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Start Your Online Business - Expert Advice For All Entrepreneurs

The booming world of the internet presents many opportunities but how can you make the most of them?

All You Need To Know To Start Your Online Business.

Getting started with your online business can be quite tricky. There are a lot of things you need to think of and plan before you start trading.

Firstly you need a website. This is crucial as it will essentially be your shop window. Here you will gain and lose customers, so it is essential that you get it right.

Some key things you need to consider when planning your online presence are:

Design:
Deciding on who you will entrust with building your site is one of the most important choices you need to make. Try not to give this task to just anybody. The website is the one thing which you cant afford to get wrong, so any make sure you invest your time and money wisely and consider hiring a professional developer.

Domain Name:
If you choose the right combination of words as your domain name, then it could give your business a huge boost, making it easier to find in the search engines. Try not to use names similar to your competitors and do research the main keywords for your type of business. Balance your options and make informed decisions.

Hosting Provider
You will be spoilt for choice here, so once again make sure you check all available options before choosing the one that suits you best. Main things to take into the account are: value for money, flexibility (in case your site becomes a global hit) and integration with a shopping cart solution. The availability of secure hosting/SSL could also be something worth having a look at.

Shop Around For Your Cart
A cart or basket is the next crucial part of your online presence which can either make your trading hours heaven or hell. Here your customers will be able to save their items before completing the purchase, so it simply has to work.

These are some options available to you:

Custom-built
This way you will get exactly what you want in terms of design and technical capabilities. You can ask an experienced web developer to build one specifically for your website. It will probably be the most expensive solution, but if you know exactly what you want and are sure that you cant get it elsewhere then go for it, but be careful about integration (see below).

Off-the-shelf software
This solution is quite flexible, as you will be able to customise your basket and web-shop and will include detailed instructions to help you integrate the product with your site. However you might still require help from someone with more advanced knowledge of IT.

Hosted solution
This is the hassle-free alternative for those who need to get going fast. It is by far the easiest route to begin trading online, because it allows you to outsource the whole set-up and managing process to an experienced provider. Although it is not as flexible as the two previous selections, it comes with a lot of advantages and could help you avoid some potential problems right at the start.

Payment Service Providers (PSPs)
These are companies through which you can start accepting a large selection of payment methods. They can help you set-up an Internet Merchant Account (IMA), which is essential for any online trader and a shopping basket. Most of them will give you a lot of flexibility to help you customise the product, so you should get exactly what you need.

Here are some other tips to help you find the best PSP:

Real choice
Depending on your needs, the provider should offer you some level of flexibility. Do you have an IMA and just need a gateway, or do you need an all in package, including a web-shop? Make sure you choose a supplier to suit your requirements.
Ease of integration with your cart

Aim for the highest standards. Ensure that the company you choose to work with offers a good variety of ways for you to collect and process payments. Also remember that it has to integrate with your shopping basket, if you do decide to obtain those separately. Many providers only offer both, so do shop around. You might also want to consider obtaining a virtual terminal to begin processing over-the-phone payments.

Competitive rates
Dont overpay when choosing a PSP. Make sure you go over all the additional costs before signing any agreements. Check in advance how much ongoing support they offer free of charge and the cost of any additional services. Always read the small print to avoid hidden charges.

Reporting and administration facilities
This should be very important to you. By being able to see detailed reports of all your transactions, you can improve your business and earn more money. It is essential that you ask your potential PSP about what kind of reporting solutions they offer.

The latest fraud protection
Fraud is the one thing which all online traders should worry about. You simply have to demand the best anti-fraud protection or you could risk having to pay the cost of any fraudulent transactions or, in the worst case, even risk being blacklisted by the card schemes.

Security certification
You cannot compromise on the Payment Card Industrys Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). All traders accepting card payments online have to comply with these standards. Do not work with any PSPs without Level 1 certification.

Ample technical support
Trading online can come with some technical problems, so ideally you want to go with a PSP offering you as much help as possible with no additional fees.

Internet Merchant Account (IMA)
It is essential for any e-commerce business in order to accept online payments. You will not be able to process credit or debit cards without one. Most high-street banks will offer this service, but it is difficult to be accepted if youre just starting out.
However most PSPs offer an IMA as part of their various packages. These providers usually have the knowledge and the experience to take you through the whole setting up process, giving you a peace of mind.

Eva Grzybek

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