Get Started Selling Online
What do you need for e-commerce?
A full eCommerce solution can be quite powerful. If you are just getting started with e-commerce, you may not realize what all it takes to set it up...mainly, that it costs money to make money.
When you start selling online, all of a sudden you are capturing people's sensitive credit card data. You have to start complying with rules that the credit card companies set up. You have to be able to effectively manage your inventory, and ship your product quickly. An eCommerce solution may not be appropriate for everybody's situation. Maybe you just want to collect donations online. You don't need a full eCommerce solution for that, do you? Well, I have created an eCommerce Flow Chart to help you figure out what you need. Download it below (it's a PDF):
eCommerce Flow Chart (209 KB)
Here are some terms to become familiar with:
Internet Merchant Account
A type of bank account required to accept debit/credit cards through your website. It's not the same as a “regular” personal or business account. Money you receive will pass through the merchant account before being deposited into your bank account.
A service that authorizes online payments and passes encrypted payment data from the website to the merchant account.
Credit Card Processor
A credit card processor (like Paypal) allows acceptance of credit cards without having a merchant account. These services will process your customer’s credit card for a small fee and credit the money to your bank account.
SSL provides for secure online transactions by encrypting sensitive data. A secure page is indicated by a URL starting with https:// instead of http://. An SSL certificate is purchased from a trusted party (VeriSign is a common one) and installed on your website.
If you're selling more than a few products, you will need a shopping cart. A shopping cart is a software application that typically allows for display and management of inventory. It allows customers to search for and accumulate a list of items for purchase, and place orders.
PCI-DDS is a set of rules that the major credit card brands created with the objective of preventing credit card fraud. Anybody who accepts credit cards must be PCI compliant, which is a standard that includes not just your website, but how you store or process credit card data offline. Compliance must be validated either quarterly or annually.
Whew! I know that's a lot to take in, but have no fear—if you're working with me for your eCommerce solution, I'm there every step of the way to answer your questions. Most eCommerce websites I create utilize a shared SSL certificate (you don't have to pay a dime extra for it), all are PCI compliant, and all include full shopping cart functionality (even integrated shipping with major carriers). I recommend using Authorize.net for both your merchant account and payment gateway. Let me know how I can help!