As consumers, we love to have options — selecting everything from our lunch sandwich ingredients to our must-have new car features — but sometimes too many options can get bewildering.

When deciding to sell online, you have dozens of software options on the market to choose from to host your site, manage your payments, and handle every behind-the-scenes detail — and the overwhelm is often enough to stop business owners in their tracks.

As business.com put it, “Often the most difficult tasks relate to selecting the right software and vendors to help you meet your ecommerce needs and goals.”

In fact, the phrase “how to sell online” is searched over 8,000 times a month in the U.S. alone. It’s common for people to seek the best tips and practices for succeeding in the growing world of ecommerce, and it’s also common for people to get confused about which advice is correct.

Knowledge Is Power; Prepare Yourself for Success

To avoid failure or profit loss from poor site setup, arm yourself with the knowledge to make informed decisions when creating your online store.

There are four main components that go into the money side of your ecommerce site setup: the user interface, payment gateway, credit card companies, and merchant accounts.

Start With a List of Must-Haves

Before you start looking into software, outline your goals and expectations for your ecommerce business. Consider what you’ll need, such as what products or services you’ll sell and how many, whether you want to offer one-time payments or subscriptions, and more.

With your vision in mind, you can determine the specific features your business needs or will need in the future to achieve it. For example, you might know right off the bat that you need a solution that comes with a payment gateway, or that you need to be able to offer discount codes and the option to upsell.

As you begin to lay out the features you know you need, you’ll likely start to come across features that you’re not so sure about or hadn’t even considered before. Do you need a shopping cart if you only have one core product? Will you need to have access to 24/7 support in case you have problems with your site in the middle of the night? What will your refund policy be and how will you manage that?

Answering as many of these questions up front will help make the process of choosing a software much more smooth.

Understand Your Options

In addition to considering your needs, it’s important to understand what options are out there for the functionality of your site.

For example, shopping interfaces can come in the form of shopping carts, order forms, or both. Sites can be hosted on easy-to-use platforms that offer designed templates, or you can customize a site using coding skills, or find something in between.

Your choices here can affect the options you have when it comes to how to take payments. If you want to offer subscriptions or payment plans, accept international currencies or plan for a high amount of refunds, you’ll need to carefully consider the payment gateway you choose.

No matter what choices you make when setting up your site, you’ll always have to think about security surrounding your customer’s payments, handling refunds and declines, follow-up tactics, partner programs and more. You might not currently use certain features or marketing techniques, such as sending abandoned cart emails, but as your business grows you may want to have these options built into your ecommerce software.

Taking the time up front to ask and answer all the key questions about your ecommerce needs will save time, money and headache in the future.

If you’re interested in using a worksheet to walk you through all the things to consider when planning your ecommerce site, the downloadable Preparing to Sell Online worksheet can be a great resource.



About Aslan Williams

Aslan Williams grew up in a small, southern town, tailgating at football games and watching sunsets over the Mississippi Delta. Since leaving her southern roots four years ago, she has lived in five countries, practicing yoga, teaching English and honing her marketing skills at various International internships. Now, as a recent graduate from UCSB, Aslan is applying her degrees in Communication and English in her role as Content Engagement Coordinator at ONTRAPORT.