buttons into your website & use paypal. Sign-Up for a Paypal Merchant account, once you have an account you can generate the Buy Now buttons there. If you still want a Cart to sell multiple products then I recommend you consider Paypals own shopping cart or take another look at E-Junkie . To secure your download Url's I recommend you look at DLGuard.

First you need a website! As the website doesn't need to be primarily configured as a store you can utilize any web site building software, then add your products & buy now buttons.

Recommended Web Site Building Software