3 Steps to Starting an Online Store

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So, you’re looking to start an online store? Chances are, your plans are already lined up. You know what you’re going to sell, how your store is going to look, and the little personal touches you’ll include to make your brand shine. Now you just have to make it all happen!

Easier said than done, right? The wide world of eCommerce software can be downright overwhelming, and it’s full of pitfalls to the uninitiated. With so many software solutions to choose from and so many new terms to learn, it’s hard to know where to begin.

In the following article, we’ll present a brief guide to choosing the right software for your online store. We’ll cover shopping cart options, payment processing solutions, and more.

Keep reading to learn how to turn your great idea into reality.

1. Choose a Shopping Cart/Website Builder

As you’ve researched ideas for your online store, you’ve likely come across a few shopping cart and website building solutions.

Shopping cart software programs (aka, eCommerce platforms or eCommerce solutions) are divided into two categories: hosted and open source. Your choice will depend on your priorities and experience level in web development.

Hosted (or SaaS) shopping cart software programs focus primarily on ease of use. These platforms will handle the technical side of running an online store (including hosting, site development, and security) so you can handle the business aspect. You will be in charge of designing your online store, filling it with products, and managing daily operations.

Popular hosted solutions include Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, and 3dcart.

Open source solutions, on the other hand, give you far more control over your online store. Open source software grants you unfettered access to the software’s code, letting you create new features, designs, and integrations. You will be responsible for finding a hosting service for your site and maintaining your site’s security, along with all the operations of running a business.

Popular open source solutions include Magento, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop.

2. Consider Your Payment Processing Options

Selecting a shopping cart software is a huge part of setting up an online store; however, it’s only the first step.

In order to accept payments online, you’ll also need to choose a payment processor. When it comes to payment processing, you’ll be faced with two options: signing up for a merchant account or integrating a PSP. Take a look at the differences between the two below:

  • Merchant Account: A merchant account is a business account that you set up with a processing bank. This account lets you receive payments from online credit and debit card transactions. During the set-up process, you’ll be able to negotiate your contract terms for lower rates. Once you have an account, you’ll also need to set up a gateway between your shopping cart and your account to transfer payment data.
  • PSP: Popular PSPs include PayPal or Skrill. These services process your payments in exchange for a cut of the transaction. Many of these services offer free, pre-built gateways for the most popular eCommerce platforms. PSPs tend to be easier to set up and are often better for smaller sellers. The trouble with PSPs, however, is that you can’t negotiate your rates.

Likely, your choice of payment processor will depend in part upon the shopping cart that you have chosen and its integrated payment gateways.

3. Add Integrations

Integrations are connections with other software that let you add features to your online store. Once you’ve chosen a shopping cart, take a look at its app marketplace. There, you’ll find dozens, or even hundreds, of integrations with other software solutions.

As you peruse, pay special attention to integrations with marketing and customer relations management (CRM) software. When planning email marketing strategies, email marketing solutions, like MailChimp or MadMimi, are always good choices, and customer review software like YotPo can add credibility to your site.

You’ll also want to look into accounting solutions, such as Quickbooks and Xero, which can help you keep on top of bookkeeping and taxes.

Keep in mind that each software you add will come with its own monthly expenses (and possibly a small fee for the actual software connection). However, many merchants find that the time they save with these integrations is well worth the cost.

Get Going!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the eCommerce software available to you, but don’t let that stop you from starting an eCommerce venture from home! Start with a few shopping cart options that seem suited to your business and industry, and sign up for free trials of each one. You’ll soon get a feel for what features you like, and which you could do without.

Make sure you look into user comments and professional reviews as you consider each software options. And whatever you do, don’t stop researching! Best of luck and happy selling!

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