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e-commerce

When we build you an e-commerce website, you won't be told just to read the user guide !  We give you training in every aspect of e-commerce.  After all, we have experience of all kinds of e-business so you should take advantage of this to help your website work.

The first training you receive is how to operate your site.  Unlike a simple gallery website, there is quite a bit to learn - processing orders, stock control, generating reports, handling refunds, vouchers, free samples........  Although straightforward, it takes a while (and at the beginning, you need to concentrate all your efforts on marketing) and so our approach is one of hand-holding.  We give you the minimum you need to get your site running and making sales as quickly as possible.  We handle everything that you don't know how to do....  and when something new arises - say, the first few times you need to give a refund or place an item in a sale, we show you how and make sure you're confident about it before moving on to the next thing to learn.  You are safe in the knowledge that there is always enough expertise to run your site professionally and keep your customers happy.  This kind of training can continue for a prolongued period as you wish to do more advanced things with your site and learn its capabilities as well as add more functionality as you grow.

Not only will you receive technical training but all new clients get a grounding in search engine optimisation, online marketing and the use of statistics to run their business.  Again, we take the same hand-holding approach as we do with technical training, giving you advice and news about the latest internet marketing trends you should employ.  How do you use blogs, forums, video, email, linked-in, Facebook and Twitter to enhance your business - this is all part of the training that we can provide.

Our experience is that this changes all the time.  Even when different clients are shopping around for the best merchant account deal, the same banks seem to offer wildly differing prices and transaction fees.

Our advice is to shop around and contact them all.  Negociate as much as possible (especially set-up fees) as they are all able to improve their initial offer to get your business.

We have compiled a list of UK merchant account providers here - please let us know how you get on.

If you want to accept payments for your goods or services and you have already looked at shopping carts such as Ubercart, then the next step you'll need to make is to set up a method of receiving payments.

These vary from the most simple such as Paypal (you just visit their site and sign up in about 5 minutes) to more complete, professional solutions.  For most online shops we recommend to use a merchant account and a payment gateway as this provides the smoothest user experience and certainly looks more professional.  It depends on the nature of your business though, sometimes other solutions can work well.

You will need an internet merchant account from either your bank or another merchant account provider.  This is where funds are transferred when you receive payment. Merchant account providers take a percentage of each credit card transaction (or a fixed fee for debit cards) and may well charge a set-up fee.  Some merchant account providers charge a minimum monthly fee.  Please get in touch with us to recommend the most competitive merchant account provider in your country.  For UK businesses, see our list of UK merchant accounts and read our advice about how to get the best deal.  Merchant accounts generally accept payments from all cards except Diners Card and American Express - you need a seperate account for these.  If you have a bricks-and-mortar shop, you may already have a merchant account for accepting card payments however you will need an internet merchant account for accepting payments over the internet.  You may also wish to consider whether you need a MOTO (Mail Order / Telephone Order) enabled account - not only does this allow you to accept those transactions but it is also a good backup in case of problems with your website.

You will also need to use a payment gateway - (want to know what a payment gateway is, click here) this sits in the middle, between your website and the bank and provides a host of functionality as well as communicating with the banks systems to transfer money.  Payment gateway providers typically charge a monthly fee and some charge a per transaction fee or percentage. Again, pleease contact us for payment gateway recommendations in your country.  In the UK, we generally use Sagepay.  Apply for a Sagepay account here and we'll help guide you through the process.

There are also banks who will provide both the merchant account and the payment gateway.  Often this is not the most competitive way of accepting card payments so don't be tempted on the grounds of simplicity.  Merchant account providers often push you to use their payment gateway - be wary of this practice as you should consider the merchant account and the payment gateway seperately; it certainly gives more flexibility for your business this way.

Still confused?  Then please contact us and we'll listen to your requirements and make our best recommendation for accepting card payments on your site.

If you want to accept card payments online, money has to be transferred from the cardholder's account to your merchant account.  Banks will not allow you to connect directly to their systems and so it is necessary to have a trusted "payment gateway" between your website and the bank's systems.

All of the authorisation, fraud checks and funds transfers are done through the payment gateway.  Payment gateways charge for this service - some charge a flat monthly fee, others charge based on the value of transactions.

We are happy to recommend a suitable payment gateway for use in your country - please get in touch and we will let you know which ones to look at.  In the UK we favour Sagepay but also work with other payment gateways.

MOTO stands for Mail Order / Telephone Order.  When you have a merchant account to receive funds from online sales, it must be an "internet merchant account".  If you wish to accept card payments over the phone or via mail order, you need a MOTO enabled merchant account.

Even if you do not intend to make telephone sales, it is often useful to have MOTO as a backup.  If there is a problem with your website or a customer phones with a query, you can use MOTO to process their payment using a terminal or a virtual terminal.

We have chosen to use Ubercart for our e-commerce sites. We have found that it is stable and well made and also that the user interface is very straightforward for our clients. There are other good e-commerce suites too but they lack the flexibility you get with Drupal.  The ones we're always asked about are Zen Cart, OS Commerce and Magento.  Of these, only Magento is a serious competitor.... but with a big weakness too.  The business model means that the full-featured version is expensive to support, with severe restrictions on who can support it, and it is not open source.  The free version is open source but the content management, SEO, availability of modules and flexibility aren't a patch on what you get with Drupal.  The CMS is weak enough that if you're using the free version of Magento, you should consider a Drupal / Magento integration - it's a bit messy but you do get the best of both worlds.  However, Ubercart gives you the real flexibility you need by working directly with Drupal in a very user-friendly way.  We've developed so many additional features for Drupal / Ubercart.  EPOS  integration, delivery and warehousing system integration, gift vouchers, product recommendation engines, product kits.... multi-vendor multi-buyer environments.... the list goes on.  We really do think that no other e-commerce suite gives you this flexibility.

Paypal is one of the most recognised and trusted internet brands.  Paypal operates in 190 markets, accepts payments in 19 currencies and has an active user-base of over 73 million users.

If you have a Drupal / Ubercart e-commerce website, then accepting payments with Paypal is easy.  It's just another off-the-shelf module.  It is easy to obtain a Paypal account, it is a reliable service and their fees are reasonable.  It is much easier than setting up payments with your own merchant account and payment processor.

Whether you should accept Paypal on your site depends very much on the kind of business you have.  Although widely accepted and trusted, it is not perceived as a "quality" brand and although Paypal does protect the purchaser quite well, their customer service is often perceived as lacking.  You may well have noticed that major brands, particularly high-end, quality brands do not tend to accept Paypal as a payment method - there are two reasons for this:  Perception of the Paypal brand values and how this may affect the perception of the e-commerce store's brand....... and transaction / settlement fees which, if you are processing a significant volume, are more expensive with Paypal.

It's really all about perception and user experience - we've built sites that use Paypal only, others that use a merchant account and payment gateway only - and some that use both.  Tell us all about your business and we'll advise you what's best.

Most of the popular payment gateways can be used off-the-shelf with Ubercart.  Paypal, 2Checkout, Sagepay, ClickandBuy, iDeal, NoChex, DineroMail, Barclaycard EPDQ, SPplus, Moneris, GiroPay, Adyen, Chinabank, Gestpay, PagSeguro......  the list goes on and on with literally hundreds of popular payment gateways and banks covered in order to take payments in most countries.

Your choice of payment gateway should be purely commercial based on setup fees, ongoing fees, transaction and settlement costs.  Of course you need to take into account customer service too.  In the UK we recommend Sagepay - it's the most popular payment gateway with highly competitive fees.

Chances are we can work with the payment gateway of your choice but if you let us know your requirements, the country your business will be based in and the amount of transactions you expect to process each quarter, we'll make a good pre-selection of payment gateways for you.

Selling on ebay is a great way to get started for some businesses.  Some businesses never progress beyond ebay selling, others require a website and sell on other platforms too, including ebay.......  Multi-channel selling is seen as very important to many businesses now.  You may pay a higer commission and listing fees to ebay but it's certainly a cheap way to get your name and your products in front of a huge number of interested buyers.

To make selling on ebay easier (and often cheaper too), some of our sites have an "export to ebay" function.  This allows you to list your goods quickly and easily on ebay with your own listing style and as many images as you like with no picture hosting fees.

Multi-channel selling is extremely important to many businesses.  Amazon is a fast way of reaching a huge number of buyers and is a trusted brand where buyers know that customer service counts.  Not only is selling on Amazon a fast way of reaching a market but it's a good way to get your brand known and trusted.

We can provide a number of tools to help you sell your items on Amazon and other sites as well as your own website.  If you're selling a significant volume this can make listing items on Amazon much faster.

EPOS (Electronic Point Of Sale) is a combination of software and hardware which lets a merchant accept various modes of payment (card, cheque, cash, gift voucher) when they are face to face with a customer.  You are already familiar with EPOS systems in use at the checkout in most shops, restaurants and hotels.  EPOS allows you to take payments for goods or services and typically ties in with one or more other systems such as accounting, stock control, ERP, inventory management, CRM.  Most usually you'll see EPOS with a cash drawer, a touch screen, a barcode scanner, an invoice printer and a card reader but a good EPOS system is a lot more than just a replacement for a cash register.

If you have a physical store as well as a website, chances are that you'll need an EPOS system.  By integrating your system with your website, you gain common stock control, no matter how many shops, warehouses and distribution centres you have.  This is important - when a customer orders the last item in your shop, you don't want to let them buy it from the website.  When there is stock in one shop, and a customer wants it in another, you need to know where it is and to have a system to transfer it.  EPOS allows you to do all of this and is an integral part of multi channel retail selling.  The same applies for hotels, spas and restaurants - allowing your customers to make bookings via the internet but still being able to reliably take bookings in person or over the phone is key to a successful business.  EPOS systems can do a lot more than this - in bars and restaurants, the system is used to keep track of ingredient use and to manage re-order quantities based on the dishes and drinks sold.......   If you'd like to know more about EPOS, please get in touch for a chat and a demo.

There is absolutely no restriction on how many products or pages you have on your website.  We have built websites with over 50,000 product lines and from a technical point of view, it really doesn't matter how many pages you have.

As your site grows, you will attract more traffic and your site files and database will grow.  Depending on how big you grow and how fast, you may need to consider your hosting needs.  We are always happy to advise on the best possible hosting for a given budget or a given amount of traffic.

There are a lot of considerations when asking that question. So, for a proper answer, you're really better off talking to us and telling us what your needs are.  But here's a short answer:

Compared to Ubercart, Oscommerce is bulky and old and not designed to be easily themed.  It's truly awful in this respect.  A good developer can still build a nice Oscommerce store but really there's no comparision - Ubercart wins hands down, and that's before you've even considered the advantages that the Drupal CMS gives you in terms of flexibility, SEO and ease of use.

Zen Cart is somewhat better than Oscommerce (it's a development of Oscommerce, and unlike Oscommerce, it's properly templated) but again, for a quick answer, is not as good as Ubercart.

Drupal ecommerce has lost out to Ubercart these days.  It is very flexible but not very feature packed.  You can, of course, add as many features as you want by coding them and building modules but for most uses, it's better to start with Ubercart and it now has far better support than Drupal ecommerce.

Magento is a bit different - it's much loved and there's no doubt that it's a good bit of software - but, given a free choice, it's not generally what we'd advise.  Magento started out as open source but now it is available in three versions - two with more features and paid support (from around $3,000 and $13,000 a year) - these are not open source so you can't fully customise them to your needs.  The other, open source, version is very limited on features, does not conform to PCI-DSS compliance and the CMS it uses is not loved by users at all - it's weak.  Neither of the two lesser versions have page caching, logging, or order archiving - again, severe weaknesses.  There is only a limited set of modules available with the open source version of Magento.  Moreover, often we develop unique features for our clients' sites (a good e-commerce site often has some unique functionality as well as a unique look) some of these features could simply not be done with Magento.

Usually Ubercart wins out - but we are realistic and we like to look at every business case on its merits. We know many e-commerce packages from Actinic to IBM's Websphere so please get in touch and we'll help you decide what is the best long-term solution.

As standard, we give you some basic reports that you can generate and download as often as you like.  These tell you things like your daily, weekly and monthly sales, your VAT collected, your profit, your customer activity, coupon usage and your stock positions.  We also offer more detailed custom reports that can be used on their own or in conjunction with an accounting package.  All reports can be downloaded from the site as CSV spreadsheets.  Please tell us what information you need and we'll let you know how this can be pulled into a spreadsheet.

Selling goods or services on the internet is not without its risks - but the one huge advantage of a web-based business is how you can use simple analysis and statistics to ensure profitability.  There is a very basic formula for e-business, the same in fact for any business but with an internet business, everything is measurable and traceable - and that means that you can run your business very much more efficiently.

Any business wants the average cost of a sale to be lower than the average profit from a sale.  For an e-business, this is measurable on a per site, per product, per category, per variant, per user, per day, per country or per language basis....  So much of the unknowns are removed.

In traditional media, you used to advertise and make guesses at what effect that advertising had, how many people saw your advertisement, how many remembered your product, how many converted to sales.  On the internet, almost all of the unknowns are removed.  If you create an internet advertising campaign or even an SEO campaign, you can see the effect that it has on each page of your site in incredible detail. You know how much each website visitor cost you.  You also know what percentage convert to sales and how much each sale cost you.  And you can make changes in real-time to your products, advertising, copy, prices....... anything in fact, until you find the best formula for each product to have the best ratio of income to cost of sales.  The tools that you have to do this are powerful but they're also easy to use, anyone can run an e-business this way and make it profitable....  as long as they have budgeted enough for marketing, because it's a competitive world out there.

At Infomagnet, we get to see a lot of business and marketing plans and can help you understand how to make your e-commerce site profitable as quickly as possible.  Please get in touch to have a chat about how your plans for e-business can be turned into profits.