There are a variety of online shopping platforms you may have heard of- shopify, woo commerce, magento, big commerce and many more. Each has its own pluses and minuses. Some can be set up for an ongoing low monthly fee. Others are more expensive to create and/or install, but lack ongoing fees.

But what does the creation and ongoing operation of an ecommerce website actually entail? More importantly, how should you approach your goal to move to selling online?The vital elements of e-commerce are user accounts, shipping, order management, fulfillment, cost tabulation, and merchant processing. So what does this mean?

Herein lies the explanation:

1.User accounts- It is of course possible on many websites to 'checkout as a guest'. However user accounts are vital to ongoing user transactions. By creating a profile which can be easily saved and remembered in the website database, repeat transactions become much easier. So think for example amazon.com, do you really want to input your address, credit card on file, contact details etc every time you make an Amazon purchase?A successful ecommerce website must have the ability to store large numbers of user profiles in its database.

2.Shipping- generally speaking shipping in the US is performed by 1 of the 'big three', those being Fedex, UPS, or USPS. From an ecommerce site perspective, the website owner needs to decide which of these to offer (or a choice of all of them). There are also the key offerings of shipping speed- next day,3 day, 1 week and so forth. A vital factor in cost of shipping determination is of course package weight and dimensions. A set of french doors costs a lot more to ship than a jar of aspirin.

Decisions on shipping options are largely a function of the type of website. If you are for example in the business of shipping a jar of aspirin at a time, a simple flat rate number can be used. This would cover the actual shipping cost, packaging, time spent to send etc.

Where it comes to much larger items that might cost hundreds of dollars to ship, the calculations become more complex. In some cases of this nature the use of shipping calculators such as fedex web services is recommended.

3.Cost tabulation- This will be a series of mathematical equations within the site code that provides the exact price before the transaction processes. Essentially this involves adding cost of item(s) together, adding in shipping costs based on how those are configured, and adding any required taxes to the equation. The site user will then see the final total before pressing a 'pay now' type button.

4.Order Management- As orders arrive into the system they must of course be tracked and managed. Firstly the user needs a confirmation email that the order has been received, this is accomplished by the use of auto response. In addition the website merchant needs to know a new order has arrived via an auto responder notification email. The order needs to be auto assigned a unique tracking id, which is emailed to the buyer, and used to track the order through the fulfillment process.

5.Fulfillment- this involves the actual process of getting the product ordered to the buyer. Somebody needs to safely and efficiently package the item or items ordered, add shipping labels and of course the buyer's name and shipping address. Then the package needs to go to a facility- be it post office, fedex, ups or whichever is the chosen shipper.

6.Merchant Processing- Of course the site owner needs to get paid! They will need a bank account linked to what we term a merchant gateway. This term is best understood as an online handshake- the user inputs their credit card details etc on purchase- and that data goes to the gateway-the gateway sends the user's payment to the vendor's account in order to complete the transaction.Fees generally speaking for online processing services run 2.5-3%. Some of the most common payment methods/processors used are Paypal, Stripe, Braintree and Authorize.net.

As we move forward into a new World era, the fundamental nature of sales is about to change before our eyes. Whilst online sales had already been increasing rapidly as a percentage of all sales, that percentage is about to start increasing dramatically. It is the author's view that the era of brick and mortar stores is largely over. Some will of course subsist- we won't buy our groceries online as a rule (although of course those options exist).

The author, Ally Lennon, is a co-founder of https://www.bigorangeplanet.com and a partner in the Worldwide framework https://www.stempora.com .This framework does not require any third party plugins, it has all required ecommerce functionality built in, and to our knowledge has never been hacked. We built it that way.