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What is a eCommerce?
eCommerce refers to the sale and purchase of products on the Internet, encompassing auctions like eBay as well as online shopping carts. Although eCommerce is becoming more prevalent on the Internet, there is no guarantee that it will be a profitable investment for everyone. As we've seen over the years, dot coms have come and gone, while others like Amazon have flourished.

The main benefits of eCommerce are that you can reach a wider range of customers as well as making ordering more efficient for existing customers. The drawbacks are the startup costs, the fact that you'll have more competition online, and less personal assistance for your customers.

What is a shopping cart?
A shopping cart is a program that allows users to look through your inventory and to select items for purchase. The product information is stored in a database for easy retrieval. Also included are pages for cart modification (modifying quantities and deleting items) and a "check out" page where billing information can be added.

What does eStudio Design support?

1. eStudio can custom design an eCommerce solution for you using a variety of merchant services.

2. eStudio can assist you in the set up and formatting of a popular cart called osCommerce.Unfortunately, we are un able to support ALL shopping carts since there are hundreds of them.

3. eStudio can integrate payment or donation buttons such as PayPal or Sam's Club.

What do I need to accept payments online?
In addition to a shopping cart, you need 2 things: an Internet Merchant Account and a Payment Gateway (or a service that provides both such as PayPal). Both are described below. Certain banks may offer a combination of the two to their customers. It is IMPORTANT that you check with your financial institution prior to eCommerce development to see if they support specific types.

What is a Internet Merchant Account?
These are bank accounts that are set up for merchants who are able to receive credit cart payments from credit card providers. These accounts generally "hold" the funds for a short period of time and then payments received are normally transferred to another bank account on a daily basis.

What is a Payment Gateway?
A payment gateway is the "go-between" for you website, the credit card companies and the Internet Merchant Account. The gateway received credit card info via your website and then connects to appropriate credit card company to verify the request. Information about the transaction is then passed to the Internet Merchant Account for transfer of funds.

What is an SSL (secure server certificate)?
A secure server is a web server that has been set up for retrieving encrypted information from a website, such as credit card numbers from a shopping cart. In order for your server to be secure, you must have a secure server certificate installed -- which is done by your web server administrator. After the certificate is installed, your website can be designed to utilize this feature and you can start sending and retrieving sensitive information over the 'Net. See below for pricing on secure server certificates. eStudio Design can purchase and install an SSL for you for as little as $75/year.


Determine your budget
It is important to first determine your budget for your eCommerce development. An expected cost of $1000 greatly differs from an expected cost of $10,000. Your budget will determine the level of design that will be available to you, and will help you determine whether or not a shopping cart is available in your price range.

Determine your needs
Everyone hopes that their eCommerce site will take off and show instant returns. But in the fickle world of dot coms, this isn't always true. That's why it's VERY important for businesses to evaluate their needs (as well as their expectations) prior to investing in eCommerce. It may be more feasible to offer simple, non-credit card processing sites for those unsure of how their site will do. For example: is your eCommerce site going to be an extension of your existing, well-established business? Or is it going to be a new business that will only exist online? You may find that your needs will change depending on your answer.

Check out the competition
The best gauge for determining what you need is to take a look at what your competition is doing. Most likely, you will at least need to match the usability of the competitors' sites. You can also learn from their mistakes - be sure to make notes of the things you don't like or that you think make their eCommerce difficult to navigate and use.

Get quotes
When contacting design companies for quotes, be sure to find out whether your shopping cart will be prepackaged or "custom built". We encourage you to shop around and find what works for your needs and budget.

Formatting costs:
Shopping cart design and eCommerce development is normally quoted based on the type of application that will be used, the number of items that will be included in the database and whether your cart is prepackaged or custom designed. Cart development is more costly than static HTML because the developer is dealing with programming and coding issues that are not a part of basic design (i.e. dynamic information). It is more time intensive for the web designer to construct an eCommerce website and there are many more issues involved beyond straight HTML formatting.

Prepackaged software can be installed on the web server in a fairly short amount of time at little cost. However, it is often difficult to customize the software so you may end up being limited by what it can provide. Some programs are free and are included in your hosting (we provide osCommerce for our hosting customers). These carts can be up and running and selling products within a few hours.

Custom Designed shopping carts are generally more expensive because they are designed for each specific customer. The carts generally include an admin area to manage the products, the inventory page which display the products, the cart area for checkout as well as additional order processing pages to track and manage your orders. Custom designed carts give the designer complete control over how the cart looks and functions. However, they do take longer to set up because of the specification.

Credit card processing:
In order to do online credit card processing, a secure server certificate is required. This certificate indicates that you are a legitimate company and verifies that your site is secure for credit card information. The cost of the certificate can vary but can be as low as $80/year. These certificate must be purchased through your domain hosting company. This is because they must create and install the encrypted information on the server. Most hosting companies also charge a fee for setting up the secure server certificate, as well a yearly charge for hosting an eCommerce site.

Also for credit card transactions you will need to set up an Internet Merchant Account and a Payment Gateway Account. The fee for these services varies from company to company; some charge a flat monthly fee while others charge a percentage of your monthly transactions. Some charge both.

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