Things You Need to Know When Starting an Ecommerce Website


Things you need to know when starting an e-commerce website

We've complied a list of things you need to know to help you get started with an e-commerce website.

The Payment Process

You've taken the first step in setting up your website, you've got products in stock ready to sell. But have you thought about the most important thing- how you are going to be paid? The process where the money travels from the credit card of the buyer, to your bank account needs to be decided. So, what are your options?

  • Paypal

Depending on the products you're selling, a prime payment process to use would be Paypal as it's simple and widely used. Paypal processes the transaction on your behalf, charging the funds from the customer’s credit/debit card and transferring them to your Paypal account.

There are two important factors to consider when using Paypal. Firstly, when your site takes off and becomes more popular, you will find that the transactional fee increases. Secondly, once the customer is happy with their purchases in the shopping cart, they proceed to the check out. The customer is re-directed to a Paypal page that looks completely different for your website, the majority of customers prefer a payment process that reflects your brand/business.

Using Paypal means you cannot optimise it for better conversion. Analytics will show you the amount of abandoned purchases in check out, where customers have not completed the transaction process.

Consider what factors could affect these abandoned purchases. It could be the number of form fields in the shopping cart that deters customers. This cannot be controlled with Paypal so if you're finding that this is the problem; a custom-shopping cart is your best option.

  • Custom shopping cart

Using a custom check-out for your e-commerce site portrays a professional image and provides reassurance in the purchasing process. It is more than a customised experience though; other advantages include increased conversion rates, the ability to brand your payment process, and lower transactional fees.

Custom shopping carts are great because they can link directly to your bank account. Extra costs are involved in this process as a web developer needs to build the payment processing system into your website from scratch. In addition to ensuring the payment process is seamless, the web developer needs to ensure the site is both PCI compliant and very secure as credit/debit card information is stored on your server.

Merchant Account

If you decide to link business transactions directly to your bank account, you will need to create a merchant account with your preferred bank.

Merchant accounts are different from standard bank accounts; they allow you to obtain payments from credit and debit cards online. All of the big banks have their own payment gateways to facilitate this process.

The merchant account is a special account that the banks have, to allow you to get payments from credit and debit cards online. Many of the Australian banks have their own payment gateways that facilitate the process; see an example of Westpac's Payway.

To obtain a merchant account you will need to provide between 6-12 months of your business' transactional history. Sometimes this can be a lengthy process. If you want to get your business up and running faster then start with Paypal initially and switch over once your merchant account is approved.


Calculating shipping is a simpler task and can be broken down into the following steps:

Decide if you are going to ship within your state, country or internationally. Many businesses are very ambitious and decide to ship worldwide not realising the complexity of the process, consider impoverished countries that don't even have named streets.

The best way to tackle it is to make a list of where you are going to ship to rather than over committing. Research different companies and choose one that is affordable and meets your shipping requirements including the areas you cover.

Many businesses have applications through an API website where customers can calculate postage information based on weight, size and location of the package. Get the most from your shipping; many customers abandon the transaction due to shipping costs. A flat fee may be your best option or free shipping if they spend over a particular amount.

Selling your Products

Consider how you are going to organise your products and the way you'd like them to be displayed on the website. Products are best organised into groups of similar products, just think of each time you've shopped online- retailers like Myer are the best examples. Product names also need to be familiar to the target market so they can search for them easily.

Hiring an experienced web developer to build your e-commerce website allows you to focus on other important supporting activities like sales and marketing, as well as your merchant account setup.

Maria Bellissimo-Magrin

at Belgrin

With an interest in Marketing Communications from an early stage, I pursued my passion by completing a Bachelor of Business (majoring in Marketing). My position is Communications Coordinator for Belgrin- a creative communications agency in Sydney specialising in Design (digital & print), Web Development, PR & Social Media Management. My view is that, in this modern world of technology you need to be able to adapt to change. I embrace the challenge and it fuels me to thrive within the industry.

Comments (2)
Selina Shapland

Selina Shapland, Founder, Administrator, Writer and Entrepreneur at Manage Your Boss

This is exactly the type of information I need. Thank you.

Maria Bellissimo-Magrin

Maria Bellissimo-Magrin at Belgrin

Great Selina, we're happy to help! We've seen so many vague articles on the net about starting out in e-commerce, so we wanted to be able to share our knowledge.