Find an e-commerce solution for your business
E-commerce is the shortened name for selling goods and services on the Internet. Just like the term e-mail, the e in e-commerce stands for electronic. E-commerce takes place online primarily using software called a shopping cart which tracks a product's price and can calculate taxes, shipping rates and more. Upon checkout, the customer is e-mailed a receipt with a tracking number to keep tabs on the whereabouts of their order.
The attraction of having your own e-commerce business is that you can sell your products or services on the Internet to anyone with a valid credit card. You can sell to people from the city you live in or to someone from halfway across the world while you're asleep. Having a fully functioning e-commerce site means that your business is always open, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
There are many different e-commerce solutions available for those who want to get started selling online. Some companies will allow you to set up a store with a low monthly fee. This setup works best for those who want to avoid the technical issues with creating a website and integrating it with an e-commerce cart. However, if you don't have many items to sell, especially if you're dealing in mainly information products such as PDFs, MP3s or movie files, then you can just use an online payment processor like PayPal and their free shopping cart system.
However, for businesses that already have a credit card processing account, they may want to set up an online payment processor account through their bank instead. These credit card accounts cost more up front, but have a much lower transaction fee and will save money in the long run for businesses that have a large volume of monthly transactions.
Prices range wildly with e-commerce software; you can find options that cost absolutely nothing to those that cost hundreds of dollars a month. Those who opt for free solutions may find that they tend to have more limitations and will require a skilled programmer to customize the software to work for their particular needs. Free software also doesn't come with technical support—not a good idea for established businesses that merely want to expand to online sales. Free options are best for those who have more time than money, fewer customers and the programming skills to make it work.
On the higher end of the spectrum, e-commerce software can manage inventory levels, credit card transactions, e-mail list building and auto-responders to ensure seamless customer interactions. These integrated solutions don't come cheap, but can tremendously streamline a business while increasing efficiency, making them well worth the cost for big businesses.