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8 Rules for a Successful Ecommerce Website

Part 3: Online Payment Systems & Credit Card Processing


8 Rules for a Successful Ecommerce Website

Shopping up an (online) storm.

Image (c) Alan Frank / Getty Images

Online shoppers want the same things from your ecommerce website that they demand from bricks-and-mortar retailers. You have to make them feel safe and comfortable before they'll start shopping online.

Online payment systems and credit card processing are a case in point. Compare what happens online to paying for a purchase at an offline retailer.

6) The traditional retailer ensures that customers feel secure in his store.

You need to do the same to get people shopping online. Site security is a prime concern of potential online shoppers. You have to work especially hard at this, because you have to deal with both the reality and the perception of online credit card processing. The reality is that on a secured site, transmitting personal information such as credit card numbers is less dangerous than using a credit card in a 'real world' retail situation, where someone might look over someone else's shoulder and steal the number, or pick the credit card slip out of the trash afterwards.

During an interview with Melody Vargas, Eric Olafson, Tomax CEO, said, "there is more risk in handing your credit card to a stranger serving your dinner than in shopping online." But the perception of credit card processing is that transmitting personal information such as credit card numbers over the Web is much more dangerous and that hackers lurk everywhere.

You must have SSL (Secure Socket Layering) on your online payment pages, so you have the ability to handle encrypted transactions. You must visibly show your potential online shopper that your site is secure and that your online payment systems, such as credit card processing, are safe to use.

7) The traditional retailer makes it easy for customers to purchase products. She or a member of her staff is there to take your money, whether it be cash, cheque, credit or debit card.

Too many ecommerce websites make online shopping difficult. My personal pet peeve is websites that only offer an order form that the customer has to print off, fill out, and mail in. Why would I bother to do that when I can just go to a bricks-and-mortar store and hand someone my cash, credit or debit card? If you have an online store, you must offer online payment, such as credit card processing.

To accept payment online, you can use an online payment system, such as PayPal, or set up a merchant account for credit card processing. Online payment systems such as Beanstream (a Canadian company) allow you to set up merchant accounts and online payment processing for both debit and credit cards. You'll find more information on online payment systems in the Payment Processing section of this website.

Many ecommerce solutions providers include credit card processing with their ecommerce packages. Easy Ways to Get Your Small Business Into Ecommerce presents a selection of inexpensive turnkey ecommerce packages for small businesses.

8) The traditional retailer closes the sale with a "Thank you; please come again."

You need to do this on your ecommerce website, too. Whether it's a simple screen that comes up after the transaction thanking your customer, a follow-up thank-you email, or a thank-you card that you ship with the completed order (or all three!), you need to let your ecommerce customer know that you appreciate her business.

Blank screens, screens that automatically return to the home page, or screens that just repeat the order form after the transaction do nothing to give people shopping online warm, fuzzy feelings that may translate into future sales.

Encourage Online Shopping

Having a quality product is only one piece of the ecommerce website puzzle. Another is getting potential shoppers to visit your ecommerce site.

But even after you've put those pieces in place, you have to entice them to do their online shopping on your site by treating them as well as or better than they'd be treated in a bricks-and-mortar store. Following the eight rules of successful ecommerce websites I've outlined in this article will help persuade potential online shoppers to make the click that matters.

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