Setting up a website is one thing; equipping it to handle transactions is quite another. In this post, we’ll explain the basic ingredients your site needs in order to start selling stuff.
1. SSL Certificate
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates are issued by certificate authorities. They play a major role in eCommerce by performing a few different duties.
First of all, SSL certificates assure your customers you are who you say you are. Any reputable certificate authority will check you out (vet your business and website) before issuing you a certificate.
On the more technical side, the certificate itself forges a secure connection between your web server and the client, so data can be exchanged over a protected channel. Also, the certificate encrypts sensitive data, like credit card numbers and address information, for an added layer of security.
“But hey! You don’t ALWAYS need an SSL certificate!”
Yeah, OK. You’re right. If you’re using a payment gateway (more on this later) that handles ALL customer information for you, like PayPal, then you don’t necessarily need an SSL certificate. However, it’s always a good idea to have one. It will give your customers a feeling of trust and authority they’ve come to expect.
2. Merchant account
Merchant accounts are bank accounts for merchants. They allow your business to accept payments by credit and debit cards. Blam! It’s that simple! You can get one at your bank. or, likely, from your payment gateway provider.
3. Payment gateway
Here’s where things get a little more interesting.
Payment gateways are applications that store and handle credit and debit card information for you. They facilitate the actual transfer of funds, as well, and make sure the buyer’s account is “good for it.”
Unfortunately, gateway providers usually take a cut of each transaction, somewhere around 2.9% of the total sale price plus a $0.30 fee per online transaction. So, if you sold an item for $100, the payment gateway would levy $3.20.
Here‘s a decent side-by-side comparison of payment gateways.
4. A database
This point actually goes back to the design of the site itself. There are two reasons your site needs to be integrated with a database.
Even if a gateway is handling your customer’s super secret financial information, you’ll probably want to collect some information of your own for, let’s say, future marketing purposes. User authentication (logging in/out) is good to have, as well. This kind of functionality requires a database.
Further, the best way to organize products and manage stock is by using a database. WordPress, a CMS commonly used for online stores, offers a variety of plugins for managing your eCommerce business. WooCommerce is a great, free WordPress toolkit that does just that.
If this sounds overwhelming, you have one other option. You could always go with an all-in-one eCommerce solution.
You’ve probably heard of Shopify. They lead the way in full-service eCommerce websites and they’re Canadian, too.
There are a couple of other comparable all-in-one suppliers. Check out this great analysis of Shopify alternatives from Rijalda.com.
We don’t necessarily recommend going with an all-in-one. It really places limits on what you can and can’t do. If you need help with creating an eCommerce site, you know we’re always here for you. Contact us today.