In a previous post, Important Decisions When Developing An E-Commerce Web Site, many aspects of developing an e-commerce site were discussed. A small part of those post covered the acceptance of payments. In this post you’ll learn more about SSL Certificates and their importance for e-commerce sites and even for sites that don’t collect payments.
First, let’s cover PayPal and why it isn’t as important to have an SSL certificate if payments are made through PayPal. In those cases, the actual payment information is entered on PayPal’s Web site (which is secured with an SSL certificate) so it isn’t as important. When you want to directly accept credit cards (without processing them via PayPal), you need an SSL certificate.
What does an SSL certificate do? It validates your identity as a company. Part of the process for getting the certificate validates that are you also a legitimate business. When the certificate is installed on your site, it will encrypt data going to/from the site so that it is nearly impossible for that information to be intercepted or hacked. While I say nearly impossible, the chances are so slim and the computing power needed so high that it just isn’t going to happen. This allows you to safely take payments and customers to feel comfortable providing their payment information.
There are various ways for your Web site visitors to know the site has SSL installed. For many years, a padlock would appear next to the URL at the top of the browser. With newer, stronger SSL certificates, the name of the company will appear and green is used to indicate security. Below are examples from two different browsers viewing a secure site.
Where do I get an SSL certificate? Typically you’ll go to the same place where you have registered your domain name or you have your Web site hosted. Our preferred vendor for our own sites and our clients is GoDaddy. If you go to the Web Security page on their site, you’ll see a few SSL options they offer. For most sites, the “Protect one website” option is the best choice.
Once you have purchased the SSL certificate and have provided the information needed for verification, it needs to be installed on the Web site. This is why it is often best to buy from the same company providing Web hosting. They’ll typically install it for you right away or make the process simple to configure.
Our preferred vendor for credit card processing is Stripe and our preferred WordPress shopping cart is WP-EasyCart. The two integrate very well together and connecting Stripe to WP-EasyCart takes only a few minutes. But it will only work if you have an SSL certificate installed.
While an SSL certificate is required for e-commerce, it is also beneficial for all sites. Remember, it validates your business identity and secures the flow of data in both directions. For this reason, search engines like Google will give secure sites a higher ranking than the same site without security. Basically, the search engines trust you more! Purchasing an SSL certificate could be the “SEO Optimization” your site needs and the small investment could pay off with a traffic boost.
There are many elements that go into a successful e-commerce Web site. Yes, it needs to look great. Sadly there are many sites that are in dire need of a makeover. It also needs to be mobile friendly as more and more visitors are using mobile devices. Plus Google will penalize sites in the search rankings if they aren’t mobile friendly. There are also a lot of logistics involved and it can be important to have someone with experience help you through the maze. Let’s go through some of the important decisions that need to be made.
No matter what you site is selling, it must be displayed in an attractive manner. If we are dealing with physical products, having quality photos of the product is very important. Don’t be like the pizza place that had stock photos of food they don’t offer! Even if you don’t have physical products, you need an attractive graphic to represent the virtual product or service you are offering. Bad photos will scare away many visitors!
Maybe you only have a handful of products or services that can easily be listed on a single page. Other businesses will have hundreds, if not thousands, of products. In those cases it is important to organize everything into categories and/or sub-categories. Make it easy for visitors to navigate to the products of interest. Of course you’ll also want search functionality that can take visitors directly to whatever interests them the most.
For some businesses, the Web site doesn’t sell directly. You want the site to encourage buyers to e-mail, call, fax (does anyone use fax anymore?) or come to your location. There are still decisions to make about phone service, e-mail service and more. If this is how buyers reach you, you have to make sure you have reliable services.
I suppose that there could be someone who never wants to be paid for what they offer. Even a site for a non-profit will want want to be paid. PayPal is a very simple option for many sites. The ability to directly process credit cards is also helpful, though this makes it very important to also have an SSL certificate. You can take checks or wire transfers. Some businesses require buyers to only pay in person.
You need to know your potential customers and payment method(s) that will allow you to get the most sales. It could be there are laws or regulations you must follow. For one client, this meant they could not legally receive payment online, only in person.
Once the cash register is ringing, you need to fulfill the order. If you offer physical products, you need to get them to the buyer. Will you ship it directly? What shipping methods will you offer? Is it something you can drop-ship? Will buyers pick it up?
Virtual products need to be downloaded. How big are the files? Will you host them on your Web server? Will they be stored in the cloud? How do you protect the files from theft? Is there an outside service that can handle fulfillment for you?
Maybe you offer a service that needs to be fulfilled. Given the wide array of services that are possible, the methods for fulfilling that service are just as varied. You’ll want to know the exact process for fulfilling the service before it is offered.
Having someone with experience work through all these decisions and the implementation of them makes the process much easier. It also eliminates mistakes that could be costly or could severely hamper your success. If you want help with developing or improving your e-commerce Web site, allow Web Design Solutions Unleashed to develop a solution that exceeds your needs!