What Tools do you Need to Start Selling Online?

We know that the process of setting up an e-business and allowing your customers to purchase from you can seem daunting, but this process doesn’t have to be complicated. There are just four simple services you need in order to take card payments online:


All of these services can be supplied by varying companies, and you will find that some suppliers offer more than one of these services, which will help with set-up time and reduce running cost and hassle once your service is set up.

Here is our quick guide to each service and what you should be looking out for:

Company website

This represents your shop window to your potential customers and needs to be appealing for a customer, but also practical and easy for you to develop. Most e-commerce websites use a piece of software called a ‘shopping cart’ or ‘storebuilder’ which allows shoppers to select the goods or services they want to buy, add them to a virtual ‘shopping basket’ and purchase them. There are various companies who can provide you with free or paid for shopping carts and storebuilders. The functionalities vary greatly between providers, for example some will integrate a merchant account into their storebuilder, so it is important to decide which functions you require most for your site before looking for a provider.

Payment Gateway

A payment gateway is an e-commerce service provider that authorises payments for online businesses, acting as the equivalent of a physical point of sale terminal that you would find in most shops. This is connected to your website and securely sends online payments for authorisation to your acquiring bank. If you already have a shopping cart facility, ensure your potential payment gateway can support your shopping cart. Prices for this service vary and are normally based on a fee per transaction. Ensure you look at the small print of the transaction charges and functions of the gateway to make sure it will support your business as you need it to.

Merchant Account

A merchant account is a special kind of account that exists for the purpose of holding funds captured from credit and debit card sales. From there, they are transferred out to a normal business bank account, normally on a daily or weekly basis. If you want to accept card payments online, you will need a specialist merchant account provider. Different providers offer varying reporting functions and fund transfer terms, so check what your business needs and compare quotes from various providers to see which company offers you the most competitive terms.

Business Bank Account

A business bank account offers you a place to hold your money that is transferred from your merchant account and other sources of funds coming in to your business. Each bank will offer you varying services but, in the main, you will be able to transfer and pay your funds to other accounts and suppliers, pay cheques in and out, pay cash in and out of the account and use pre-agreed overdrafts. Most providers will charge for you to hold an account and rates will vary for services such as bank transfers. Compare these rates depending upon what services your business will use the most and ensure you read the small print – ‘free business banking’ often comes with some nasty strings attached.

You can tell by now the process of setting up an e-commerce website is simple in principle and requires the same elements regardless of your business type and size. The key to ensuring e-commerce works for you is to pick providers of these tools who best fit your business. There is so much choice out there, so ensure you do your research and choose wisely!

CashFlowsArticle by CashFlows who provide everything a business needs to accept global credit and debit card payments from customers.

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