Friday, 18 March 2011

eCommerce Fundamentals

"Blocking and Tackling" - A quick take a some eCommerce

eCommerce can be VERY complex. To offer a world class customer
experience, retailers must incorporate technologies and
functionality that exceeds rising customer expectations.

On the flip side however, site fundamentals still play a very
large role in converting visitors into customers. Many retailers
surprisingly lose sight of these site basics and leave
significant sales on the table. This brief examines 4 quick
"fundamentals" every eCommerce manager cannot afford to lose
sight of.

Think Fast

Speed has become less of a problem due to the penetration of
broadband, but don't forget that a significant number of people
still shop by a dialup connection. When creating a site
framework, designers and e-commerce teams should ensure that the
site is developed with pages loading in less than 9 seconds
(over a dial-up connection).

Our recommended page size is within 60-70k in bytes. At that
amount, sites will likely load within the maximum wait time of 9
seconds. Online retailers should avoid flash at all costs within
their transactional site. Flash's artistic aspects may help you
establish a brand presence - but it will likely lose potential
customers before they have even searched within your store.

Image is important

Images are a very important aspect of selling online and are
often neglected. All product images should be of the highest
resolution possible, be much larger than the product

original, and have

multiple views. Dynamic imaging capabilities can improve the
user experience to an even higher level by increasing
interactivity (zoom & rotate). At a minimum - retailers should
have at least two additional views outside of the product page
image to help build emotion.

Be my guest

Shoppers do not like being forced to do anything, especially
when they are ready to open their wallets. Forcing a shopper to
register on your site before purchasing is a sure way to drive a
portion of your traffic to your competitors. Too often, shoppers
do not have the time or the inclination to fill out a lengthy
form explaining what types of information they desire.

Always offer the ability to checkout as a guest. You will see
less customer leakage within the checkout process and can still
offer the option to register when the sale is completed.

Make sure it's "above the fold"

Your homepage is the most important page within your eCommerce
store. It sets the initial tone for the shopping experience and
offers your best promotions and products to your visitors. Users
typically visually scan a web page from top to bottom and then
from left to right. All critical content and navigation options
should be obvious to the shopper without having to scroll down.
If you have your best promotions "below the fold" - you can bet
that a large percentage of browsers are not scrolling down to
see it.

About the author:

Ecommerce Hosting Considerations

Website hosting can be a complex undertaking. Determining how much space you need, how much transfer, finding a reliable host, and getting everything online is no simple task. Add ecommerce to the mix and things become even more complex. This article will deal with some of those additional complications to finding a host for an online store. All of the same considerations to finding general hosting can be applied to ecommerce hosting, there are simply a few additional ones that need some attention.

Basics- Disk Space and Transfer

The core states of any kind of hosting, ecommerce or not, remain space and transfer, or traffic. Generally measured in monthly increments, your space and transfer will place a crucial role in determining just what size plan you need. Ecommerce sites will, generally speaking, require more space and transfer than an equivilant sized site without ecommerce. This is due to the presence of the shopping cart upon which the online storefront is based. Shopping cart programs are installed to the account on which they operate, requiring space, and their scripts for running the store will require additional transfer to handle customers as they browse, add items to their cart, and check out. Will there be a tremendous amount of extra transfer required by the cart? That depends on how many use the cart and on the cart itself. This is why its best to start small and having a clear upgrade path to handle future popularity.

Prospective online merchants will generally have a good idea how many products they'll be selling initially. This will vary wildly from merchant to merchant, and many merchants don't put their entire stocks online. It is wise to start with a considered selection of products first, especially if you wish to initially keep your hosting plan small and upgrade as the store prospers. Those with a great deal of products need to be aware they will probably be facing a bigger monthly fee for a larger hosting plan. Once the decision is made regarding the products, attention can be turned to finding a suitable shopping cart program to contain them.

Shopping Cart

The choice of shopping cart can be a personal one. Those entirely new to ecommerce will probably not have any experience with any kind of shopping cart software. There are a number of popular choices, and most hosting companies will provide one, if not a variety, from which you can choose. It is important to find a shopping cart that suits the individual user, as attempting to change your shopping down the road can be a long process that will, most likely, bring your store down during a transitional period. Don't immediately jump at the first cart a host offers. Ask if they have demos and try them out. Be sure it's a program you can learn and use, as it is the primary way you'll be doing your online business. Even if you have a large business and have a design firm setting up the cart, a rudimentary knowledge of the cart's processes is highly recommended.

Learn as much about your prospective shopping cart software as possible. Make

sure it supports SSL, a common site security protocol that will help keep your customer's credit card numbers safe when ordering online. It will need to support your merchant account and payment gateway. In many cases a host might bundle these services, so compatibility isn't an issue. If you secured your merchant services separately from hosting, be sure they are compatible. Find out if the cart has a recommended maximum product limit and, of course, try not to exceed it. The store may slow down and perform poorly if there are too many products in it.

Finally, make sure it will do everything you want it to do. Some merchants sell services and downloadable items that don't conform exactly to the order-product-ship-product flow. If your cart doesn't support these features by default, there may be 3rd party add-ons that will provide this functionality. Miva Merchant is one such shopping cart with a very active 3rd party developer community providing a wide range of add-ons, or "modules" to extend the feature set of the original program. The merchant will have to buy these add-ons and have them installed on their own initiative, though, and the hosting company will not be able to support them.

Reliability and Support

Perhaps of greatest importance is reliability in your chosen host. Think in terms of a "brick and mortar" storefront. If someone locks the front door during business hours, then no customers can come in and nothing is sold. Similarly, if an online store is down at any hour, no customers can come in and nothing is sold. You want the most reliable hosting for such a mission-critical site. Never just take the word of a hosting company's site in regards to their uptime. Do research and look for customer reviews of your prospective host. Online merchants should always be willing to pay more for a reliable hosting company with good uptime and support. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from free or "bargain basement" hosts, since support and uptime are usually the first things to suffer with this kind of hosting.


Finding the right ecommerce hosting company requires a few additional considerations. Decide on your products, your shopping cart, and then shop for your hosting company. You will need more space and transfer than an equivalent site, but start small with your product selection and you can still save money on your hosting. Find a shopping cart that's easy for you to use and understand, as switching at a later date can result in downtime and a lot of work transferring your products. Finally, make sure your host has solid uptime, as an online store that's down isn't generating any sales.
About the Author

Mr. Lester has served for 4 years as the webmaster for and previously worked in the IT industry an additional 5 years, acquiring knowledge of hosting, design, and search engine optimization. Apollo Hosting provides website hosting, ecommerce hosting, vps hosting, and web design services to a wide range of customers.

Ecommerce Hosting For Your Online Business

When you plan to start an online business, you will need to find a reliable web host that meets your requirements. Searching for a reliable and cheap web host is not an easy task. But if you know what you are looking for, it makes your task simpler.
You can trust a cheap web host only if it meets your business requirements. The process of verification comprises of some common issues and some other issues specific to your business.
A major concern is the quality of support provided by the host. You could e-mail a cheap webhosting company a few times to get an estimate of the response time they provide.
You should also try to analyze the quality of the answers provided by them. Are the answers really in-depth or do they just cover the basic things? Make enquiries about the various methods of support. Most webhosting companies offer online support personnel, message boards and help desks.
A webhosting company that provides the correct balance of substance and promptness would be an ideal solution for you.
Some key points to consider before choosing your web host:
1. Storage Space
It is an important parameter to begin your search for a reliable web host. You require at least 100 MB space for even a simple site. Most good web hosts offer a minimum of 1 GB space to their customers.
2. Bandwidth
It is another important part of the verification process. Most good web hosts offer 25 to 50 GB Bandwidth.
3. Support System
As discussed in the beginning of the article, it is the most important point to check.
4. Secure Servers
A secure server is an essential requirement if you are selling products/services online. Try to look for web hosting companies providing SSL encryption since this will guarantee security for all money transactions conducted on your site.
5. Private CGI-BIN
It is a good scheme to have a private CGI-BIN directory for the safety of your files. This is where you store your binary scripts and

interactive programs including shopping carts and payment processing.
6. Web Log
This would help you a lot to keep track of various statistics for your business. These statistics aid you to develop new strategies to retain your present customers and attract new customers.
7. Operating System and Program Language Capabilities
All reputed web hosting companies allow front page on either a UNIX or Windows based system. Many web hosts provide both Windows and UNIX based hosting but the rates may differ.
8. Credibility
The web host should be reputed amongst its customer base.
9. Physical Location
Last, but not the least, the physical location of the servers is also an important consideration. Is the location prone to natural calamities or political insecurity?
A very practical and useful method to find a good web host is to discuss with people you know (vendors/business associates/friends) that have web sites. Enquire about their experiences with their current and past webhosting services.
Most of the cheap webhosting companies assure you of free technical support. However, a major concern with many of these companies is that you learn about their incapability when it is too late. The fact is that they simply fail to deliver their promises. Their cheap rates do not allow for the proper staffing needed to deliver the required customer support.
With a high quality and reputed webhosting company, you will pay a little more but the truth is, in business, you get what you pay for. So, if you are really serious about your business and also your time, consider web hosts starting at the top.
About the Author

Copyright ©'s ( ecommerce webhosting service. This article may be reprinted freely online or in print, provided an active link is made to our website at

Ecommerce Hosting - How To Choose A Merchant Account

For a number of e-Businesses, discovering the best way to accept payments is a frustrating task. As the Internet is an instant medium, it is highly recommended that a ecommerce website must accept credit/debit cards and online checks as modes of payment. In order to accept credit card transactions, you require setting up a merchant account with a merchant bank. As soon as you set up a merchant account, an online processor can provide you with the software or gateway you need to transact.
Selecting a suitable merchant account is considered to be one of the most tough business decisions you make as their existence has almost doubled and are now into more than hundreds. At the time of choosing a merchant account, you should be aware of the cost involved in setting up the account. Refer to the list below and don't forget to ask about each of these items before agreeing to an account.
Application Fee
The application fee is compulsory so an agent or bank can "research" you as a potential customer. Few firms are more likely to repay this fee if your application is not accepted while others won't. It is always advisable not to pay an application fee that will not be refunded in case you are rejected.
Minimum Account Billing
This fee requires you to do a least amount of business with a merchant bank. A majority of banks require a monthly minimum of at least 25 dollars in transaction fees. Anything less than 35 dollars minimum is satisfactory.
Statement Fee
In case there is a considerable minimum-billing need, then there should be no statement fee. Still, a number of banks charge this to cover administrative costs. If you are assessed a statement fee, it shouldn't exceed 10 dollars per month.
Charge back Fee
In case a customer is not satisfied with their purchase, can't get a refund, or is just looking for something free, you may be faced with a charge back attempt. Under this, the bank will return customer's fund and debit your account for the full amount. Always make sure to ask about your bank's charge back policy. Most banks tend to be more loyal to cardholders than merchants so protect yourself by

preventing charge back fees.
Transaction Fee
This fee, which is usually about 2-3 percent of the purchase, is assessed on every transaction. If a product costs US$100, the bank would receive US$2-3 for their services. While rates are relative to the nature of your business, anticipated volume and your credit history, you should never pay more than 3 percent.
Setup Fee
This covers administrative work necessary to establish your account. In case you're charged an installation or programming fee, there shouldn't be a setup fee. There is a considerable amount of work completed to create merchant accounts, so fees of US$50-500 should be expected.
At the time of approaching banks or an intermediary about a merchant account, always keep in mind the following tips:
1. Read the terms, conditions and anticipated charges carefully. Don't sign anything until your questions are answered to your satisfaction. Take time to understand exactly what you are getting and how much you are paying to get it.
2. Do you require a reserve account? It shouldn't be, but if you are a start-up Internet business, have poor to marginal credit, anticipate low volumes or run a "risk" business, it may be required.
3. How long before funds are available to you? Ideally it should not take more than 72 hours from the time an order or transaction is processed.
Given below are some of the options available with whom you can setup your merchant account.
Paypal: With a free PayPal account one can accept credit cards on your website immediately
Click bank: It offers distribution of digital products and has an instant affiliate network promoting your business.

North American Bancard: It is a full service payment solution provider of Credit, Debit, EBT, Check Conversion and Guarantee, Checks by Phone & Net.
About the Author

Copyright ©'s ( ecommerce hosting service. This article may be reprinted freely online or in print, provided an active link is made to

eCommerce, How much does it cost?

Making profits with your existing website design or creating a new online store can be exciting, affordable and most of all; rewarding. Mmmm . . . that's what the last sales guy told me.

What is eCommerce (or selling via the Internet)? It is similar to selling through a physical building's business storefront, with one big difference: the costs for eCommerce are lower. The lower costs alone make it a lot more affordable for someone to start up a business or expand their storefront business onto the Internet.

So, the cost to do online business depends on how much time and effort you are able to put in and the eCommerce developer you choose to work with. Generally, developers should try to enable their clients to be as independent as possible in areas such as daily site updates, processing online orders, customer feedback and low or no cost (except time) online marketing.

Hosting costs are determined by: the amount of 1) server space you require for product photos, e-mail accounts, and 2) bandwidth - the more customers that visit your store, the more bandwidth you will require. Typically an online store setup may cost $15 to $90 per month for hosting.

Other costs include online store program and designing the storefront. There are many programs to choose from with some being free to some costing thousands. As with anything you buy, you do get what you pay for. Clients like to use online store setups that are easy for them to use when they need to do product updates and simple design changes. That way the initial higher cost for the client's online store will be offset by ease of use and low maintenance costs to operate over the long term.

Next we have graphical design costs, that can range from $70 for a pre-designed store template to a built from scratch setup that can cost $500 and up. If you have only a few

products I would suggest starting with the pre-designed store template as the cost is low and the look is quite professional, with only a small amount of time required to input text and make some minor modifications to suit your requirements. If you have quite a few products and they are quite different from each other, you may incur more cost to develop the graphic design as each product category will have a look designed just for that category.

Finally, we need to open up the store for business: market the store and bring in some customers to buy the products. As mentioned earlier, there is no-cost marketing that can be done. For example, the site can be submitted to the primary search engines, adding the store listing to online directories that are relevant to the product or service, and exchanging store links with other sites that are similar but not direct competition.

What are we selling? When your starting out with a new product, try to stay with a unique product that is light in weight, as shipping costs are often overlooked in starting up an online business. If you already have existing products to sell, revisit shipping costs and see where you can find savings.

I find most business owners sell what they are most passionate about. Some of your present hobbies or interests could sell as the end product, as items purchased by other people. Some of the most successful online stores are a result of one's passion and desire to share their dream with others and if done logically and thoughtfully with a good web developer, can result in financial rewards at a low investment cost through an online store.

Since 1997, Dennis Dadey, Chief Designer at IR Design, has been helping people with e-commerce applications. Find out more about IR Design at

eCommerce: Installing and Configuring your Shopping Cart

You decided you're going to sell your products online. Or
perhaps you don't want to sell them yet, only display your
catalog. So how do you go ahead and implement your virtual shop?
The answer is short: you need to install a shopping cart in your
website. But let's go step by step and expand this simple answer
to a brief explanation of the process. It will be better to know
all the players involved in bringing your store up to life.
There are many shopping cart solutions out there, you need to
find the one that meets your needs. You will find open source
solutions and paid ones. They will have different types of
customer support and some of them may be ready to install in
your hosting account. You need to find the right solution for
you, if you're not an experienced user get one with good
customer support or even hire a professional to help you in the
process of setting it up.

First: you need a domain name for your store, and need to host
it at a hosting company. If you already have the domain, you may
skip this step. If you don't, you need to register the domain
and then place it, host it, at a web server. You need to choose
a hosting company which offers what you need. You will most
probably need a database for your store and programming language
support. Which language depends on the requirements to install
the shopping cart of your choice. Some examples of programming
languages are ASP, Php, Perl.

Second: if you plan to sell products, you need a payment
processor, a company to process the payments you receive online,
in real time. You can use a third party solution like PayPal,
where you do not need to open a merchant account. Or you may
choose a payment

processor company to accept credit cards
online, where you also open your merchant account. Examples of
these are Authorize.Net, WorldPay and SECPay. All companies
charge different fees for their services, it is important to go
over their fee structure and find the right solution for you.
Most shopping carts come with payment processing integration
modules so you can seamlessly connect your cart to the payment
processor of your choice. If your processor is not included, you
should consider requesting the integration development, if
possible, or opt for a different payment processor.

Third: you need to install the shopping cart script in your
domain, and configure it using the Administrator interface. This
is a private, password protected area of your site that you use
for all the store maintenance and admin tasks. You need to:

- choose the layout and looks of your site. - establish your
products categories or groups, so they are organized - load your
products - set your payment processor information - configure
shipping options - configure taxes

This is only a short list including the more essential tasks.
There may be more aspects involved in your particular
implementation, depending on your particular needs and on the
shopping cart you chose to install. If you think all this is
rather confusing, you should consider getting professional help
to get your store working.

About the author:

Veronica Bendersky is a Systems Engineer who specializes in web
programming and online systems. She also offers web hosting at
, where you can get help in setting
up your online store.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

An Arm & A Leg for eCommerce?

An Arm & A Leg for eCommerce?

As a site designer myself, I realize how much time and effort goes
into registering, setting up, and designing a site; not to mention the
creation of content and seamless navigation. But it is unbelievable
how complicated and expensive this process has become!

Let's face it, very few entrepreneurs and small businesses can afford
to spend hundreds of dollars to set up their dot-com presence without
knowing how successful it will be! We've seen the results of high
expectations and over spending with the demise of many well-known
companies as reported in the news recently.

It doesn't have to be this way!

Are you planning to sell products or services?

You do NOT necessarily need expensive shopping cart software or
merchant accounts to sell your products or services. You can begin
your online venture by setting up a few of your most popular items or
services that can be purchased online. Once a customer has made a
purchase, you can then follow up with details on how to purchase
additional items.

There are low cost ecommerce solutions that can help you start
conducting business online without breaking the bank.

First, determine exactly how sophisticated your ordering process needs
to be. Then decide which of the following options best suits your
business needs.

Option A - PayPal

Set up a Premier Account with PayPal. PayPal is a stable and secure
company that has been around long enough to establish a credible
reputation. I can personally vouch for them, I use them consistently.


Doing Business As:
You have the option of using a business name or your personal name,
regardless of how your bank account is registered.

Low Cost:
There are no monthly fees and no set up fees. That’s right - it’s
A small fee is with-held each time a transaction (purchase) is

Hassle Free
They process all orders and notify you when payment is received.

Referral Bonus
You can earn a small cash bonus for qualified referrals you send to



Premium members can set up a shopping cart that links directly from
their site to PayPal.

Send an Invoice
If your services or product prices vary, you can send customers an
invoice from PayPal once the purchase price has been established.

Option B - eBay

Consider selling your products or services through eBay. You can
accept checks and money orders by postal mail, or you can accept
credit cards and checks using PayPal, or eBay’s version of PayPal -
BillPoint. You can provide links to your site with each item you
list for auction. You can also set up a reserve amount - the least
dollar amount you will accept for your service or product.

Ebay also offers an affiliate program.

Option C - ClickBank

Sign up as a merchant with There are some fees
involved, plus you have to determine what percentage of each sale that
you will allow the referring site to earn. Affiliates with ClickBank
can choose merchants they like (higher commission percentages do
better) and then place links on their sites. There is a setup fee for
merchants, but you'll also be providing your site a great deal of
exposure. Plus, ClickBank allows you to accept credit cards and other
methods of payment. You'll be setting up your own affiliate program!

ClickBank also offers an affiliate program:

Option D - Find a Host that provides Shopping Carts

Many hosting packages are set up with shopping carts with a buy
feature. Do your homework. Check on the setup fees and the monthly
fees. Make sure it’s a reputable company so you aren’t worried about
your money transactions.

These are just some of the options that are available for setting up
shop without going broke. I'm sure that there are many more options
available - it just takes some net research.
About the Author

Sandra Cobb is a work at home site designer and homeschooling Mom.
Visit her website for free resources at, and sign up for her monthly ezine -
Comets4Him at