Learn to build online store Web sites quickly and easily.
For many aspiring e-commerce tycoons, the first, toughest question is how to build online store Web sites. There are many options that require vastly different levels of computer savvy, and it can be hard to sort through all the possibilities. But whether you're a rank amateur or a master of the Internet, there's a straightforward way to set up an online store that anyone can handle.
For beginners, Yahoo! and Microsoft both offer e-commerce solutions that take care of virtually every step in the process, from domain name registration to Web hosting to site design to shopping cart integration.
Yahoo! Small Business can help register a domain name, provide tools to design a professional Web site, and handle the technological back end of shopping cart transactions to sell your products.
Yahoo! Small Business can also promote your Web site by submitting it to search engines and taking advantage of online marketing opportunities. The 2008 price for Yahoo! Small Business's Merchant Starter Plan is $39.95 per month plus a $50 setup fee and a 1.5 percent fee on all transactions.
Microsoft Office Live Small Business offers free Web hosting for small businesses, along with a free custom domain name and company-branded e-mail accounts for the first year after sign-up. There are also design tools to help create a Web site.
While the basic service is free, enabling purchases requires a fee. The Store Manager service provides a shopping cart; enables credit card payments; and helps create invoices, confirmation e-mails and sales reports. The 2008 price for the Store Manager service is $39.95 per month plus a 1 percent fee on all transactions, but Microsoft frequently offers promotional pricing that can make the initial cost much lower.
Microsoft also offers services that will drive traffic to a site with e-mail marketing and search marketing.
For those who know how to set up a Web site on their own but are still looking for a way to add a shopping cart to the site, there are a number of options. The simplest and most painless is probably PayPal's Web site payments service.
The Web site payments service allows a site to accept payment by all major credit cards (as well as by PayPal) and includes a simple, customizable shopping cart interface that customers can use to make their purchases.
There are no monthly fees and no setup fees for Web site payments, but the transaction fee is somewhat stiffer than the competition. 2008 rates start at 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction, although stores that do large volumes of business can eventually benefit from lower transaction costs.
For advanced site-builders, an open source shopping cart may be the best solution. This option allows the most control over the purchasing experience, and the shopping cart software is usually free. However, to accept online payments you will have to integrate your shopping cart with another service like PayPal Web site payments, Authorize.net or Google Checkout.