Wildwood Forest Studios
  How Does e-Commerce Work?
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How does e-commerce work?
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What are the SEO Basics?
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What will the price tag be?
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How about Real Estate sites?
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HTML versus CSS layouts?
What style should I use?
Extend your business with an e-store

 

It has been said that e-commerce can level the playing field, allowing small businesses to compete with corporate giants. A locally operated business can reach a global market. A company can grow without the huge financial outlay for new buildings and employees. Convenience is more top-of-mind for consumers, more essential in their busy lives, than ever before.

Today we can think of e-commerce as
Upbeat Marketing in a Downbeat Economy

Let us show you how easy it is to run an online store, either as a stand-alone business or an extension of your present store.

Years ago, an exchange of cash was all it took for a customer to make a purchase from a merchant. How things have changed! Today, most businesses offer their products or services on the Internet - clearly, they can't be restricted to cash-on-delivery practices anymore. E-commerce has emerged as a lucrative channel for merchants to boost sales and grow their bottom lines. Many consumers have Internet access both at work and at home, and browsing an online catalog can be faster than browsing the aisles of a physical store - and customers get the added convenience of shopping 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Merchants should understand the value of operating in multiple channels. For those who haven't yet incorporated e-commerce into their business but want to, there is much to learn. They must educate themselves on how payment processing works in order to best accommodate their online shoppers and serve the needs of their business. Though paying for an online purchase takes just a few seconds, it involves a complex chain reaction of behind-the-scenes processes.

Is e-commerce a viable market?
Statistics from the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce continually show that e-commerce sales have increased a great deal more that regular retail sales.
Info gathered from: http://www.census.gov/retail/

Even though the economy is fragile, ecommerce continuously shows positive growth. Consumers are very cautious and looking for bargains. Jeffrey Grau, noted writer, speaker and analyst on retail ecommerce in North America for eMarketer, says,“Price-conscious consumers will shift more of their gift spending from stores to the internet in order to take advantage of web features that make it easy to compare prices and find good deals.”

If I open my store will the orders pour in?
If you offer a product people want, your store is easy to navigate and use, and accessible (advertised and promoted), you will get orders.

It is important to note however that an e-commerce site is a real store and thus should have all the necessary “departments” in place and operating smoothly before ordering takes place. It will be our role at Wildwood Forest Studios to help make this happen.

What do I need to learn before opening my store?
You need to be familiar with the basics on how to use a computer and the Internet. You need to understand how to use your e-mail for communication. You need to be ready and capable of providing customer service for your shoppers who may need email or telephne assistance in placing an order online, and be able to troubleshoot if they are experiencing difficulty. If you need help with these skills and are local to the Atlanta area, a member of the Wildwood Forest Studios staff is available for training sessions. If you are not located near Atlanta we can recommend several excellent, easy to use books on the subject.

Is there a risk involved in accepting credit card payments?
Purchasing goods over the Internet using credit cards has become an extremely secure process if set up correctly. Your customers will want to see that you are using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) where all data is encrypted before being transmitted. Purchasing a digital certificate to display on your site will insure confidence in all parties involved.

What will I need to run my store?
 There are three vital components that make online shopping possible: the shopping cart, payment gateway and payment processor. Each is critical to ensuring successful implementation of e-commerce functionality.

  1. Shopping Cart
    The shopping cart acts quite literally as a virtual shopping basket. It holds the items customers select from a Web site until they are ready to proceed to the checkout stage, where their credit card information will be processed. The shopping cart:
    • Keeps track of items until they are purchased
    • Automatically totals the amount of a customer's order, including shipping and tax
    • Allows shoppers to securely enter address and credit card information


  2. Payment Gateway
    The information is transmitted for authorization. The payment gateway:
    • Fulfills the same function as a point-of-sale (card swipe) terminal at a physical retail location.
    • Takes information provided through a shopping cart and transmits it electronically and securely to a payment processor to be routed for authorization of payment

    The service will charge you a set-up fee, and a monthly access fee. We will facilitate your application for the service and handle the connection to your e-store.

  3. Payment Processor
    The payment processor transmits a customer's credit card information via the Internet to the merchant bank for authorization. It also sends data back to the merchant's bank to approve payment or the transfer of funds.
    The payment processor:
    • Acts as a link from the merchant to the acquiring bank or merchant bank
    • Receives information from the merchant through the payment gateway and packages the information for delivery to the acquirer, ensuring that all necessary transactional data is present and valid
    • Later transmits information back from the acquirer for delivery to the merchant to settle the transaction




    YOU WILL NEED BOTH A GATEWAY AND A PAYMENT PROCESSOR:
    Wildwood recommends that you use our e-onlinedata package. We will provide you with an application to fill out and return directly to e-onlinedata who will assign a representative to you who will help you through the process and then provide us with the proper key code to complete the connection to your e-store. You will pay:
       2.29% of the sale
       $.30 per transaction
       $10 monthly report fee
       $25 monthly processing fee if the fee generated by the 2.29% does not     reach $25 minimum for the month
       $79 one-time set up fee and $15/month access fee to authorize.net
    Note that these fees are subject to change, so ask us to verify with e-onlinedata that we have quoted you current rates.

    e-Online Data Service
    click here to get all the details
    and an application



    SPECIAL LOWER RATES FOR A NON-PROFIT WITH 501 (c)(3) STATUS

    Wildwood recommends that NON-PROFITS use our e-onlinedata package with special discounted rates. We will provide you with an application to fill out and return directly to e-onlinedata who will assign a representative to you who will help you through the process and then provide us with the proper key code to complete the connection to your e-store. You will pay:
       2.19% of the sale
       $.25 per transaction
       $10 monthly report fee
       no minimum for the month
       no set up fee for Authorize.net
       $10/month access fee to authorize.net
    Note that these fees are subject to change, so ask us to verify with e-onlinedata that we have quoted you current rates.


    click here to get details
    and an application
    for non-profit
    discounted rates

     



    SSL Secure Server Certification: E-stores should always provide an extra guarantee to their customers that the orders are going through an encrypted “secure server”. Customers see the “lock” icon at the bottom right of their screen telling them that your server is secure. We will secure an SSL Certification from whatever hosting service you decide to use. For an additional fee you can also add a viewable certificate such as the one provided by Geo Trust (which links to your certification) which will further insure their confidence in your store.
Behind the scenes you will need.....
  • a person designated to fulfill the orders: You will be notified by e-mail of each order placed. Using a computer you will log on to your secure Miva order center. There you will retrieve the orders and print them out for your records. Then depending on the system you choose, you will either hit the “process now” button, launching the fund transfer process, or you will manually process the credit card transaction on a terminal the same way you do for sales in your physical store. Upon completion of your store we will provide you with a training manual with easy to follow instructions.
  • a system for shipping the orders: This you will handle on your end. You will have your order print-outs to pass on to your shipping department. They can be folded and used in a windowed envelope attached to the box as a shipping label.
  • a system for keeping your product catalog up-to-date (items, prices, etc.): We can provide you with instructions and training (if local ), to make your own updates. Or we can contract to provide up-dating services for you.
  • a system for providing customer service: Your e-store will include instructions for contacting customer service. You will need to be available to follow up with that contact as the success of your store will depend on it.

What kind of Shopping Cart and Payment Processing system will be used?
Wildwood uses a variety of resources and will suggest the system that is right for your business plan and project budget. Among the possibilities are the following:

Magento

Magento is a feature-rich eCommerce platform built on open-source technology that provides online merchants with unprecedented flexibility and control over the look, content and functionality of their eCommerce store. Magento’s intuitive administration interface features powerful marketing, search engine optimization and catalog-management tools to give merchants sites that are tailored to their unique business needs. Magento is the e-Commerce platform trusted by the world's leading brands.

 

Miva Merchant Miva Merchant, an industry leader in e-commerce software allows flexibility in design and a wide range of modules to handle various utilities. With an easy-to-use administrative interface, you will able to manage your store, keep track of your customers, batch your orders at the end of the day, run a batch report to analyze order data, and process your orders through your payment gateway.
   
OS-Commerce Wildwood Forest Studios' own version of OS-Commerce, based on the wildly popular "open-source" Software, is a powerful solution which includes PHP web scripting language, the stable Apache web server, and the fast MySQL database. With both frontend and backend functionality your eStore has unlimited possibilities.
   
PayPal The PayPal shopping cart and payment system is a viable option for small businesses on a tight budget. Although somewhat limited in versatility, some of our clients find PayPal's fees are more affordable.

 

Use Social Media

Social networks provide an incredibly useful word of mouth buzz at a fraction of the cost of expensive pay per click and banner campaigns if done correctly. Use sites like Wordpress and Blogger to build links and more. These social media sites are a hot bed of peer to peer recommendation and consumer review. Now more than ever, a good social media campaign can build brand loyalty, secure new business and propel more relevant traffic than ever before. The key to incorporating social media in organic search marketing activity is to recognize it for what it is; not a place to preach ad messages but an interactive arena and space for conversation. Embrace this grassroots environment, provide content that respects and adds value to the conversation and your SEO will shine despite the gloom of financial forecasts.

© Wildwood Forest Studios, LLC
Alpharetta, Georgia