Four Key Points of a Successful E-commerce Site

In order to operate a successful e-commerce website, you need to pay attention to four key areas: your website, your merchant account, your shopping cart and your secure payment gateway.

Your Website

Your website design plays a key role in the success of your online business. The website must be professional, attractive and easy for your visitors to navigate. First impressions count, and your website is the first experience that customers have with your business.

Your primary goal with an e-commerce website is to provoke your customers to buy. Every single aspect of your website should be focused on one goal – getting your visitors to buy your products and/or services. In order to do this, you’re going to need to clearly list your products with concise descriptions and clear pricing. List the benefits of each product, not just the features. Feature may tell, but benefits sell. The more information you put on your site, the better. Too little information may cost you sales, and that’s the last thing you want.

Testimonials are another key aspect of your business. Listing testimonials and comments from your previous customers will provide your potential customers with the confidence they need to trust in your products and/or services. Offering a money-back guarantee will also provide your customers with the confidence they need to make a purchase and will increase your sales. The profit you experience from the increase in sales will far outweigh any money you’ll lose by honoring that guarantee.

Also make sure your website offers your visitors several options to choose from when placing an order. Allow them to call the order in or do it online. If allowing online payments, make sure your site is easy to navigate and your shopping cart and checkout options are easy to use.

Your Merchant Account

A merchant account will allow you to accept major credit cards. If you want your online business to thrive, you’re going to need a merchant account. In fact, 99% of online sales are made with credit cards. Not accepting credit cards is like throwing business away to the competition.

When setting up a merchant account, you’ll want to go with a provider who is familiar with online sales. The online world is very different from the brick-and-mortar world and you need to work with a company who knows what they’re doing or it can cause you serious headaches in the future.


Your Shopping Cart and Secure Server

If you’re accepting credit cards online, you’re going to need shopping cart software installed on your website or will need it remotely hosted on another server.

This shopping cart allows customers to select from the merchandise you are offering and place the items they want into their “basket” just as if they were shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. The shopping cart totals the entire order for the customer, allowing them to see tax and shipping rates. The shopping cart then collects the billing, shipping and payment information and processes the order through the payment gateway.

There are a number of shopping carts available on the market. Some require a one-time payment, and others require a monthly fee. Look at what’s available and choose one that meets your needs and your budget. Stay away from shopping carts that require your customers to register first. This extra step may cost you business in the long run.

You will need to host the page with the order form on a secure server or hackers will be able to get in and steal your customers’ information. You can get a secure server from your ISP or you can setup your own if you have your own server. To setup a secure server you would need to purchase what is called a digital certificate from a company such as Verisign or Thawte. These certificates run about $150 per year.

Alternatively, instead of hosting the order form you can use a payment gateway such as Authorize.Net, who will host the order form for you on a secure server. A payment gateway such as Authorize.Net provides you with a secure checkout page as a part of their service. This will save you from having to get your own secure certificate.

Your Payment Gateway

Your payment gateway serves as the link between your site and the credit card processors. An example of a payment gateway is Authorize.Net. Once payment information is submitted on the Authorize.Net secure order page, the payment gateway sends the data to a credit card authorization network. That network then verifies that the customer’s credit card is valid and has sufficient funds to clear the transaction.

The payment gateway then returns the result of the transaction. If the transaction is approved, the sale is completed and the customer is given an online receipt. A receipt can also be emailed to the customer. If the transaction is declined, the customer is prompted to try again with a different card.

A payment gateway also helps reduce the number of fraudulent orders you receive. This is done by declining orders where the address and zip code don’t match the credit card billing information, or where the three-digit CVV number is entered incorrectly. Using these two methods of fraud control can reduce the number of fraudulent transactions by 80%.

Be sure to pay equal attention to all four areas: website design, merchant account, shopping cart, and payment gateway selection. Doing so will help you have a successful e-commerce website.

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