How to start an e-commerce venture

Retailers may want to implement online shopping alternatives for their customers.

During the second quarter of 2011, internet sales in the United States generated more than $47 billion, which represents a nearly 18 percent increase from e-commerce sales during the second quarter of 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, e-commerce sales have logged seven consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth. Despite the economic downtown, the outlook seems promising for e-commerce businesses.

But what about brick-and-mortar businesses or start-ups that require a new merchant account? How can their owners transition to the web and cash in on the e-commerce surge?

Build a website: With a little HTML knowledge or web development software, any business owner can craft the ideal website. Domain names can cost as little as $10 annually through some of the most affordable website hosting companies.

Set up a merchant account: Brick-and-mortar business owners should check with their bank or merchant account provider to verify that it can accept online purchases. If their bank is unable to back their business due to the high risk that comes with supporting a start-up, online ventures may need to seek out another merchant account provider or PayPal alternative.

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Set up a payment gateway: Payment risk management is essential in online transactions, so e-commerce ventures need a gateway to further encrypt confidential financial information. Business owners should also require a credit card security code and a verified billing address at checkout to help prevent fraudulent transactions.

Establish social marketing platforms: Tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have become valuable means for businesses to share information directly with clients. Business owners should utilize an automated social media manager like, which injects content into multiple social media spheres to provide maximum exposure for a business.

Using these steps as a guide, a business owner can develop a successful e-commerce website with relative ease.