If you want to sell online then here is a list of things you’re going to need:
- Domain name
- Web Hosting
- Ecommerce Software
- Payment Gateway Account
Choosing the Best Ecommerce Hosting
Obviously the first one is easy. You just need to order your domain name and it will all be set up and registered for you.
In terms of hosting the only thing that you need to be aware of is the website loadspeed. The thing is that the speed that an Ecommerce website loads is an important factor in its success. If it is slow then people don’t like to wait around and that will have a negative effect on sales.
Our shared servers are actually really fast for several reasons.
First we use high spec Dell servers with loads of RAM and high speed Enterprise Storage Drives. The drives we use in the basic configuration are 10K SAS drives. These are powerful and reliable hard drives.
We also use software like LiteSpeed to make our servers faster than standard hosting servers.
However, if you want a really fast server then you should consider Solid State Drives which power our SSD Hosting. These are the future of data storage and they are completely electronic as opposed to the traditional hard drives which are mechanical with a spinning data platter and moving data arm.
Because they are 100% electronic devices they can operate much faster than traditional hard drives. How much faster? Well if you measure IOPS (Inputs Outputs Per Second) which is a common way of measuring how fast the drive can read data from itself and write data to itself then the SSD offers speeds hundreds of times faster.
A typical 10K SAS drive will average at around 120 IOPs whereas a datacentre ready Intel SSD will offer IOPS in the range of 4,600 to 75,000.
SSD hosting is more expensive because the drives are more expensive per GB to purchase and they have lower capacity than the slower, traditional drives so they do not offer such an efficient use of valuable datacentre space.
However, if you want to future proof your hosting then SSD is definitely a good option because you won’t have to worry about migrating any time soon.
The only other consideration is whether or not to go for a Virtual Private Server (VPS). If you’re just starting out then you’ll be excited and optimistic and we’re with you all the way on that one. If you think you’re going to grow rapidly and you want a hosting option that is flexible and which will allow you to add power quickly as you need it, especially extra RAM, CPU and disk space, then a VPS is definitely the option.
But if you’re just starting out and you want a good solid ecommerce hosting platform then one of our standard hosting plans will be perfect for you.
OK, now you need to start thinking about which is the best tool for your online shop.
You have several options available to you. Let’s look at them in turn:
With our Website Builder there is a very basic shopping cart facility. It allows you to add your product and specify the name, description, currency and shipping costs. The downside is that there is no shopping cart facility and it will only integrate with PayPal. But if you want a basic, quick and easy solution to to get you up and running and which you can build and manage yourself then this will be ideal for building your first ecommerce website.
Woocommerce is a free Ecommerce addon for WordPress based websites. The beauty of WordPress is that it is a powerful Content Management System (CMS) which is really popular with bloggers and which you can install for free via your hosting control panel with one click.
Installing WooCommerce is easy too. It is a WordPress plugin so it is all automatic and doesn’t involve any complex coding.
If you’re a beginner then there is a learning curve with WooCommerce but if you are prepared to have a go then you’ll be fine. The important thing is to familiarise yourself with the main features.
If you are a complete non-techie then you may want to get a Developer onboard who is used to WooCommerce to assist you.
Overall WooCommerce is an excellent option and there are loads of low cost, high quality ready made templates (called Themes) so your online store will look fantastic. If you are choosing a ready made Theme be sure that it’s Responsive (mobile friendly) as increasingly people are shopping via their mobile devices.
OpenCart positions itself as a user friendly Ecommerce platform and there are plenty of 3rd party templates and Extensions to choose from to help create your site the way you want it.
This is a fully featured Ecommerce solution with loads of features including multi-currency, unlimited features (products, categories, etc.), ability to sell downloadable products etc..
It has sales reporting so you can see how you are doing as well as SEO features to help you optimise your website for a better ranking.
Prestashop is another powerful, free ecommerce platform which can be installed with one click via your web hosting control panel.
PrestaShop is intuitive and fairly easy to use. If you are a complete novice then you might want to find a designer to help you, but if you have a little experience you should be able to build your site after some trial and error.
If you need help then there is a large and helpful PrestaShop community to help you. If you do need support though then you would need to purchase a support service.
It comes fully loaded with all of the features you’d need such as a shopping cart, shipping, SEO, Tax, Analytics, Management Reports, Product and Category Management. If you need extra features then there are loads of Addons available.
One really strong point in PrestaShop’s favour is the look and feel. It has a modern feel and that carries over to the shopping interface and that can have an effect on sales so is something to take into account.
The Community version is free and can be installed directly from your hosting control panel whilst Enterprise is a paid solution that costs thousands of dollars per year.
If you are either just starting out or better still upgrading your existing Ecommerce solution then Magento Community is perfect for you.
However, it should be noted that whilst Magento is an extremely powerful tool, it also requires a skilled developer to implement it. Simply put this is a not a tool for DIY Ecommerce.
Magento is incredibly flexible and there are loads of Magento templates as well as thousands of Magento Addons to add extra functionality to your site.
Magento scores highly in terms of mobile friendliness too – an increasingly important area.
It handles complex pricing and discounting models with the ease that you would expect of a tool which presents itself as the Ecommerce solution built by marketers for marketers.
In a nutshell, Magento is the most powerful Ecommerce tool but it comes with a price to build and maintain.
Payment Gateway Account
Once you’ve decided on your Ecommerce platform you will need to consider how to accept payments. If you are just starting out then the best approach is to use the services of a payment gateway provider.
They will provide you with the ability to capture credit and debit card payments instantly and securely. Of course there is a fee for their services and they will usually take a percentage of the transaction value or they will take a fixed fee per payment. Usually fixed fees are for debit card payments whereas a percentage is charged for credit cards.
Either way, you need to factor in these costs to your pricing model so that you are still maintaining your profit margin.
Using a payment gateway offers several advantages:
- End to End solution
- Safe, secure systems
- Sensitive data not stored on your systems
- Trusted by shoppers
- Integrate to a wide variety of Ecommerce platforms
Here are some options for you to consider:
PayPal is quick and easy to sign up to. With a basic account customers can pay using their PayPal account but you can also accept card payments via PayPal.
They also offer more advanced features such as subscription billing for recurring services or returning buyers.
For a single monthly fee of around £25 you can accept up to 1000 transactions each month through SagePay which is enough for most new businesses.
Stripe is relatively new to the UK but is very popular among developers for flexibility and ease of use. It is priced similar to PayPal but some say it offers better reporting and an easier checkout options for customers.
The major benefit of WorldPay is that is a strong, recognised brand among shoppers in the UK and they have good fraud screening options.
Selling online involves a number of components. Aside from a domain name and Fast Ecommerce Hosting you will need an Ecommerce platform integrated to a payment gateway system.
In terms of Ecommerce software you could use Website Builder if you only have limited requirements.
More advanced options which a beginner to intermediate user could use with some trial and error include the WordPress Ecommerce option Woocommerce as well as purpose built, free Ecommerce shopping carts such as OpenCart and PrestaShop.
If you have complex requirements Magento Community will fit the bill but this is not for beginners and would require a skilled developer to implement.
Finally in order to accept payments online you will need a Payment Gateway Service such as PayPal, SagePay, Stripe or WorldPay.
So are you planning on selling online? Or are you using one of the tools we have mentioned? Let us have your opinions and comments below.