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E-Commerce & Selling Online: An Introduction

Four Steps to Getting Started in E-Commerce

Selling online is an opportunity to reach new customers and markets. However, it you are unfamiliar with it, getting started in e-commerce can seem a bit daunting. There are four basic steps needed for selling online:

1. Set Up Credit Card Merchant Account

In order to accept credit card payments, you will need to have a Merchant Account. Your Merchant Account authorizes and processes your customer credit card purchases and automatically transfers the money into your checking or other bank account.

Where to start …
If you already have a Merchant Account, you should check with your bank about the availability of accepting online orders. If you do not yet have a Merchant Account, we would suggest contacting your local bank. Often times if you already have a relationship with a bank, you may be eligible to receive better rates or a package account.

It is also important to note that many retail Merchant Accounts do not allow for “card not present” transactions, such as online orders, so be sure to let the bank know that you want to do business on the web. You will also need to find out what processor they use and what payment gateways they require or suggest.

Alternatively, there are a number of Internet based companies that provide merchant accounts for online selling. These companies will often provide a full set of services to enable you to process payments through a web interface.

2. Set Up a Payment Gateway

Payment Gateways enable the validation and processing of credit card payments online. When an online order is taken on your website, the gateway acts as the connector between your website and your merchant account.

Ensure your Payment Gateway will work with your other systems.
Not all Payment Gateways are compatible with all web servers, shopping cart systems, or with all Merchant Accounts. It is important that you first check with your merchant account, your web design company, and with your web hosting company to ensure that the Payment Gateway you select will work as needed.

Charlotte’s Web Studios’ servers and shopping cart systems work with most Payment Gateways. However, please contact us to ensure your selected Payment Gateway will work with our systems.

3. Make Your Web Site Secure

In order to accept payments by credit card, your website will need to be secure to prevent unauthorized users from viewing or using your customer’s information fraudulently.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypts information so that it cannot be intercepted and read in transit. SSL encryption requires the use of a certificate that can be thought of as a key that “locks” the data, and “unlocks” it when the information needs to be used on the other end of the transaction.

You can purchase custom SSL certificates from numerous Signing Authorities. A few examples are: Verisign, GeoTrust, Thawte, and GlobalSign.

It is important to note that not all hosting accounts allow for SSL encryption, so you should check with your hosting provider about the availability of SSL on your web server.

Charlotte’s Web Studios offers SSL enabled hosting packages as well as installation services for custom digital certificates.

4. Set Up a Shopping Cart System / Website

In order to sell online, you will, of course, need a shopping cart system on your website to display your products and services, utilize SSL encryption, and connect to your payment gateway to process online payments and receive credit card authorizations.

This is the part of your website where customers can browse through your products, add products to their shopping cart, and, when ready to complete the purchase, enter billing and shipping addresses, select shipping options, and enter in credit card information.

Upon successfully entry of all required information, the payment information is automatically sent via SSL to the Payment Gateway for “real time” credit card authorization and approval. If the payment is approved, the Payment Gateway sends an “approved” response to your website and a receipt is generated.

Charlotte’s Web Studios can help!

Charlotte’s Web Studios offers complete, customized shopping cart systems and e-commerce solutions – from simple to complex. Contact us for more information!

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