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E-commerce - A Brief Overview of Online Commerce

What is e-commerce?

So you hear a lot about e-commerce these days -- it seems everyone has on online store -- but how does it all work? How much does it cost? How do you get started? The first thing to do is take a deep breath and understand that not all e-commerce solutions are the same. E-commerce is just a generic term for online commerce -- websites selling stuff. All sorts of stuff on all sorts of different websites. If you have a few products or services that you want to sell online, then you're ready for your own e-commerce solution (online store).

The e-commerce basics.

An e-commerce solution (an online store) is probably a lot simpler than you think. Regardless of what e-commerce platform you end up using, your online store will just be a website that you can access via an admin login to upload product details and images, organize your products and shipping details and set up payment processing options. It's not nearly as mysterious as it may seem. Once your store is set up, submitting new products is as easy as typing in the name, price and description of the item and uploading an image or two. Once you have a few items listed and choose your shipping and payment options, viola, you'll officially be operating your fully-functional online store (e-commerce website).

What are the different ways to set up an online store?

There are a lot of different e-commerce platforms, and a lot of different ways you can get up and running with your own online store. Whether you're looking for an online shop to sell just a few of your homemade t-shirts or a larger online store to market thousands of auto parts, there is an affordable e-commerce solution that's right for you. There are relatively simple and extremely user-friendly ways to start an online shop through programs like Yahoo! Small Business, Google Checkout, or PayPal -- if you don't know much about websites and only need to sell a few products, these are probably a good starting point. They offer affordable online tools to get you started listing your products, getting your web page set up and selling your goods.

Setting up your own online shop.

While using a service like Yahoo! to set up your online shop can be quick and easy, having your own online store can often be less expensive (the middle-man always wants his cut) and more professional. When you have your own website on your own server with your own e-commerce platform, you'll be ready to hang with the big boys.

If you're ready for you own online shop on your own hosting account, there's good news -- although it'll be a little bit more work than using an online store provider like Yahoo! or PayPal, there are a lot of relatively easy to use e-commerce solutions out there, and a lot of them are completely free (and you'll end up with your own web store on your own server). All you'll need to do is register a domain name (www.domainname.com -- about $15), sign up for a hosting account (less than $10 a month), download an e-commerce package (often free) and upload it to your host via FTP (there are many free FTP programs available), create a database (easier than it sounds) and follow the installation steps (not much more than opening a web page in your web browser and following a few steps.

Accepting credit cards directly through your site.

If you plan on accepting credit card payments through your website, you'll also need an SSL certificate (most hosting providers offer these) to encrypt your customers' CC information and a Merchant Account with a payment processor like Authorize.net. If you want to have your own online store but aren't ready to set up a merchant account, many of the e-commerce packages available have modules that allow you to easily link your site to PayPal or other payment processors that will handle the transactions for you so you don't have to worry about it (this typically ends up being a little more expensive per-transaction, but if you aren't completing a lot of transactions it's often the best way to go until your store grows). That said, being able to accept credit cards directly through your online store definitely offers the most professional feel.

Available e-commerce packages

So you're ready to register your domain name and hosting account and want to get started -- what are the best e-commerce platforms? Well, what's 'best' will probably be determined by how well the particular platform meets your specific needs, but some popular ones are:

There are many more e-commerce packages available and it may take doing a little research to find the right one for you.

 

What is osCommerce?

Anyone you ask is going to have his preferred e-commerce platform which often simply comes down to what he has experience using. osCommerce is one of the most popular free e-commerce platforms available on the web. It's free, easy to setup and use, has a lot of available modules and plugins to add functionality and payment options and has free templates available for download.

This website, being called freeoscommerce, is obviously fond of the osCommerce platform, and not only offers free osCommerce 2.2 templates but osCommerce 3 templates as well.

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What is STS?

The Simple Template System (STS), a free osCommerce add-on, is the template system osCommerce 2.2 should have come with. It makes using templates and editing your store's appearance easy. Read more.

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Need help installing STS or an STS template? Contact us with your needs and we'll quote you a reasonable price.

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