When it comes to figuring out the functions, quantities, qualities, operations, and all of the rest of the details about your E-commerce site, it can be a really challenging process. If you happen to own some experience and expertise in E-commerce, it’s still a challenge.

E-commerce requirements demand a lot of planning, a great deal of answering questions, and even some research on what’s out there in the current market. If you’re new to the E-commerce arena, it’s even more challenging as you “don’t know what you don’t know.” Regardless of your situation, it comes down to this: you have to figure out what you need and what you want.

E-commerce requirements demand a lot of planning.

We’re not saying this to scare you or make you feel intimidated. We’re saying this because we want to assure you that it’s real – and it can be done and done well.

If you’re starting your E-commerce site, here are some things that you need:

A reputable site provider with great reviews for customer service.

There are a lot of companies out there that offer E-commerce hosting. Some of these companies present a great presentation that looks like they know what they’re doing. Many of them are truly very good, but some of them are not as good as their sales presentations. Do your homework and find out what others are saying about them. The general rule in this area is this: you will get some very revealing comments about a company if you do a Google search and read what was has been posted. Either you will see raving reviews, or you’re going to see scathing complaints. Rarely will you get any neutral comments.

Some of you might think that you don’t have to look at the reviews, especially as they relate to the level of customer service you will receive, simply because you might be “tech-savvy” and can figure out most everything that’s going on. If you’re thinking that’s the case for you, you’re most likely to be wrong. The reality is that you will be contacting customer service for something, either because you need help getting something right, or because there’s something on the provider’s end that they need to do for you. Either way, you’re going to be partnering with them – and you’re going to want to have a good relationship throughout the process.

Easy functions for Google Analytics, links, tags and other functions for search engine optimization resources.

Setting up search engine optimization resources is a critical step for every E-commerce site. You want for your customers, both present and future ones, to easily find you. Many people figure it’s pretty easy to set these things up in a site. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In some cases, the provider makes it very difficult to add HTML code into their pages. For other providers, they end up requiring you to have to use code to do the work. The better providers have fields and functions to do this work without having to get into the HTML code in the pages – which should make it easier. However, you want to make sure that their functions actually work. Again, look at the reviews and have a expert look into what set up to make sure it works.

Strong security functions.

This point should be very obvious, and it should be a basic requirement. However, it’s not always the case. Make sure your provider has 128-bit security as a minimum requirement. Additionally, check certificates and ensure that everything is running as advertised. Not only should the financial transaction portion of your invoicing process be secure, the whole transaction should be secure. The vast majority of providers offer this level of security, so you shouldn’t accept anything less than this.

Multiple options for payment processing.

Now that the payment processing market is getting a little bit more competitive, there are some new players in the field. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you want to make sure that your preferred payment processing company is one that your E-commerce site provider will accept – and vice versa. Many site providers offer PayPal, but then the selection can vary differently from provider to provider. Do your homework and study the payment processors that your prospective E-commerce site providers are able to offer.

Talking about payment processors, be aware that transaction fees can vary differently from company to company. Rates can vary as much as 3%, which can get expensive if you don’t do your homework. However, keep in mind that you want a reputable payment processor that offers great security, doesn’t beat you up on chargebacks, and is easy to use. Research the current rates and services these payment providers are currently offering and check reviews as well.

For your new E-commerce site, you need to decide what you want. Here are some questions that you will want to answer:

How many products or services do I want to offer in my site?

Some E-commerce site providers are really great at building sites that offer a small selection of products and services. Additionally, they charge less for these site because they don’t require so much processing speed and capabilities on their servers. Make the mistake, though, of expanding your product and service offerings by a large amount, and you end up regretting the decision.

Conversely, there are site providers that can easily handle thousands of products or services, but they don’t necessarily have that “cool” look and easy operations.

You can balance these qualities by forecasting what you need now and what you’ll need later. Some great site providers offer scalable services so that you don’t have to pay for a huge site in the beginning, but you have the power of a large site if and when you need it. Do your homework and see what you can get in regards of level of service and number of items.

What products and services do I want to offer in my site?

This question should also be obvious, but it’s become obvious that many people miss this question when planning for the site. Selling a shirt requires different resources than selling a trip to Cancun. If you have a combination of products and services, you need to see how you’re going to manage these items on your website. Staying with the shirt analogy, you may have to deal with sizes, colors and styles that are associated with the base product. These may seem simple, but when you get deeper into the installation process, it can easily get more complicated.

Make a point to determine all of the products and/or services you are going to offer when the site is launched. Determine how you’re going to manage them within your site. Most site providers allow for you to have a 30-day trial. When you get to the point that you’ve made your final selections of providers, put those items into the site and see how well they are managed.

How much detail do I need to have to manage my inventory in my site?

Similar to the previous question, you need to know the details of your items. You want to think about how the site will maintain the number of items in inventory and then what happens when items are sold out. Do you want for the out-of-stock item to be removed from being seen on the site until there is more stock? Or do you want for people to order more so that they item gets shipped when it is back in stock? Also, do you want for your site to maintain information about your items, including your vendor’s stock numbers for ease in reordering?

You also have to decide what information you want to see and manage in managing your inventory. Most good programs have a “dashboard” that alerts you to low-stock items, good sellers, and overall sales information. All of this information is important, but it is even more important when it comes to what you want and what you need to manage.

Do I want my website to link to my accounting program, such as QuickBooks?

As technology gets better and E-commerce site providers are able to build programming that links to accounting programs, the divide between the E-commerce site and the accounting program disappears. Frankly, it makes a lot of sense to have your E-commerce site be able to “talk” to your accounting program and vice versa. Until someone builds an “all-in-one” E-commerce and accounting program, which is probably coming in the next few years, we want the two programs to work well together to make our lives easier.

To meet these needs, there are “plug-in” programs which allow the two programs to work together. Check out what your accounting program recommends in conjunction with your prospective E-commerce site providers and see if you can make this process work seamlessly.

How much time do I have to build and manage this site?

For many of us, it’s all about cash flow. We don’t have the money to pay someone to build an extensive site, so we try to do it on our own. However, this process can ultimately be more expensive as we are working on tasks and projects that don’t have any direct improvement on our cash flow. We can always stay busy, but that doesn’t mean that we’re making money.

Take some time to figure out what you can do well and what you need to delegate. If you don’t have any experience in building an E-commerce site, do yourself a favor and talk to people who build them for a living. The market for these services is truly a global one. You can find some great resources all over the world who can do the work for an affordable price. Do what you do best, and do those things that will improve your cash flow.

How much time do I have to devote to social media marketing and search engine optimization?

You need to plan on putting time and resources towards promoting your site.

As with the previous question, you need to plan on putting time and resources towards promoting your site. E-commerce requirements include social media marketing and search engine optimization. Your site needs to be seen and it needs to be promoted for people to want to do business with you. Creating the “word-of-mouth” reputation that is the secret to growth is important, and it starts with social media.

Don’t just assume that you can throw money at marketing and it will produce results. Find those people who are really good at social media and search engine optimization, and let them do great work for you to promote your site.

These E-commerce requirements should get your mind thinking about what you need to do. If you have more questions, we encourage you to contact us. Always feel free to ask questions from us – we’re here to help.