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Ecommerce Web Hosting Reviews

Sean P.

Sean P.

4. Hosting and Maintaining Your Website

235
com_k2.itemlist
(2 Reviews, 4.50 out of 5 Stars)
4. Hosting and Maintaining Your Website4.50 out of 50 based on 2 voters.


Web hosting makes your business visible on the internet. To run your online business you need to have your Website hosted by a web hosting provider. The web host provides bandwidth and web space on the servers.This means that your Website is connected to the internet so customers can browse and get what they want. The bandwidth you require will depend on the traffic your Website receives and whether you have a large database. The bandwidth you get should be enough for your site because if you exceed your limit you might be charged more or your Website might go offline which is not good for e-commerce.

The web space provided on the server should be enough for your business needs. If you are launching text only, you will not require a lot of web space but if your site includes images, animation, music and video then you will require more disk space. Usually, the disk space provided by many web host providers is enough to launch several web pages.

Web Hosting Plans

There are many web hosting solutions and you should choose the best plan that serves your needs depending on your budget. These include free web hosting, shared hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting among others. Shared hosting is the most affordable whereby several users share one server making the costs low. Shared hosting is enough for many websites although it may not be as reliable as other more expensive hosting plans.

For e-commerce websites which handle thousands of visitors each day and need high-levels of security, dedicated hosting is the ultimate solution. In this type of plan the user leases or purchases the server and web space is not shared with others. This is appropriate for large organizations which have large databases which handle sensitive data. VPS is an in-between solution which has almost the same reliability and security of dedicated hosting and yet the cost is almost at per with shared hosting.

You need to weigh your needs against the costs so you can choose the hosting plan that is right for you. Choose a hosting plan that will allow growth. Start small and adjust to more expensive plans as your business grows and realizes profits that you can use to pay the costs.There are budget hosting, cheap hosting, business hosting, multiple domain hosting, e-mail hosting and blog hosting among many others. Web hosting can be managed so the business owner will have enough time to concentrate on meeting orders, customer service and other aspects of the business.

Free web hosting is available but it has its drawbacks. The web host posts ads and pop-ups on the Website which are beyond your control and you may not have enough disk space and bandwidth unless you have a very small website. The banner ads which are in form of pop-ups, scripts or graphics may divert attention from your business to the ads. If you have a small personal website or you are testing your website and you do not mind these banner ads you can start with free web hosting and move on to paid hosting plans as you establish your business.

Factors to consider when choosing a Web host

There are several factors which you should consider when you are looking for a web hosting provider to host your Website.

Reliability: The web hosting plan should be reliable especially when you are launching an e-commerce website. You do not want a hosting service which has frequent downtimes that make your Website unavailable when customers visit the site. A hosting service which is on and off is not good for e-commerce. You have to ensure reliability to the highest level so that your e-commerce is available at all times. Remember you are competing with other players on the internet, so, when customers visit your site and find it unavailable, you might lose them to your competitors whose websites are easily available.

Security and Control: In e-commerce security is vital due to the monetary transactions and the sensitive information exchanged. If security is compromised hackers can divert the payments and access confidential data as it travels through the internet. Tight security measures should be adopted. A secure socket layer SSL certificate is necessary which enables encryption of data until it reaches the intended destination.

Flexibility: The site needs to be updated regularly with new products, product descriptions, prices, special offers and other content. Choose a web hosting plan that offers flexibility to make it easy for you to change the site details as need arises.

Customer Support: If your Website is crucial, the web host should have a 24/7 customer support to resolve any issues that arise. You can have an outstanding site but if customer service and support is not competent and responsive, your customers will move their money elsewhere. When choosing a web host, ensure that customer support can be accessed when needed within reasonable hours.

Cost: Many web hosting plans range from $10-$30 per month although budget hosting is lower than $5 per month while dedicated hosting can be more than $100 per month. Look for an affordable hosting plan that has the features you require and change to more expensive solutions as the business grows and revenue start streaming in.

Additional Features

You may require some additional features but it depends on your type of business. These may include-:
• Extra web space
• Additional e-mail addresses
• Traffic Analytics to track visitors to your site
• Customer Support on phone, e-mail, chat
• Easy to use control panel
• Money Back Guarantee

5. Accepting Online Payments

234
com_k2.itemlist
(2 Reviews, 5.00 out of 5 Stars)
5. Accepting Online Payments5.00 out of 50 based on 2 voters.


At this point you should be ready to accept online payments in order for your online business to kick off. Shoppers will browse the site and add-to-cart the items they wish to buy from your storefront. You should provide them with payment options including paying using debit cards, credit cards and electronic checks. You should decide whether you want to process the payment which includes storage of sensitive data or you would prefer this to be handled by a third-party payment processing company like PayPal.

To accept online payments you will need to have a merchant account and also a payment gateway account.

A Merchant Account

You will need to make arrangements with a financial institution to open a merchant account. A merchant acquiring bank enables merchants to collect payments from their customers’ bank accounts and credit/debit card accounts. Check with your bank to find out if they provide merchant accounts.

If you are an existing company selling products offline and you now wish to take your business online, you may already have a Card Present CP merchant account. To accept online payments you will need a CP and a Card Not Present merchant account.This means that, you will accept credit card payments as well as other types of virtual payments. It is good to be flexible so you do not cut-off some consumers interested in purchasing goods and services from your site.

A Payment Gateway Account

Due to the sensitive nature of payment transactions, banks have limited accessibility of information to payment gateways and not everyone can access this information. You therefore need a payment gateway account so you can accept credit card payments and also electronic check payments from consumer Websites and other sources. The payment gateway processes the payment, accesses transaction records and communicates with the necessary authorities until the money is deposited in the merchant account.

The payment gateways like PayPal and Authorize.net ensure tight security as the information travels through the internet preventing fraud by encrypting the data until it reaches the desired destination where it is decoded. This way, the merchant and customers’ monetary transactions and sensitive data are shelved from hackers. The payment gateway makes sure that, online payment processing is done in a secure environment using secure connections. Any suspicious transactions are detected and managed before any shipping is done. To be able to accept online payments, you will need to have your Website connected to the payment gateway.

The flow of Credit Card Payments

This is a step-by-step process which takes place within 2-3 seconds.
When a customer visits your site and adds-to-the-cart the items he wishes to buy, he presses the ‘Buy’ or ‘Submit Order’ button and he is led to the checkout section of the Website. He fills the financial data including the credit card number and other personal information which the system requires. When the customer submits the credit card or electronic check data, the data is encrypted using SSL encryption by the customer’s browser and then it is sent to the merchant web server. The system relays this encrypted information to the merchant’s payment gateway.

The payment gateway sends the transaction to the merchant banks processor which sends it to the card association such as Visa or MasterCard which the merchant acquiring bank uses. Your merchant bank processor directs the transaction to Credit Card Interchange to process, clear and pay. They in turn forward the transaction to the customer’s Credit Card Issuer to authorize, approve or decline the transaction depending on whether the customer has enough funds. The approved response is relayed back with the funds if they are available which are then deposited to the merchant bank account. The decline response is also coded and sent back through the same way.

The payment gateway routes the response to the customer and/or merchant informing them if the payment has gone through or it has been declined. At the end of each day, the merchant batches the ‘authorizations’ and submits them through their processor to the acquiring bank who make a claim from the credit card issuer for payment. The amount is forwarded to the merchant acquiring bank and then deposited in the merchant bank account usually within 3 days.
In the meantime, the merchant fulfills the customer’s order shipping the products as required.

6. Promoting Your E-commerce Business

233
com_k2.itemlist
(2 Reviews, 4.50 out of 5 Stars)
6. Promoting Your E-commerce Business4.50 out of 50 based on 2 voters.


There are numerous ways you can promote your business and it may not be possible to list them all.

Search Engine Optimization

One of the most effective ways you can use to promote your website is Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a powerful Web technique which is used by search engines to rank websites to improve their online visibility. Search engines rank websites where traffic is likely to find them as they search keywords and phrases which are relevant to them. If your site ranks at the top of these rankings you will get a flow of traffic of online shoppers to your website. SEO is critical for online business success and you should adopt it.

Popular search engines which include Google and Yahoo as well as Bing, change their algorithms from time to time. So, if your site has to stay on top of the search engine rankings you need to keep changing the content and structure of your website from time to time so it can receive more visitors whom you can convert to buyers. Improve the text in the website to include relevant keywords which are being searched by your targeted audience, and also the page layout of your website especially the Homepage. You can do this yourself or you can hire the services of SEO specialists in this field. The search engine rankings are free and you should utilize this service and then submit the website to be included in the popular search engine results.

SEO is a powerful online marketing strategy which you can use to improve your website’s chances of getting noticed by online shoppers. You should also work on link-building which also helps the search engine to rank your website highly. Search engines regard websites with many links from other websites as important. They therefore rank them on top of search engine results. Use as many links as possible by related but not competing websites, to your site so your website can be rated on top of search engine results. You can use free or paid link-building.

Social Media

The social media has become a powerful platform today. Social networks have become an effective tool of promoting business and obtaining new customers and increasing sales. Set up social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Bing and friends will network with others in their online community about your products and services. This can drive a large flow of traffic to your site and this gives you an opportunity to convert the visitors to buyers.

Unfortunately, the same social media networks can drive away traffic from your site if things go wrong. Use the same social media networks to offer explanations of what went wrong, accept responsibility and rectify what you need to, in order to win the trust of customers. Use feedback to find out what customers are saying in order to promote your products and services. Positive feedback is effective but even negative feedback can help you put the right measures in place. Customer satisfaction is vital for business success.

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing campaigns are powerful and cost-effective ways of promoting products and services. Send personalized e-mails to your customers to inform them about the website so they can follow your business online. Make a follow-up of your customers for repeat business and send them newsletters to let them know about new products, upcoming events, special offers, clearance sales, promotions and coupon codes. Keep them updated and avoid losing them, but do not nag them, just motivate them to keep buying from you. A satisfied customer will tell friends and this adds more sales to your site. Let your partners know you have gone online so they can visit the site and spread word around.

Pay Per Click PPC Advertising

Pay per click advertising is also known as cost per click advertising. Costs are based either as a flat-rate or per bid. Web site owners charge business owners for pay per click advertisements when their ads which have been displayed on the websites, are clicked by shoppers. Search engines charge for ads when a shopper enters a certain keyword or phrase, which are being searched by their target audience while they are surfing the internet.
When the ad is clicked, you as the business owner, pay a fixed fee to the search engine, for the PPC service. These ‘Sponsored ads’ also known as ’Sponsored Links’ will help you to promoteyour business on popular websites and leading search engines like Yahoo, Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter. The cost will depend on the popularity of the search engine and the competitiveness of the keywords or phrase you choose.

Blogging

Blogging has become a marketing tool that can promote your business with little effort. People blog about any topic and most businesses including large organization have used blogs to get the attention of their targeted audience.

Writing Relevant Articles

You can write articles about relevant topics that your target audience has an interest in. As visitors read the articles and news they will notice your products or services and buy them. The articles can be about the value the products or services add to their lives or other relevant but interesting topics.

Offline Promotions

There are several ways you can promote your business offline. Word of mouth has been used by businesses for centuries and it is still quite effective. People believe what their friends and family tell them. Hire a web designer to create a professional business logo. Display the logo and Web address on yellow page ads and on all stationary, advertisements, letterheads, business cards, staff uniforms, business vehicles and delivery trucks and on all correspondence. Include them on gifts which you give away whether they are t-shirts, caps or key-chains. Hold press releases and participate in promotional contests. Promotional events where different groups play games and compete for prizes can be an effective way of making people know about the products or services you offer.

7. Managing the Business

232
com_k2.itemlist
(2 Reviews, 4.50 out of 5 Stars)
7. Managing the Business4.50 out of 50 based on 2 voters.


You need to manage your online business in order for it to grow and reach its potential. Managing a business either alone or with the help of other members of staff means making decisions, overcoming challenges, overseeing the day-to-day running of the business and effectively managing security, accounting and meeting orders etc.
A business is divided into many departments but each business is unique. Productivity, sales, purchases, accounting, public relations management, human resource management, customer service, technical support and security departments need to be managed either as inter-dependent units or as a whole depending on the type and size of business. The different teams have to work together for the smooth running of the business whether it is a proprietorship, a partnership or a limited company.

Security

You will need to safeguard your business and the assets you have acquired against fraud. You need to put into place security measures to prevent and detect fraud. Any suspicious transactions have to be detected and managed before any shipping is done. A Secure Sockets Layer SSL certificate is vital for e-commerce Websites due to the sensitive nature of the business, in handling online payments and confidential data.

Shipping

However good your products are, if you do not ship them on time you will lose your customers to your competitors. You must deliver the products within the specified time and in the right condition so you do not keep your customers waiting anxiously. Online shoppers search for the best prices they can get. They keep browsing and comparing prices until they get a good deal. Check the prices competitors are offering and if they are offering free shipping, so you rate your charges within that range.

Accounting

There are several accounting solutions which you can adopt including QuickBooks, Sage and FreshBooks software programs among others. Processing credit/debit card payments and electronic checks can be effectively done using QuickBooks. Invoicing, tracking time, handling payments and generating accountability reports can be easily done through FreshBooks.
Book-keeping and accounting are important aspects of every business. This helps the business owner to track where the money is going and account for it. It also helps in gauging sales, expenses and profit so the business owner can make decisions based on business performance. You should also draw a budget and compare what you have achieved against what you had budgeted for.

Customer Service

You can have quality products and an outstanding Website but if customer service and support is poor you stand a chance of losing your customers. People like to be treated with respect for them to repeat business with you. Customers who are treated well keep coming back to buy more products. They spread word to their friends who also visit your Website to buy your products/services. When customers are not treated well they will go away. They may also influence others not to buy from you. They will post negative comments on the internet that will adversely affect your business. Customer satisfaction is vital for business success.

In conclusion, this E-commerceHow to Get Started Guide has provided you with step-by-step guidelineswhich you need to start an e-commerce business. This will give you the confidence to launch your e-commerce business and run it successfully.

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