E-commerce checklist

ecommerce checklistSo you are thinking of setting up an e-commerce store
There are many things to take into account when setting up an online store front. Below is a list of some of the major items. You will want to thoughtfully consider and research each of these options before beginning the actual work of getting your site built and running.


Domain Name Registration
A Domain name is one of those must haves for any site. Without it you can not have a site. When you are deciding on a domain name for your site consider the following.

  • How easy is it to remember?
  • Is it easy to misspell?
  • Does it adequately portray your store?
  • Is it too long?

You can search for available domain names using this handy tool available at http://www.westhost.com/domainreg/.


Web Hosting Solution
Again, this is a must have in order to get your site online. The basic rule here is to make sure that the plan offers what you need.

  • Does it include a ready to install shopping cart solution that meets your needs?
  • How is the hosting company? What type of reviews do they get from existing clients?

(If you select a hosting company and plan simply based on the cheapest price more often than not you will get what you pay for when something goes wrong and you need the hosting company to assist you.)
WestHost offers three standard e-commerce oriented hosting plans (Business Value, Business Pro, and usually the current special). You can compare their features and pricing at the link below.


Shopping Cart Solution
The best way to approach this is to start with a list of the features that you would like your shopping cart to have (coupons, product options, etc.). Once you have this list you will know what to look for in the shopping cart software. As you look for a shopping cart solution you will also want to look into what level of support you can expect from the shopping cart company, your hosting company, or your Web designer/developer in regards to the shopping cart.
Another important thing to consider is how flexible your shopping cart is. Can features be added in the future as you grow and need to offer new functionality?


SSL Certificate
If you are taking credit card payments online through your site then this is a must have. Even if you are not, it is most definitely a very strong ‘should have’. An SSL certificate is what secures the personal data of your customers as it is transferred from their computer to your server. Customers will look for your site being secure when you ask them for their personal information. They want to know that you are watching out for their best interest and security.
There are options in selecting your SSL certificate. I am not going to get into all of the details here regarding SSL certificates, but you can read up on them a bit at the links below.


Merchant Account/Payment Gateway
The merchant account gives you the ability to take and process credit card payments. Your payment gateway is what connects your merchant account to your Web site. As you shop around for a merchant account and payment gateway you will find that each company’s fees and charges will vary. WestHost has partnered with two different payment processing services to help offer you the best service for your money. You can review these payment processing options here http://www.westhost.com/e-commerce-hosting.html.
The biggest thing when choosing your payment processing solution is to make sure that it is compatible with your chosen shopping cart. Find out what payment gateways your merchant account supports and make sure that the shopping cart you select supports the same gateway.


Shipping Options
This item, along with what tax rates you need to charge, is often overlooked until the last minute.
First of all, are your products shippable? Second, how will they be shipped and how do you want your shipping charges determined in the shopping cart. Determining the best shipping is often a balancing act between not loosing money on shipping and not charging so much that your customers go elsewhere.
Most shopping cart solutions will offer multiple options for determining shipping charges. They will range from a simple table based shipping (based on either total order price or weight) to live rates from the major shipping vendors. If you leave this decision until the cart is ready to go live you might find yourself in a corner with no desirable solution. You want to make sure your chosen shopping cart will support or can be modified to support (usually through the use of modules) the type of shipping setup that you need.


Tax Rates
Most states have their own rules as to who needs to charge tax to whom. You will want to become familiar with these rules so that you do not get into trouble. The other reason for taking this into consideration is to make sure that your shopping cart solution will accommodate the way you need to have your taxes set up to meet your local law requirements.


Approaching your new e-commerce site from the right angle will help to eliminate headaches along the way. Feel free to add to the list below or give your own insights into setting up an e-commerce Web site.
Please share any tips that you have for setting up an e-commerce site.