Are you considering an online shopping cart? There are so many different puzzle pieces you need, it can seem confusing. Our clients are often overwhelmed at first, but don’t let that hold you back from a great e-commerce business opportunity. Once you get the basics, you’ll be ready to go.
If you don’t have a website yet, you’ll need to build that along with your new shopping cart. Read more on website basics here. Then come back and check out this quick guide to getting started in e-commerce:
- E-commerce Enabled Merchant Account – you may already have a merchant account that allows you to accept credit cards. For e-commerce, you typically need to contact your bank to expand your account setup. Rates are often higher due to increased returns for online purchases.
- Internet Gateway – your bank will often recommend an internet gateway. This is the piece that connects your merchant account to your website’s shopping cart. It takes the credit card and processes the payment. Think of it as the electronic equivalent of a card swiper. There is usually a setup fee and a monthly fee although sometimes you can get this combined with an e-commerce merchant account.
- Shopping Cart – there are many shopping cart products available that can be installed on your website. With so many options–and security of paramount concern–it rarely makes sense to custom-code a cart. Be sure to use a cart that is compatible with the internet gateway you select.
- SSL Certificate – your SSL certificate allows you to encrypt all the shopping cart transactions, to ensure credit card data is safe. You can choose brand-names such as Verisign, Thawte, or GeoTrust, or you can obtain a generic certificate from a variety of sources. Brand names often create a greater sense of trust so the extra cost can be worthwhile.
If this seems overwhelming, you can look at hosted shopping carts like Volusion, QuickCart, or even PayPal.
No matter what you choose, make sure you are up on the latest PCI Compliance requirements. These impact even the smallest online merchants.
When PayPal first arrived in the late 90s, people were skeptical. We knew to be careful when shopping online; occasional glitches in their systems coupled with rapid growth and poor customer service caused mass concerns over their honesty and ethics.
Today, PayPal is a widely accepted and trusted payment option in the online world. It’s an easy way for nearly any business to begin accepting credit cards. Thanks to low transaction fees and no monthly charges for its basic service, it’s also one of the cheapest.
What you can do with PayPal
- Make online payments–if you shop for specialty items, you may find small businesses online, and with PayPal you don’t have to worry about giving up your credit card
- Accept payments on your website–it is fairly straightforward to add a “buy now” button or even create a PayPal shopping cart; if you run a non-profit, check out the “donate now” buttons
- Send electronic invoices–not only can you send credit card invoices from PayPal’s website, they even offer a wizard to request money straight from QuickBooks
- Purchase bargains on eBay–there’s no telling what you might find on eBay, but you can often find slightly-used big-ticket items on sale for a fraction of the retail price, and PayPal is the payment method of choice
- Sign up subscribers–PayPal offers a subscription feature that automatically collects recurring payments like renewable subscriptions (e.g. annual magazine payments, monthly website hosting fees, weekly retainer fees, etc.); you can even do a discounted trial period
They have many more features offered for a nominal fee, and they continue to upgrade their services. Visit PayPal and check out the merchant services tab to get the latest scoop.
If you accept credit cards, whether online or in-person, you are required to meet PCI compliance standards. These regulations have been around a while now, although it seems that many small business owners aren’t yet up on the latest. Don’t get hit with steep penalties for any security breech–learn more about compliance now, before it’s too late.
The regulations center on protecting credit card data, which includes secure storage, encrypted transmission, limited access, and more. E-commerce and point-of-sale solutions are impacted, along with anyone else who stores credit card information for any reason.
You can find the full requirements here:
This guide speaks to the requirements in plain English:
And this video, produced by the Retail Solutions Providers Association, provides an inside look at how these regulations have devastated a number of businesses who weren’t prepared:
The bottom line? If PCI applies to you, take measures now to ensure your company is protected.