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Build an eCommerce Site

If you are going to build an eCommerce site this article is a must read.  It contains information on typical ecommerce site features, eCommerce solutions, eCommerce web host comparisons, and more on building an eCommerce site.

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  3. JustHost - $2.75 Free Site Builder
 

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  1. 150m - 150MB Web Space / Ads
  2. 20m - 20MB Disk Space / Ads
  3. StormLoader - 50MB Web Space

An eCommerce website has to fulfill a number of needs, and so has to be carefully planned. This article discusses some of the functionality that you may want (or need) in an ecommerce web host or website and how to get it.

Typical eCommerce Features

Most people who sell products and/or services online have a similar set of tasks that they need to accomplish through a website. Online sellers (e-tailers) usually need to do most, if not all, of the following:

  • help customers find your site
  • provide opportunities for browsing so customers can lollygag through your site and other means for them to get to exactly what they want quickly and let them know about item availability
  • address any website failures your customers may experience
  • provide customer service as your customers make decisions and organize their transaction
  • provide a way for customers to designate items that they wish to purchase, and designate how many, choose between style alternatives, and collect them
  • allow for online transactions, possibly supporting several different ways for customers to make a payment
  • arrange for packing, shipping, and tracking online orders
  • communicate with existing customers about their orders and keep them coming back

eCommerce Solutions

To provide the eCommerce services listed above, you need most, if not all, of the following website features and webhost services:

  • Enough space to create your catalog and pages
  • Enough bandwidth transfer to cover your customers' visits and interactions with them
  • Database import to bring your records into your website.
  • Catalogue management system
  • Affiliate program to increase your web traffic
  • Shipping services to send out packages and allow customers to track their purchases with FedEx, UPS, and USPS
  • Shopping cart for customers to collect their purchases in
  • Email for customer contact and email marketing templates for PR
  • Database to hold product data
  • FTP for posting changes to website
  • Blog for public relations
  • Online banking with electronic fund transfer for customer transactions
  • Instant Messaging for live chat customer support
  • Enterprise content management
  • An appropriate number of categories and pages and allowed products to match your level of need
  • OS parameters that fit your company's computer system
  • Inventory management data
  • Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for security of transactions
  • PayPal transactions for a payment alternative Google checkout for a payment alternative
  • Submissions to search engines and Internet directories to advertise
  • Ability to easily adjust pricing for sales with features such as discounts, bulk pricing, and coupons.
  • Mailing list generated by customer additions
  • Wish lists or shopping lists for customers
  • Flexible site design templates
  • Ability to generate customer order histories
  • QuickBooks®
  • 24/7 customer support through live chat or telephone for you from the webhost
  • A very, very high guaranteed up time

You also may wish to seek out a webhost with low transaction fees and low or no set-up fee.

eCommerce WebHost Comparisons

Because eCommerce webhosting plans differ widely in price, I thought it would be useful to compare two and see what's different, not in every possible feature, but for some of the important ones. The two I chose are BlueHost, which has a $6.95/month package if you pay for 3 years, and Network Solutions, whose cheapest package is $49.95/month.

Attribute

Network Solutions

Blue Host

Set-up fee

$49.00

none

HD space

200 MB

unlimited

Bandwidth transfer/month

8 GB

unlimited

Domain Name

free

free

Email

25 web & POP-3

2500 POP3/2500 IMAP

QuickBooks® Integration

yes

no

99% uptime guarantee

yes

no

Backups

nightly

"courtesy" no timeframe given

24/7 real-person support

yes

not mentioned

Google Analytics integration

yes

not mentioned

MySQL databases

not mentioned

100

CGI-Bin, Library

not mentioned

yes

Real Time Inventory ctrl

yes

not mentioned

PHP5, Perl5, Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Flash

not mentioned

yes

Express Checkout

yes

not mentioned

As you can see, neither of these hosts has everything you might want, and each has some gaps that could be quite serious, depending on your purposes. This suggests that it is important to make sure you allow sufficient time for research and have a really solid plan before choosing your webhost for an eCommerce site.

Related Article: How to Make Money Online >>

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