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Create an online store - E-commerce website essentials to sell online

by  David Dwyer on  01/12/2017    62 Reads

So you want to create an online store.

You may want to start with a MVP (not Most Valuable Player) ie Minimum Value Proposition to reduce your cost exposure.

You may also be tempted to jump in and begin selling as quickly as possible.

However, to sell online from a position of stability and security takes time, effort and patience.

Here are some e-commerce website essentials to help you make the right decisions for your business – and for your customers – before you start adding products to your new online store.

Infrastructure - Hosting for e-commerce websites

The first step when you create an online store is choosing your hosting provider – you need to get this right before you even consider what content management system (CMS) you want. Choices range between Shared, Virtual, Dedicated, and Cloud-based hosting options. Pick something that matches your requirements and your budget. Bear in mind too that if you’re considering Magento then much as this is an Enterprise Level e-commerce platform it is a very resource-intensive platform that requires most definitely rules out the Shared Server option.

Here are some key things to take into account when choosing a hosting provider:

Features:

Almost any website host will provide 99% uptime and daily back-ups (Ed:however whether they set up backups or you will be dependent on the level of support you are paying for). We’ve come across many disastrous situations when the website owner thought that the hosting company would take care of it, the hosting company in reply then advise that they simply give you access to the tools to do it for yourself.

Continuing on, you'll likely have (or should have) a checklist of must-have items for your web hosting. These may include things like:  One-click software installations, 24/7 support (Ed: sounds obvious but we’ve actually come across Web Hosting firms who close at 5.30pm and direct all support queries to a ticketing system that is reviewed at 9am the following day, you really do get what you pay for nowadays), specific hosting environments (Linux / Windows), managed security updates, permission to set up Cron Jobs or set php config limits to allow server more time to process requests rather than falling over,  software version management e.g. PHP7 (Ed: see our tsunami articles on why this is important), etc.

Other key measures to consider include loading speed (by device), bandwidth and memory i.e. data capacity.

Price:

A higher price is not always an indicator of quality. Look for reasonably priced plans that correspond to the features provided, or monthly plans that increase or decrease depending on the level of features you require, and weigh up carefully the advantages and disadvantages of fixed contracts.

Scalability:

What works for your online store now might not work in six months. To future-proof your e-commerce website, look for a hosting provider that gives you room to grow. This means having the flexibility to add more RAM, increase your bandwidth, storage capacity, server systems administrator flexibility, to cope with the additional site activity.

Create an online store with security in mind

You need to have a robust security plan when you create an online store. A wealth of sensitive personal information flows in and out of your site: Credit card numbers, billing addresses and other sensitive personal data that must be kept safe. Many e-commerce platforms come with secure payment processing for the transfer of online payments, client data, and other sensitive information, with measures to protect against fraud and other security issues.

Verify that you have the following aspects covered before you begin selling online:

  • An SSL certificate – when information is added to a website form and the submit button is pressed then the SSL encrypts the information transmitted. This could be information that is personally identifiable as well as credit card and other confidential transaction info
  • No permanent or plain text storage of sensitive customer data – such as customer numbers, credit cards or passwords. Most likely for Payment Transactions though you will leave this to the Payment Gateway provider to ensure PCIA Compliance.
  • Secure password requirements – complex or random passwords with a mixture of letter cases, numbers and symbols are best, with locks against short or predictable passwords (like 123456 or Password1). The best approach is to have a PassPhrase though not Password
  • Firewall protection at server level – this should be part of the monthly maintenance service from your hosting service provider. Be mindful there are 2 kinds of Firewall, one that sits in front of your Dedicated Server and other clustered Dedicated Servers within a single Data Centre and one that is called a Web Application Firewall that sits ONLY in front of your Dedicated Server (allowing you to have your own rules for access and not common rules for access). The difference being that if one of those other clustered Dedicated Servers have a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) then all Dedicated Servers are impacted via the slow down of the common Firewall, Web Application Firewall avoids that issue.

You should also be aware of critical updates to your e-commerce software, which usually become available in response to new virus threats, coding conflicts or vulnerabilities. You must apply these patches quickly to avoid exposing your site and your customers to a possible breach.

Automated backups essential for e-commerce trading

Mistakes can happen. Sometimes important files or customer logs can get deleted due to an accidental click of a button, or a complex site update that goes awry. To protect your business from loss of data, set up an automated back-up system for your site. This will allow you to recover data quickly, no matter whose fault it is, even in the event of a major outage.

If your backups are set up properly from the beginning, you won't even have to think about them as they will be running all the time in the background while you sell online. However you should always have a Disaster Recovery Plan that is periodically tested to ensure that what you thought was covered and ok, is actually fit for purpose and ok.

The right payment gateway to sell online

One more important piece you need to create your online store is a Payment Gateway.

The secure payment gateway allows you to safely accept online credit card and debit card payments from your customers. There are dozens of secure payment gateways compatible with different e-commerce platforms, regions and accepted currencies. Many of these also come with EpoS facility enabling e-commerce merchants to combine their transaction business from their “virtual terminal” and “bricks and mortar”.

Match your payment gateway according to how and where you will be trading.

Over the last near 12 years, Inspire have implemented many Payment Gateways, in fact we’ve often highlighted the documentation provided by those Payment Gateways as inadequate and provided revised versions.

As such we are very adept, so just ask us for advice if you need it?

Content Management Systems (CMS)

We have not forgotten the all-important CMS. There are plenty of eCommerce CMS platform options that come highly recommended: Magento, BigCommerce, PrestaShop, WooCommerce – the list is extensive.

What is best for you will depend on many factors. Compare your options based on:

  • the number of products (SKU’s)
  • volume of sales for your eCommerce site (current and future)
  • reporting requirements
  • fulfilment requirements
  • your level of expertise in setting up and designing the site
  • post-live site maintenance
  • your budget
  • what features you need (multi-store, multi-language, multi-currency etc.)
  • synchronization or integration with third-party software

 

If you would like some help from professionals to create your online store and start selling online call us today on 01738 700006..

e-commerce, Magento 1.9.x, Magento 2.x.x, Magento e-commerce, SSL Certificate, Web Design
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