The Five Things You Will Need to Set Up an eCommerce Site

An ecommerce site is distinguished from a business website by the fact that it is built around a shopping cart.

Its primary purpose it to allow people to buy on line.

Behind the scenes the software required to run such a site is a lot more involved and complex than a straight information site.  But the good news is it doesn’t have to be that much harder to build or maintain.

So if you have ever thought of selling on line, here’s a short checklist that will help you get started

Five Things You Will Need

1. Products
Of course you have to have something to sell!!
But what you sell online doesn’t have to be a physical product. Shopping carts can be configured to sell digital goods such as pictures, music, software, etc.
Or another option if you don’t have any inventory is to look into drop shipped products. This is where people buy from you but the order is fulfilled by a wholesaler who then delivers the product directly the customer without any further involvement from you.

2. Shopping Cart Software
There are many of these. Possibly even thousands. Some are better than others for certain purposes, some have annual license fees and some are completely free.

More important though than the license fee is the level of technical support available.

I have built sites using 3 or 4 different shopping cart programs – and I have tested out many many more. The ones I recommend for 99% of all eCommerce sites are zencart and CS-cart. They are both easy to install, modify and have good technical support.

Plus they are fairly easy to use!

3. SSL and Dedicated IP
An SSL certificate creates the ‘https’ version of a website – you often see this on shopping carts and finance sites. This represents the fact the page is encrypted and more secure than a straight http page.

So sensitive financial data like credit card details are protected.

Thankfully you don’t need to know too much about how to install an SSL certificate just be aware that you need one. Let your web host or web designer do the rest!

4. Merchant Account and Payment Gateway
Many online stores use an online credit card processing service like PayPal or Paymate to accept payments. These work well and are widely used.

You may prefer to set up a merchant facility through your bank. If you do be aware there is usually a monthly fee involved but often you can negotiate a lower if you have a high volume of sales.

Otherwise stick with the online processors. They are almost always cheaper and every bit as secure.

5. Shipping
Ironically this can trip people up more than you might think. Getting the shipping right can be key to how competitive your prices are perceived to be.

The easiest way is to do it is to have the shopping cart software link directly to your chosen shipping company – in Australia this would most likely be Australia Post. The software tells the shipping company the weight, size, origin and destination of the item being sent and gets a shipping cost in return. This is then used in the checkout process.

Another popular way to do it if you have an inventory of smaller or lighter items is set a flat rate for all deliveries. Or even free delivery within a specified region.

Just be sure your shopping cart has enough flexibility to change between these options at will.

Putting it all together

If you are a hands-on kind of person you do it all. ie you can set up a hosting account, order and map the domain over and have the SSL certificate installed to it and then install the chosen shopping cart software.

This software will almost certainly need configuring for your desired payment gateway and shipping and probably will almost certainly need some code modifications and template modifications.

Then you will need to input of your terms and conditions, privacy statement and so on.

Finally you’ll need to set up your categories and input your products.

As you can see it’s not an overnight process and if you’re doing it for the first time it might take 60 – 80 or so hours. But it would only have cost you about $500

Or you can get a web designer like myself to do it. Just supply me with the required data and I can have it all ready for you within 3 – 4 weeks. Ready for launch. It will cost more than $500 obviously. But not that much more… especially considering it will free up 80 hours of your time!

Now you have a shopping cart: what next?

Now you’re online with your shopping cart that just the beginning. You’re going to need some good traffic to make sales.

But that’s another story for another time. Check out the various post on this blog for more info.  I will just make this shameless plug though  if you come to me for your eCommerce web design I can also do the search engine traffic generating part for you as well. So you don’t even need to worry about that – I’ll be getting your site well ranked and receiving traffic. One less thing for you to learn and worry about!!

Just contact me for a free web design quote and I’ll see what I can do for you.


Ronald Sayegh
Ecommerce Web Design Australia