online-storesThere are a lot of considerations when setting up online stores and shops; this page was developed to assist you in understanding the options and to help you define the best eCommerce solution for your specific needs.

When you want to sell online there are some important options to consider:

  • Are you selling products, digital downloads, or a subscription to a member only area of your website?
  • Will you be selling many items, or a just a few?
  • Do you anticipate a high volume of sales?
  • Will your products require custom attribute fields?
  • Do you need to provide for coupons, wholesale pricing, worldwide shipping?
  • Do you intend to use a Merchant account (such as Authorize.net), PayPal, or provide both?

PayPal Carts and Integration

PayPal is known as an “All in One” solution since it provides all the services that are required for credit card processing, which includes a dedicated IP, secure server “SSL encryption” (Comodo, Verisign, etc), credit card authorization and processing (Authorize.net), and transfers of funds to one’s bank (Merchant Account).

PayPal Cost of Use

There is no set-up cots or monthly fee associated with using PayPal, and the current cost of use for PayPal standard is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. You can learn more about PayPal usage costs at https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/merchant-fees

PayPal Customer Experience

PayPal is a popular customer checkout option since they accept all common payment options, shield customer information from retailers, and refunds can be requested. PayPal can be used to create purchase and donate buttons, simple custom carts, recurring subscriptions, or can be configured to work with most shopping carts and eCommerce platforms, and by utilizing the API the checkout process can be seamless instead of the typical redirect to a branded PayPal page.

Note: 2Checkout.com is another common “All in One” gateway option, used most often for renewable fees such as for hosting.

Our suggestion for most businesses is to start off using PayPal and if business increases then add the merchant as an additional gateway option. Most hosting companies can easily upgrade/transfer your hosting to a dedicated server, and many will have package options for SSL certificate, authorization server, etc.

Merchant Accounts

Merchant accounts are typically best when you have a high volume of sales.Here’s an overview of what most merchant accounts will cost:

  • Gateway Fee: Typically between $10-$20 a month
  • Statement Fee: Average is about $10/mo.
  • Monthly minimum: The sales amount that your business has to meet each month to avoid paying additional fees.
  • Average Discount Rate: Percentage of your sale that the credit card processing company keeps. Typically around 2.25%.
  • Transaction Fee: Typically around .30 per sale.
  • Address verification Fee: Verification of a credit card. Typically around .05 per sale.

In addition to these costs, there is the cost of a credit card authorization server (such as Authorize.net); upon my last check they have a $100 setup fee, a $20/mo fee, and other small incidental fees. Then there is the need for a secure server (SSL) and the price will vary considerably for these, but the better ones such as Verisign cost from $100 to $250 yr.. And finally you will need to have a dedicated server hosting environment (which is generally 3 times (or more) the cost of a shared hosting platform).

So yes, this can all become very expensive and time consuming to set into place. *Note that some shared hosting accounts provide SSL certificates, but since these are “shared certificates” they are not considered as secure, and they won’t work with all E-Commerce options.

Self-Hosted ECommerce (WooCommerce)

storefrontA self-hosted platform will require more initial costs than a “hosted” option since there is the cost of the cart application/theme, settings configuration, visual layout design and styling, etc – yet this option will be less expensive overtime since there is no reoccurring fee to use the cart beyond the typical hosting server and merchant fees.

Of the self-hosted cart options we prefer to use WooCommerce since it integrates seamlessly with WordPress, has more plugin options to extend its functionality than others, and it is the most popular eCommerce platform on the web (approx. 30% of all online stores) which helps to ensure that it is very secure.

WooCommerce will allow you to customize the look of the cart application to integrate effectively with existing websites, which most other carts only allow for in very limited ways. You can learn more about the options available at:

Simple WooCommerce Demo:
http://demo2.woothemes.com/storefront/

Documentation:
http://docs.woothemes.com/documentation/plugins/woocommerce/

Shortcodes:
http://docs.woothemes.com/document/woocommerce-shortcodes/

Plugins:
http://www.woothemes.com/plugins/

Extensions:
http://www.woothemes.com/product-category/woocommerce-extensions/

Hosted ECommerce Solutions

Another popular option for many small (or new) businesses is to use a hosted eCommerce solution. The hosted options will typically be easy to set-up, will provide free or low cost support, and they will take care of the security, the hosting, and in some cases their monthly usage fee will include credit card authentication and processing (or provide an easy setup process to integrate these with their service).

The best hosted selling options are:

  1. Shopify;
    http://www.shopify.com/
  2. Volusion:
    http://www.volusion.com/
  3. BigCommerce:
    https://www.bigcommerce.com/