Whether your e-commerce operation involves selling an entire catalogue of items, a small collection of goods, or even just one product, simple reality is that unless people buy items for sale on your Web site, you won’t make any money. And while last few years have done a lot to make consumers more comfortable with idea of shopping online, a significant effort is still necessary, on your part, to convince a potential consumer that they will be doing business with a secure and trustworthy operation.
And because you’ll have to employ some form of remote payment, you’ll have to do business with some type of transaction processing business. And even more than your customers, your billing solution partners will demand some assurance that your operation is secure before they involve themselves in your transactions.
To put it simply: in e-commerce business, securing trust in your company is essential to your success. Trust is as important to a potential customer’s purchasing decision as products you offer him. And an essential element of building that trust, with both customers and partners, is assurance that your e-commerce operation meets demanding security standards required of organizations handling sensitive financial information.
Setting up a Storefront
A big part of building trust with your customers is your presentation. The very fact that they’re browsing your online store is a good indicator that they’re familiar with possibilities of online shopping, and are prepared to consider buying. What you do to convince them, and effectiveness of your efforts, may be deciding factor in a possible sale.
The shopping interface you introduce to customers is arguably most important piece of your e-commerce site’s presentation. A familiar, easy-to-navigate interface can go a long way toward establishing trust you’re after. Seasoned online shoppers will know what to expect from an e-commerce site, and meeting those expectations is a good way to gain their confidence. And novice surfers will probably be more comfortable if your online store closely resembles major e-commerce interfaces they might have encountered.
Building a storefront compatible with your customers’ expectations is one of more obviously beneficial features of using an e-commerce software product such as those provided by Miva (www.Miva.com), BizCrafter (www.BizCrafterCorp.com) or eCartSoft (www.eCartSoft.com) to build your site. Most of these programs will help you to build a simple, effective and familiar shopping interface that can include pictures, shopping cart functions and a number of useful security features.
In addition to helping you build an attractive online shop, most e-commerce software has features allowing it to help manage your inventory, interact with your payment processing systems, simplify your relationships with suppliers and affiliates and even promote your site.
E-commerce software can usually be purchased online from maker, but is also quite often included as part of a specialized e-commerce package from any of many Web hosts that support such operations.
Finding a Commerce-Friendly Web Host
Assuming that this is one of your first efforts at building an e-commerce Web site, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be outsourcing most, or at least some of site’s technical operations to a Web hosting company. This is by no means a bad thing, and in fact can free up your time and IT resources, allowing you to focus on operations of business itself.
More than simply freeing your time, however, many Web hosting companies have plans tailored specifically to needs of customers developing or operating e-commerce Web sites. A few hosting companies offering enhanced e-commerce features include VIP PowerNet Web Hosting (www.VIPWH.com), ValueWeb (www.ValueWeb.com) and Global Internet Solutions (www.GISol.com). These commerce-friendly hosting plans often include a software license for one of storefront building programs with your monthly fees, as well as a number of other support services, designed to provide you with a secure platform from which to do business.
And while software and services may be convenient, there are other reasons why a host that understands e-commerce is critical to your business. A good e-commerce host will already have means in place to secure your online transactions with protocols such as SSL. It may be able to process transactions for you, or help you set up a merchant account. And most importantly, it will have service level guarantees suitable to high demands of your e-commerce operation.
Of course, in addition to products and services they provide, it’s hard to argue against value of experience. And a Web host well versed in e-commerce should be able to help you by answering whatever questions you may have.