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Web hosting e-commerce software simplifies the process of running an e-commerce store. Web hosting is provided, of course, but there are a lot more functions. Most web hosting e-commerce software comes with a shopping cart and encrypted payment processor. Payments can be accepted by PayPal, purchase orders, check/money orders, merchant accounts and manual credit card processing. The more ways a customer can pay for an order the more likely they will order. The shipping charges are automatically calculated and added to the bill as well as any sales tax.
Products are integrated into an online catalog which matches the look and feel of your website. You choose how your products are displayed and how users can search for them. Bestsellers and special bargains can be highlighted.
The web hosting e-commerce software can be integrated into your own inventory management and shipping systems. When the customer orders, a shipping and packing invoice is automatically generated.
When deciding which web hosting e-commerce software is best for you keep scalability in mind as well as features and price. The software you choose should keep up with the growth in your product offerings, and increase in customer traffic. It needs to be easy to manage and most importantly user friendly to your customers.
The company you choose for web hosting ecommerce sites should have a high reliability factor. If your website is down you lose sales and money, and when your site is slow your visitors become frustrated and leave. These problems can be caused by a server being overloaded with hosting too many websites or too much traffic to the websites. Additional servers would solve the problem but servers are expensive. Some ecommerce web hosting companies can offer very low hosting rates simply because they overload their servers.
Back up servers are critical in case the primary servers fail. These backup servers automatically and immediately take over without a lapse in service.
Support is an important factor to consider when you choose your ecommerce hosting company. If there's a problem with your ecommerce site you should be able to reach a person at your web hosting company not just a support desk. Your emails should be answered within 24 hours. There should be a phone number available. Emergencies happen and quick courteous communication is a necessity.
Unless you have your own full-time webmaster, maintaining an ecommerce site means you want a web hosting company that has an easy to use control panel. It shouldn't be a difficult or time consuming task to add web pages, change email addresses or set up an auto-responder series.
It sounds like the perfect solution for your ecommerce web hosting problem; use a free host. But free doesn't mean there aren't hidden costs to your ecommerce business.
Most of the free hosting companies place ads or banners on your site without your permission. You don't have control over what type of ads are placed, how often they appear or what is advertised. A code placed on your page looks for repeated words and then brings up ads based on the content of your site. It's possible that you may find your site advertising one of your competitors.
Free sites are not indexed by the search engines in the same way hosted sites are. It's difficult to add meta tags, key words and titles to your web pages for the search engines to spider. If the engines don't know your site is available your potential customers will have a more difficult time finding you. That's lost traffic and lost sales.
Your website represents your company and products. A free web host says you don't care enough about the image your company presents. A website builds trust with potential customers; it's difficult to build trust with your customer when you don't trust your company enough to afford an ecommerce hosting company.
Affordable e-commerce hosting is based on several factors. The set up fee,
if any, should be reasonable. Many e-commerce hosting companies don't charge
any set up fees. The monthly fees vary based on the amount of data storage,
data transfer and bandwidth your site uses.
Data storage is the disk space your site uses on your host's servers; it includes any downloadable products. Data transfer is the amount of data that is transferred from your website to the visitor's computer. Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data transfer allowed at any one time. Data transfer can vary based on the number of visitors to your site, how long they stay, what they purchase and the products downloaded.
Consider the surcharges that may be imposed if you go over the data transfer or activity levels of your account. If the hosting company has a low monthly fee but high overuse fees you might be better off with a company that has a higher monthly fee and generous bandwidth and data transfer allowances.
If your business model calls for more than one website, make sure your
e-commerce hosting company allows you to host more than one domain without additional charges. Consider that different domain names could be considered separate websites.
Another factor to consider is whether email accounts, shopping carts, and secure payment processing are included in the base monthly fee or whether there will be additional charges. Some web hosting companies specialize in e-commerce and are more attuned to the challenges faced by firms conducting business online.
Do you feel like a kid in a candy store when you look at all the features that web hosting ecommerce sites offer? Before you make a decision to buy an expensive package with features you don't need right away, you may want to consider another option.
Web hosting ecommerce companies often provide a less expensive package that allows you to start your business and a more expensive package with all the bells and whistles for established sites. Make sure the company you choose allows you to begin with a budget friendly package and seamlessly upgrade to the deluxe package when you are ready to add more services to your site.
As you shop for your first web hosting e-commerce software package, you may be tempted to choose the most inexpensive ecommerce web site hosting you can find. However, it is important to look at more than just the price as you compare services. All e-commerce hosting is not equal. As you shop for an inexpensive hosting company, you should:
If you are new to the world of ecommerce web hosting, you may not be concerned about looking for a package that allows you to offer flexible payment options to your customers. However, this is actually one of the most important services you can offer your customers. Finding an inexpensive ecommerce web hosting service that offers flexible payment options is important because:
You've created some lovely pieces to sell, but the thought of fiddling with HTML and scripts makes you cringe. Is it possible to sell your arts and crafts online without being a technology major? If you use e-commerce hosting, setting up an online shop is quick and easy. To choose a technophobe friendly e-commerce provider, you should:
•Look for e-commerce hosting that offers several ways for you to accept payment from your buyers. Network Solutions allows you to accept payment by credit card, Paypal or Google Checkout.
•Be sure the hosting provider allows you to choose a template for your shop. You can even select a provider that has experienced e-commerce designers on staff that can design it all for you or choose a pre-designed template.
•Take a look at the price tag. There are set hosting fees, and there are also percentage-based ecommerce software fees (like Yahoo!) that will charge a percentage of your revenue each month. These can (obviously) get expensive with lots of sales. With NS Ecommerce, you are charged only a single $99.95 set fee each month. You may want to word this point differently.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|