What Do You Need for Your Ecommerce Site?

Before you end up paying too much for extra applications for your ecommerce site, it is a good idea to do a little comparison-shopping first. You can usually find a web hosting company that offers the features you’ll need bundled in for less money than you would spend adding them on by yourself. Here is a basic list of what you’ll need to run a full featured ecommerce website.

A shopping cart. This is absolutely essential. Most companies offer at least one free cart that you can use for your customers. If you want to accept orders, you’ll need to have a shopping cart. Instead of paying extra for a cart, try to find a host that includes this. Shopping carts can be very expensive, as much as $800, so this is a significant area.

A mailing list. You may need a mailing list application if you plan on keeping in touch with your customers or sending out periodic sales announcements. Mailing list software can also be expensive, so it is nice to have this included with your account.

A SSL certificate. If you plan on processing credit card numbers, you will need to make sure that this process is secure. This is achieved through the use of a SSL certificate, or Secure Socket Layer. These certificates can cost as much as $200, and it is important to find a host that will provide this for you. If you can’t find a host that offers your own certificate, you should be able to find a host that will allow you to “piggy-back” off of their certificate for free.

A merchant account. If you need to accept credit card payments, you will absolutely have to have a merchant account. Many hosts are now offering this option either through their own service, or by recommending a company that offers a merchant account. Before you select your merchant account, make sure that the payment gateway is supported by the shopping cart that comes with your server.

Site promotion tools. You’ll need to have a way to promote your site through various search engines and other venues. Try to find a server that includes this with their hosting package. It can be difficult to submit a new site to several search engines at once and it is nice to have a utility that can do this for you included with your site.

Database Support. Most shopping carts store a customer’s data in a database, either SQL or Access, depending on the cart and the platform of your server. You’ll need to make sure that your host allows database creation and maintenance, as well as a way to modify this database should the need arise. PHPMyAdmin is a useful tool for taking care of an SQL database and should be included for free with your server if you have SQL database capability.

Now that you have a general idea of what you’ll need for your ecommerce site, you’re ready to add any additional features your business may require and then you’ll be set to start comparison-shopping for the best deal.

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Posted on 12/14/05 10:00 PM

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