Before You Start Selling Online: Ask These Five Questions

eCommerce Questions and AnswersDo you dream of turning your website into a revenue-generating business? A website that makes sales to customers around the world while you sleep?

That dream is the holy grail for many aspiring entrepreneurs. And it isn’t as far fetched as it may sounds. With the right plugins, it’s possible to sell just about anything from your WordPress website.

But there are a few questions you need to answer before you jump in and start building your online business:

  1. What are you selling? With the right plugin, it’s possible to sell just about anything from a WordPress site. But, how you go about setting up your online shop depends largely on what it is you’re selling. There are four basic categories: physical products, digital content (downloads), membership websites, and professional services (aka your time). Before you leap into action and start setting up a full-featured eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce, be sure to understand your business needs. If you only plan to sell an ebook or two, you’re probably better off using a plugin like Easy Digital Downloads.

  2. How will you accept payments? Setting up secure online payments used to be the hardest part of selling online. These days there are so many online payment services, the challenge has become deciding which one is the best fit for your business. Keep in mind that the payment service you choose has a direct impact on whether or not customers decide to spend money on your website. You might assume that it’s easiest to set up PayPal payments and be done with it. But there are some consumers who refuse to use PayPal no matter what. You’ll make more sales if you offer at least a couple of different payment methods to your customers (PayPal and major credit cards, for example).

    Then there’s the matter of processing fees. Traditional merchant accounts may promise a small processing fee for online transactions – in practice; there are often a slew hidden fees that can eat up a surprisingly large percentage of your online sales. While an established business may be able to negotiate lower rates with its bank, newcomers should investigate the new breed of payment services like Stripe — who offer a flat rate with no hidden fees. Stripe is super-easy to set up, by the way, making it an excellent option for accepting secure payments via credit card.

  3. How will you secure your eCommerce website? Security is critical when you’re selling online. At a minimum, you’ll need to use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) on your webserver to ensure your customer’s personal, and payment data remains encrypted while communicating with your website (a good website hosting service will help you set this up).

    Unfortunately, SSL alone doesn’t guarantee a secure eCommerce website. The likelihood of your site being hacked is directly linked to the type of web hosting service you’re using. A $5 a month shared web server (one with hundreds, or even thousands, of sites running on the same server) is not suitable for eCommerce. Yes, it’s possible to get your store up and running, but your site will note be truly secure, and it’s only a matter of time before bad things happen.

    You’ll do better to look for a managed web hosting service like WP Engine. You can further secure your site with plugins like iThemes security and services like CloudFlare and Sucuri. CloudFlare acts as a barrier between your website and the darker regions of the Internet. Meanwhile, Sucuri scans your website every few hours looking for signs of hacking activity. And if you do get hacked, Sucuri will clean up the mess as part of their standard service.

  4. How will you ship orders to your customers? If you’re selling digital content, you can skip this question, but if you’re selling physical merchandise, you’ll need to ship it to your customers. Some things to decide before you start: What shipping service will you use? How will you package your products for shipping? Use this information to calculate the cost of shipping, and you’ll be ready to set up shipping tables and shipping classes in WooCommerce when the time comes.

  5. What are your tax requirements? Are your products taxable, and if so, at what rate? And which customers’ orders should be taxed? You’ll have to talk to a qualified accountant to answer this one. Depending on the state or country you’re in, the answer will vary. If you are obligated to collect and remit taxes, you’ll need to create an account with the appropriate taxing agency. Fortunately, eCommerce plugins like WooCommerce are quite flexible when it comes to setting up tax rates. But you’ll need some answers from an accountant before you get started.

Are you ready to start building your online store? WooCommerce Essentials is the course that takes the mystery out of setting up your WordPress eCommerce website.

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