This blog is for people who have established shops, whether storefront or perhaps on a site like Etsy, Ebay, or Society6, who find themselves asking if their business is ready for e-commerce AKA an independent online store.

If you are thinking about opening an online store and have no existing store, please click here.


What Do We Consider An E-Commerce Website? What Do I need To Get Started?

An e-commerce website is a site the allows users to make online purchases; whether it’s for a product or a download. While it sounds simple enough in theory, there is a lot of planning involved for both your e-commerce development team and your company.

Here’s some answers to frequently asked questions… As well as more questions to get you thinking about whether or not you’re ready for an e-commerce website.


How Will You Accept Payment?

Seems like a simple enough question, but there are variety of options to take into consideration. Some users prefer to pay with PayPal if the option is available. Other users would prefer to checkout with their Visa, Mastercard, etc. Ideally that means you’re going to have to set up both a PayPal business account and get with your bank about an online merchant account.


Accepting Secure Payments

Of course you’re going to need a SSL certificate which verifies that your site is safe. Your developers get you through the licensing process and establish that you have a secure gateway to which payments can be made. This is one of the most critical factors of your website. Buyers look for security online and your SSL certificate provides insurance if a breach should occur. It’s peace of mind for you and your customers. Not to mention, your bank won’t work with you if you don’t have a SSL Certificate.


19606616_sManaging Inventory

Whose going to manage your online stock? Are you going to hire a company to maintain the backend of the website and it’s inventory? How will the company work with you? Are you going to handle the backend in house? Are you going to develop the website in-house or do you need to start getting quotes?


Who’s Your Customer Base?

Obviously if you’re considering getting into your own e-commerce website because you have an existing shop, you probably already have enough established customers to justify going on your own; but you’ll also need new business. One benefit of having a shop on a larger store site (like Etsy) is that while they may take a cut of the sales and have extra fees, they also advertise – which converts to sales.

If you have a store front location, would your customers benefit from online ordering? If you’re a pizza shop, the answer is yes! If you’re a local grocer, do you think you would have the demand for people with busy schedules who love your store to easily order their groceries online, have employees do the shopping and get the order ready for pickup? A bakery where people can customize their cakes online. The ease of online ordering can make it even easier for people to shop local.

The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day though, you should ask yourself (and your customers) if they would find it convenient. How much new business could you drum up as a result?  E-commerce is an investment and what a lot shops (especially smaller shops) should ask themselves is: it worth the investment?


Longterm Overhead

11853791_sWhen you accept payments via your merchant bank account, there are typically fees even if you have no sales.

Another thing to consider: if you need to make updates, how much does the company charge to add new products? Remove them? Update prices?

A good company is going to consult with you regarding all these matters. They’re going to be there to develop a game plan for how you’re going to work together to make your dreams a reality.

There is also the issue of advertising. If you’re going e-commerce, you need to target people to your website. This is where things get very competitive and you have to engage a branding strategy that is going to lead to the best return on investment.


How Many Products Do You Have?

The online stores that do the best are ones that offer a variety of products. The number of 5285649_sproducts you have will also impact your e-commerce start up costs. When we say, “number of products”, we’re referring to the specific number of types of products you offer. For example, you have 300 different products you sell: pumpkin spice scented candles, vanilla spice scented candles, etc.


Product Organization

You’ll have to organize the information you have for your developers. The product, all of its specification and unique description. The more organized you prepare these items, the easier it is for your developer. When you work with Zen Small Biz, we provide you with a detailed timeline, product sheets, checklists and all kinds of useful tools to make the project go a smooth as possible.



How are you going to handle shipping goods? Where are you willing to ship goods? How much are you going to charge for shipping your goods? If a person orders over a certain number of goods, will they receive free shipping?

This is where your consultant can point you in the right direction: what services are offered, some things to consider related to pricing of your product, etc.


It is important to seek legal advice before, during and it’s especially important to have an attorney review your website once it is complete.



E-commerce tax laws vary by state. Some states do not require non-residents pay taxes for your e-commerce store, but residents of your state have to. You will have to look at your state’s tax laws regarding an e-commerce store. You’ll likely want to get verification from an expert.



Do you have permission from your manufactures to re-sell their products online? What sort of legal disclaimers are needed for your website? If you are using Google products with your website, Google requires that you have certain language most developers/internet marketers are familiar with. These are things you’ll need to review with your attorney because many other notices are likely needed for your website.


Customer Service

What’s your customer service plan? How are you going to follow up with customers? When can they contact you regarding your products or services? Will you accept phone calls? What will your return policy look like?


It’s A Lot

This list is not to deter you from starting your own e-commerce store. It is designed to get you thinking about what you’re going to need when you get into developing one.

Think we’re helpful here? Try working with us. We have a variety of solutions available to assist you in achieving your goals. We’re not here to make a quick buck, but build a longstanding relationship with you. Click here to contact us.