How to Start an Ecommerce Business

Starting From Zero

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Starting From Zero Summary

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4.8 stars out of 24 votes

Contents: Audio Book
Author: Fred Lam
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My Starting From Zero Review

Highly Recommended

This book comes with the great features it has and offers you a totally simple steps explaining everything in detail with a very understandable language for all those who are interested.

Overall my first impression of this ebook is good. I think it was sincerely written and looks to be very helpful.

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Ecommerce Options for Drupal

There are two general options for adding e-commerce capabilities to your Drupal website the Ubercart or e-Commerce contributed modules. The e-Commerce module was the first major solution for ecommerce for Drupal. Ubercart came along at a later date when a group of developers decided to improve upon the e-Commerce module. Both platforms offer similar features and functionality, and selecting one over the other is often a matter of picking the platform with the features that best meet your unique requirements. There are several comparison charts that compare and contrast the features and functions of both platforms. One good chart can be found at http drupal.org node 208067. Another important consideration when selecting modules is to look at usage statistics. Every module on Drupal.org includes a report of the number of Drupal sites that report that they are using any given module. The current statistics for Ubercart lists approximately 20,000 sites, whereas the eCommerce module has...

What is ECommerce and What can it do for Us

E-Commerce is the process of conducting business, by means of the sale and purchase of goods and services as well as the transfer of funds, over networks and through computers. We will create an online shop that will enable us to do business electronically over networks (the Internet) allowing us to sell goods as well as receive payments electronically, although it can also cater for the option for manual payments by cheque or money order. Help generate new business by offering more than just a shop if we also have a website with which our online shop is interconnected, then visitors to our website will also be attracted to our online shop.

Contributed Modules

A contributed module can be as simple as providing a mechanism to automatically create the title of an article or as complex as a fully featured eCommerce storefront with product management, inventory management, order management, shipment management, credit card processing, customer management, and returns management. There are thousands modules of every shape and size, covering a wide variety of topics. To find a contributed module, visit www.drupal.org project modules and browse through the categories of modules. Example categories include (note the number after the category represents the number of modules that are available for that category).

Introduction and Installation

Welcome to Drupal e-Commerce During the course of this book we are going to look at how to use a content management system in particular Drupal as well as its e-Commerce module to set up and manage an online shop. We will install the software, have a look at its features, plan our shop, create our shop, look at customer management, create a design for our shop, and cover security, taxes, shipping, and even marketing our business. What Drupal e-Commerce is, and why it is better than a regular online shopping cart system

Creating shipping cart

A shipping cart is essential for the order fulfillment process, and can be skipped only if you integrate with an external shipping system. This is the proper way to keep track of things even if you have a small online shop that sells handmade jewelry and you manage the shipping actions by yourself at the local post office. Good tracking and overall control will save you a lot of trouble and misconceptions. Each individual item can be treated separately or as a part of a bundle-shipping cart. You can also break a single order with let's say four items to two shipping carts if one of the items will take some time to collect and the customer wants the others as soon as possible. You can administer your shipping carts at Home Administer Store administration Orders Order Shipments.

What This Book Covers

Chapter 1 introduces you to Drupal, e-commerce, and the advantages of using Drupal e-Commerce rather than regular online shopping carts before going through the installation process and performing some basic configurations. Chapter 3 goes through steps involved in planning an online shop including legal issues, the shop's structure, product details, and how to take great photographs of products for the store.

How Not to Advertise a Product

Quite a lot of small businesses with online shops don't put much effort into their website and store with many of these sites the amount of effort they put into their site is apparent however, a good amount of time in initial preparations should mean that we only have to put in minimal maintenance time in the future, and still have a fantastic store for our customers. These examples are ones that I have found on real websites, but have been recreated to ensure anonymity.

Marketing Your Business

We have our store up and running, but there isn't any point in having an online store without customers. Marketing our business and store is the key to generating new business so let's have a look at it. However, even some simple site-based features and enhancements can improve our businesses marketing so we will also have a look at that.

Utilize Drupals issue queue to get support and request changes to the module

One of Drupal's greatest advantages is the large collection of contributed modules freely available on http drupal.org. The modules available cover nearly every aspect of Drupal, including modifying comment forms, protecting against spam, and providing newsletter support to building an online store. Generally, the question is not if there is a module that will meet your needs, but rather, how you find the module.

Create your own payment gateway from scratch

We have gone through some of the most widely used payment gateways available out there. However, the truth is that you are most probably not living in the USA so inevitably you do not have a US VAT number. This fact minimizes the available selections to a very narrow range. In other words you cannot escape from PayPal redirect service. (At this moment, as we are writing this book, Paypal Pro is not available outside the US.) In this case and even more if you already have your business attached with your region's local bank, you may come to the awkward position of developing your own payment gateway module. We are referring to this situation as awkward because you will be facing a dilemma, similar to or greater than all the other development decisions you have made during the process of your online store design.

Paypal Create account customize connect with Ubercart manage

PayPal is the most famous payment gateway and has obtained its reputation from the high fraud detection and security level it provides. PayPal is ideal for medium and large online shops, and can also accept PayPal users that handle credit card charges internally. PayPal supports redirection with both PayPal Checkout and web services, that is on site credit cards with PayPal Pro. The only constraint is that PayPal Pro functionality needs a United States address and VAT number, so all of us outside the USA cannot use it. Furthermore, we will describe the process of setting up an account in PayPal and configuring our online store to accept PayPal transactions step by step. If you already have a PayPal account then go to PayPal account upgrade instructions directly and skip the account set up instructions.

Integrating with payment gateways

Accepting payments using a preconfigured payment gateway will complete your online shop functionality, and provide a more integrated experience to the end user, as we have discussed in the previous section. This way the purchase workflow will be easily followed by the user and this will avoid any questions or misunderstandings. Moreover, you can provide your customer with an automated purchase process, reducing client support, and communication costs.

Order workflow payment emails packaging and delivery

Ubercart Diagram

We are far from covering the area of order workflows, but we provided a high-level understanding of it in Chapter 6, Managing Taxes and Payments, where we discussed payment workflows. Order workflow is rather a super set of the described ordering process, as it involves many more considerations like product availability or payment problems. Before we continue our discussion about our online shop administration, we should take a moment to understand the basic concepts of Ubercart order completion workflow. Now that we have grasped the concept of order statuses versus order states, we will proceed with configuring our online store with our custom statuses. Navigate to Home Administer Store administration Configuration Order settings Order Workflow, to review order statuses created by default from Ubercart. It is clear that each order status is associated with a corresponding order state. Drupal basic states are as follows

Accepting credit cards on sitepros and cons

Having understood the overall picture of payment configuration, now comes the time to decide which policy you should adopt for accepting payments for your online shop. Following the discussion about accepting credit cards on site, we should provide the facts on both the cases. To help you decide, we will go through the advantages and disadvantages of accepting payments on your site, which requires handling credit card encryption and securing your online shop. The objective is to provide enough information to validate your needs and find pros and cons associated with each choice, questions to ask before signing in, and potential pitfalls. Here are the facts that will help you decide

Installation of Drupal and Ubercart

A proper installation of Drupal and Ubercart will save you from future headaches and will guarantee the correct functioning of your online store. This chapter is a quick installation reference for Drupal, the required Drupal modules, and Ubercart. Ubercart is not a standalone e-commerce application, but it comes as a Drupal module. That means you have to first install Drupal and all the required Drupal modules on a server with the minimum requirements, before installing Ubercart. You don't have to be an expert programmer or a system administrator in order to complete the following process. We'll first give you a brief explanation of the underlying technologies, and then we'll continue with a step-by-step guide. At the end of this chapter, you'll have the online store installed on your local or remote machine and you'll be ready to make all the required customizations to the frontend and the backend, depending on your needs. In order to successfully...

Configuring Product Attributes

For the Sweet Tees online store, customers need to be able to select the T-shirt size that they wish to order, as well as the colors of their shirts and stickers. To implement this, we will make use of Ubercart's product attributes feature. Figure 10-17 shows an example of the Size attribute.

Integration with CiviCRM

That is it you now have a synchronized user database between your online store and the CRM system. In addition, you have a fully functioning Ubercart e-shop, so go ahead and explore all CiviCRM's end-user features and begin configuring CiviCRM for your site or organization needs. The objective of this book is the configuration and administration of an electronic shop. So, discussions that refer to CiviCRM's best practices and success stories go beyond the scope of this book. Refer to the CiviCRM Administrator Guide for information on configuration tasks and options.

Ubercart thirdparty payment modules

One of the most demanding processes during development of a payment-enabled online shop is the integration with a payment gateway, raising issues such as security, development, and testing. Luckily, Ubercart is an open source project with a highly motivated community, a model that minimizes the danger of security holes, and that maximizes feature implementations, since new functionality is returned back to the community. In this context of collaborative development, a significant number of gateway-specific modules exist in Drupal repositories and the Ubercart contributed modules site.

Selecting payment methods

If you choose to do it on site, which adds value to your online shop, minimizing administration costs for order fulfillment, payments, and dispatching, you should activate this option by navigating to Home Administer Store administration Configuration Checkout settings Checkout settings. The first checkbox in this screen, marked as Enable checkout, is the one you want to activate. This way you will be accepting credit cards on site, approving them, and capturing money via web services gateways. Client experience will be uniform with subsequent steps and payment will be less invasive to the purchase workflow.

Changing basic elements

Every Drupal theme using the template engine produces HTML code from Drupal core objects. Therefore, some content of the final HTML code generated is actually site-wide property such as site slogan, mission, and site name. We will have to change Drupal default settings and provide our business details. To do this, go to Home Administer Site configuration and edit the fields as we describe next. If you do not want to provide specific information, for instance if you do not have a corporate slogan, you need not fill this option. Nothing will appear if the attribute is not set to the main page of your online shop.

Basic tax rate configuration

By now you have a fully functional online shop, very competitive prices for your merchandise, and a business plan that predicts orders from all over the world. You also went through all the shipping configurations, so the next step you have to take is to start dealing with tax rates. When it comes to setting up rate calculation for your online store, you should take into account a great many factors that can integrate with your existing business logic. Fortunately, Ubercart from version 2.0 onwards, provides this functionality in its core, encapsulating these configuration settings in Ubercart conditions, a powerful and extensible tool for integrating business logic. This way you can handle complex state sale taxes based on customers geographic locations (billing address), shipping date, or the type of products shipped. You will also be able to make dynamic taxation procedures based on either shipping country or customer's billing country.

Basic principles when choosing a theme

Choosing a theme for your online shop is not an easy task. Moreover, it can be even harder considering that you want to promote specific items from your catalog, you need to change first page items often, and you need to rapidly communicate offers and loyalty policies and other business-related stuff. Ubercart-specific themes mostly target the following special areas You should keep these layout regions in mind, while going through the following section on theme selection. Before you search for any kind of theme layout, provide your neurons with enough input to inspire you and help you decide. Perform a quick Google search for online shops in your target market to get some inspiration and track down sites that make you, as a customer, feel comfortable during product searching and navigation. If you decide to search for professional help, a list of existing sites will help you to communicate your preferences much more directly. Next we describe the main user interface components that...

Installing a Drupal theme

After you have decided the best theme to go along with your online store, you should follow these steps to install it. This is a rather straightforward procedure, very similar to the one performed in Chapter 2, Installation of Drupal and Ubercart, during module installations After you apply the theme, your online shop will look like the following

Implementation Notes

Sweet Tees has several options to manage their online store however, they really want to provide a seamless, user-friendly experience for their customers. They are looking for a solution that is simple and elegant, yet also comprehensive. The e-Commerce module (http drupal.org project ecommerce) is the oldest and more flexible of the options. The package is designed to be a highly modular framework for building e-commerce solutions in Drupal. In a way, it is a development framework of its own on top of Drupal's existing framework. The principal benefit of the e-Commerce package is ultimate control and extensibility. Because of the high number of variable components in an online store (payment processor, shipping calculations, taxes, and so on), this flexibility is incredibly useful. The downside, however, is that the flexibility increases the level of complexity, thus making it more time-consuming to set up and configure. Also, again due to its architecture, the checkout process for...

Spotlight The Ordering Process

We now have an online store that can be populated with the entire Sweet Tees inventory. However, at the moment customers can only browse the catalog and see information about the products. Most e-commerce sites are concerned with actually selling something, and that means getting into the ordering process. Figure 10-21 depicts the typical workflow for a store such as our client's. It begins when a customer adds products to her online shopping cart and clicks the Checkout button. The customer is presented with a form in which to fill out basic customer information, such as billing and shipping address, credit card information, and preferred shipping method. The customer then has a chance to review the order, including its total price, with taxes and shipping calculated based on the information provided earlier. Once the order is submitted, a payment gateway validates the entered billing information to determine if the credit card is legitimate. If all goes well, the order is placed and...

HandsOn Creating Products

In this section, we will be setting up the product information for Sweet Tees, which is the first piece required to put together our online store. Ubercart's Product module provides a Product content type for us on installation, and the FileField (http drupal .org project filefield), ImageField (http drupal.org project imagefield), and ImageCache (http drupal.org project imagecache) modules that we covered in Chapter 7 will allow us to display and collect images on products.

Viewing customers

A significant aspect of successful CMSs is the inspection and administration of potential new customers as well as tracking down their activities and purchases. To view all the customers of your online shop, go to Home Administer Store administration Customers. On this screen, you can see all newly-added users as well as past users that have gone through a successful purchase on your online store. From this screen, you can also navigate to customer orders.

And Orders

This chapter talks about CRM configuration, reporting services, and after-sales support for your online shop. All these aforementioned areas form crucial aspects of your day-to-day business administration and should be designed keeping in mind that you probably are going to spend most of your time working in front of these screens. We will provide the initial steps and guide you through the overall process of designing a proper customer support plan and keeping your customers happy and satisfied during the whole purchase process. Good customer relation management is the essence of successful online trading, where the average customer is suspicious and provides fertile ground for your business reputation to grow.

Payments

Reliable online payments will be the basis for our reputation management, so that each visitor should be absolutely confident the visitor's confidence depends on a fault tolerant and trustworthy system. Customers have an intrinsic physiological barrier against providing their credit card number online, so you are here to persuade them that you have a secure and state-of-the-art online shop that can be trusted and let them focus on your merchandise alone.

Product Groupings

When trying to relate our product lineup to our shop, we need to consider the best ways to categorize our products, but also alternative ways of categorizing our products. With a physical store, you would generally have a particular product in a particular area of the store, for instance at a supermarket milk would be in the dairy section, however with an online store this is not a limitation What if we also wanted milk next to breakfast cereals This is not a problem with online shops

Customers and Staff

There would be no point in running an online store without customers, so let's take a look at our customers and how they are managed using Drupal. We will also take a look at staff members, who are also users within Drupal. Doug only has a small workforce however, he wants them all to be able to help him out with his online store

Transfer the Files

You should now have a final, clean version of your online store, with a copy of the database, all zipped up and ready to go. Assuming there are images and a fair bit of data held within the site, you can be sure that the size of the upload is quite substantial. For this reason, you need a reasonably high speed connection dial-up connections can be slightly erratic over long periods of time, so it may even be worth using a friend's computer or your office connection to send the files to the host site.

Ubercart

The reason this is not a top-ten module list is I just had to mention Ubercart. It's a bit more specialized, but if you need e-commerce capabilities for your website, Ubercart is the module for you. It provides all of the features and functions required to run an online store, including the ability to sell physical as well as virtual (downloadable) products and collect credit card payments.

Commerce

Since Drupal is such a great platform for developing websites many people are also turning to Drupal to assist them with creating online stores. Thankfully, Drupal does offer contributed modules that allow you to sell both physical and digital goods from your website. Site developers interested in serious e-commerce support should consider reading Selling Online with Drupal e-Commerce. Released in April 2008, this book can help you to set up and manage an online store using Drupal 5 and the e-Commerce module.

Customer Service

One of the most important aspects of any business is customer service this is even more important with online stores where the customer does not feel reassured by physical contact and immediate response to questions i.e. they have to wait for a reply to an email rather than asking an assistant at a physical store.

Product crossselling

By adopting Drupal and Ubercart, things become pretty straightforward, as you have good modules that encapsulate the complexity of recommendation algorithms and require little configuration, and you may as well provide to your end customers a great consumer experience. In addition to that, do not forget the powerful and robust taxonomy mechanism that Drupal implements in its core and the site-wide content tagging it provides, so the relevant items and items that could be used in conjunction could be categorized. So now without further delay, we will go through all these interesting possibilities that our Drupal online shop could offer. Recommendation systems have existed a long time and make a crucial contribution in some of the most successful online shops. In this section we will focus on examples of implicit data collection of the customer's activities that include the following Observing the items that a user views in an online store. Further to our...

Basic Configuration

After having installed our Drupal site and all the required modules, now it's time to start configuring the platform as well as our online shop. In the first part we are going to see how to set up Drupal, and in the second part we are going to check all the configuration options in the store administrator section of Ubercart.

Merging orders

There is no default procedure for merging orders in Ubercart. We may come across such requirements because in the case of online stores, often it so happens that a user places another order after a gap of few days or they may be having second thoughts about a product they are searching for and eventually buy it. In this case, you have to erase one of the two orders and then add the extra products to the other. This is the only way to make a single transaction and perform only one packaging action. This is not true if the customer has already paid for the purchase through an automatic payment gateway. The only thing you can do in that case is to handle the shipping and packaging configuration outside the system.

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