5 Simple Steps to Start Selling Online - A Beginner's Primer

November 18, 2009 by Forrest Yingling
1. Figure Out What You Are Going To Sell
These days, just about any product or service you can fathom is offered for sale online.  If you are currently the proprietor of a traditional brick and mortar establishment and your goods or services are not being sold online then you already one step behind your competition.  At the very least, you need to be advertising and branding your business on the Internet by operating a website, even if it is not a merchant account per se.   

Your customary, physical company may reach hundreds or thousands of customers in your specific locale.  However, your virtual, online company has the potential to reach millions of prospective consumers all over the world.  The key is to remember that the Internet is a global marketplace.  Starting an e-commerce store will reach customers worldwide and unquestionably increase your profits.

2. Setup A Domain Name
Your domain name is the web address that users will type into the address bar of their web browser to get to your site (www.yourbusiness.com).  To obtain your domain name you will need to use a website registrar.  There are an abundance of registrars on the Internet.  Two of the leading registrars are GoDaddy and eNom.  When you visit the registrar, check to see if your desired website name is available and if so, you can begin the process of purchasing it.  Domain name registration usually costs between $10-15 per year and will have to be renewed on a yearly basis. 

Before you commit to a certain domain name, you should do a search to see if there are preexisting sites with similar names to avoid any confusion.  Remember, in order to be successful and set yourself apart from the competition, you want a catchy, short and sweet and easy to remember website name. 

3. Find a Web Host & Build Your Website
Shop around to find a reputable and reliable web host that will give you a good deal and work with you to find the plan that will work for your business.  Spend some time researching the company to see what their existing and previous clients have to say about their services.  There are an abundance of guides and hosting review sites online that teach you what you should be looking for in a hosting company.

Create your homepage with Site Studio or a similar program.  Your web host should include some sort of site design program for free with their hosting packages.  Remember, when creating your site, it is imperative to establish “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages.  These pages establish trust and open the lines of communication between you, the business operator and your customers.  Many people are already skeptical about doing business online.  Therefore, you want your site to convey a sense of trust and security to your customers or they will simply go elsewhere to make their purchases. 

Shoppers tend to not trust buying from sites that do not have physical addresses and/or phone numbers where they can be reached.  Giving your customers confidence in your services is one of the principle keys to running a successful online business.  During this process you also need to setup your shipping and return policies so customers feel secure purchasing from your site. 

4. Setup Your Shopping Cart Software
There are a multitude of shopping cart software programs available to handle online product and service ordering.  These programs allow customers to purchase the items your site offers with major credit cards or services like PayPal, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout.  Miva Merchant 5.5 is a leading shopping cart program that is affiliated with all of these payment processors.  For example, WebNet Hosting offers three Miva Hosting e-commerce plans.  You will have to find the right plan for you depending on the size of your store, the traffic it will generate and the bandwidth you will need.  You also have the option to host your store on shared or dedicated servers depending on the above factors.

Furthermore, in many cases, hosted shopping carts like Miva Merchant can do away with the processes outlined in step number 3 as your site can be designed with the themes, templates, skins and modules provided by the shopping cart software itself.   

5. Start Taking Orders And Begin Doing Business!
Make sure your site is PCI Compliant so you can legally accept credit card payments.  As of July 2010, all e-commerce sites will need to be PCI Compliant and follow the new PA-DSS (Payment Application – Data Security Standard) or risk facing hefty fines.  More information about these rules and regulations can be found at http://www.pcicompliance.org.

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