Ecommerce Basics: Understanding your Online Store

So, you want an online store

You’ve got a great product. You’ ve done the research and found there’s a demand. You are ready to set up your first ecommerce site.

Anatomy of an Ecommerce Site

  1. First you need a web site – your Online Storefront.
    Your online store will consist of pages that list your products. Item details include a product photo description, price, options (like "size: large" or "color: red"), and all the other details necessary for your customers to determine if they want to buy. Each product will also have a “buy” or “add to cart” button or link. When clicked, the button uses special code which sends the information about the chosen product to…
  2. Your shopping cart
    Like a real world shopping cart, your online shopping cart keeps track of the items the customer wishes to buy. Many carts will display a running total and calculate shipping, discounts, and have other useful features.

    Sometimes your online storefront and shopping cart will be integrated into one big application. It depends on your needs and the ecommerce solution you choose.

    When the customer chooses to "checkout", the cart uses special code to send the order information to the…

  3. Payment Processor or "Payment Gateway"

    The payment gateway is a secure connection between your site and the payment processor to transmit your customer credit card information. The information is then sent to the merchant account network to be verified – that is, not reported stolen, address matches address of record, etc. This process is similar to what happens in the real world when you swipe your card in a credit card machine.

    When card is accepted, the customer sees a transaction completed page. The transaction information is also sent to the store owner’s account. Money is subtracted from the customer’s account and added to the store owner’s account.

Organizing Your Products – Your Product Catalog

If you only have one or two products, setting up your online storefront could be very simple.

However, if you have a number of products to offer, you’ll want to consider using a catalog application. This type of application typically uses a database to keep track of and organize all your product information.

With a catalog application, items are arranged by category. You will be able to add and update your store inventory with your online store administration pages. Other features you can control include sale pricing, customer and inventory management, shipping calculator, product search, email-confirmations and more.

Want more information?

See related article: Credit Card Processing Options »

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