Before You Open Your Ecommerce Store

Are you ready to open your online store?  We have put together this helpful checklist of some basic considerations every store owner should consider.  This guide is written for customers using WordPress/Woocommerce, but the basic considerations are the same if you are using Squarespace, Shopify, or any other ecommerce platform.

Website Considerations


Domain

In order to start selling products online, you will need to register a unique domain name for your site. 

Hosting

You will need to setup your domain with a hosting provider.  You may need a hosting plan with a dedicated IP address for your website in order to install a security certificate.

SSL

You must install an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate on your domain or online store subdomain in order to run your store.  This encrypts information between your visitors web browser and the web server to keep information confidential.  All third party payment gateways and credit card processors require your site to be secure in order to process payments.

Business Considerations


Business License

Do you have a business license?  An EIN?  You are required to provide either an EIN and/or Social Security Number in order to setup any payment accounts.

Business Address

You are required to provide a business address for customer communication and customer service.  If you operate a home business, you may consider using a P.O. Box or other separate business address.

Store Location

What state will your online store be based out of?  This will affect shipping and tax settings.

Sales Locations

What countries will you be selling to?  Will you be selling internationally?

Products


 

Physical

Will you be selling physical products?  Will your items be all individual, unique items, or will you have products with different variations on some items (color, size, etc.)?  You will need to know the product dimensions, item weight, and dimensions of each item.

Product SKU

Do your products have individual item IDs or SKU numbers?  This is not required to sell via WooCommerce, but may help you to organize inventory.

Digital

Will you be selling digital or downloadable products, such as audio or video files, or downloadable manuals, books, or documents?  Will you have download limits on these items?  You can also make digital products available paired together with physical items (ex. a physical book and ebook version sold together).

Donations

If you are a non-profit or other organization, do you want to collect donations via your website?

Images

Do you have product images for each product and variation? 

Inventory

Do you want to enable inventory management for your items?  If an item is sold out, do you want to allow backorders of your items?  Who will manage and cross check the inventory?  What is the procedure for reordering items?

Subscriptions

You can sell your customers subscriptions with automatically recurring charges for a product or service.  Your customers have the ability to look up, upgrade, or cancel their account at any time.  You can use this to automatically fill orders on a regular schedule, collect recurring donations, or to sell memberships to your website.

Memberships

You can create “members only” products and content on your website and make them only available to a registered member of your website.  You can sell memberships with a one time fee or combine them with the subscriptions service to create recurring monthly or annual membership charges.

Tax


 

Requirements

You are required to collect and report sales tax on certain items sold in your store.  You are responsible for understanding the laws governing sales tax.   Before June 2018, the general understanding was that businesses needed to collect sales tax on physical products sold to customers in any state where the business had a physical presence, such an office, warehouse, or distribution center.  In June 2018, the Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc. changed this understanding and opened up the ability for states to collect sales tax from online businesses selling to any customer in their state.  There are over 12,000 state and local tax regulations in the United States, and each one has its own rules for collection, remitting, and reporting sales tax.  You should discuss the current regulations with your accountant.

We can also recommend the use of a third party service to automatically report and file your sales taxes.

More information can be found here: https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/learn-about-business-laws/online-business-law/collecting-sales-tax-online

Prices (Inclusive vs Exclusive)

You can list prices in your store inclusive or exclusive of tax.  We recommend setting your prices exclusive of tax and adding tax at checkout so your store prices display consistently for both customers who must pay the sales tax, and those who are exempt.

Reporting

Who will generate the sales tax reports for your company?  How often?

Checkout


 

Payment Methods

What payment methods do you wish to accept?  You can offer as many options as you like.  Options include:

  • Credit Card (requires credit card gateway processor such as Stripe)
  • PayPal (requires PayPal account)
  • Amazon Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • Direct Bank Transfer
  • Cheque
  • Cash on Delivery (COD)

Coupons

Do you plan to offer coupon or discount codes?

Currency

What currency will you choose to set prices?  Do you want to accept payments in local currencies?

Bank Accounts

Do you have a bank account setup to receive payments?

Shipping


 

Shipping Services

What shipping services do you wish to use?  You will need to have an account with each shipping provider you offer, such as:

  • United States Postal Service
  • FedEx
  • UPS

Rates

Once you have setup an account with your shipping provider, your store can automatically calculate rates for your customers based on data from the shipping provider and the product information (dimensions, weight) from your store.  You can also add an additional amount to the customer’s shipping to cover shipping and handling.

Flat Rates

You may instead offer flat rates for shipping, separated by country.  You can set one flat rate for domestic and one flat rate for international shipping.

Free Shipping

You may build the cost of shipping and handling into your product prices and offer free shipping as well.  You can offer this as a default option, or you may setup free shipping as a promotional offer for a limited time.

International

Will you be selling your products internationally?  Many of the settings are the same, but you will need to fill out customs declarations for any products shipped internationally.  These forms are not available inside your store, you must fill them out with your shipping provider.

Printing Postage

Woocommerce allows you to print USPS postage directly from your admin panel, right in your store.  In order to do this you will need a credit card for payment, standardized shipping box sizes and weights, and product weights for every item in your store.

Accounts


 

Customer Registration

Your customers can create an account that allows them to lookup their purchase history and order information.

Will you require your customers to create an account on your website in order to purchase, or will you make that optional and allow guest checkout?

Email Collection

If you use an email marketing service such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, you can integrate these services into your store and automatically register customer emails to your mailing lists.

Email Notifications


 

Automation

WooCommerce sends customers a number of automated emails based on their order activity.  You can also manually send your customers emails and notes from the orders admin page.

Templates

You can customize some aspects of the email that WooCommerce sends to your customer, including a graphic header image, custom background and text colors, and custom footer text.

Fulfillment


 

Orders

Who will be fulfilling the orders for your store?  Who will order packing materials and supplies?  Who will process the orders, ship them out, and update the order status on the Orders admin page?

Shipping Details & Packing Slips

How will you package your items?  Will you have branded labels on your shipping?  Do you want to include packing slips with your orders?   

Tracking

Do you wish to provide package tracking information to your customers?

Customer Service

Who will handle refunds, duplicate orders, and customer questions?  Will you have a support phone number, a website, or an email?  Do you wish to have a live chat support feature?

Reporting


 

Basic Reports

Woocommerce includes basic sales, sales tax, customer and inventory reporting for any date range. 

Integrations

WooCommerce reports can be integrated with your Xero, FreshBooks, or Quickbooks Online accounts.

Refunds, Terms and Privacy Policy


 

You are legally required to publish and make available a Refund Policy, Terms and Conditions, and Privacy Policy for your store.   You can decide what your custom refund policy will be.  There are many free templates and text generators available to easily generate the text required for these pages.

As of May 25, 2018, if you have customers or visitors in the European Union, your website must be GDRP compliant.  You are required to disclose in plain language what personal information you collect from your visitors, what you do with information, and provide your visitors access to view or delete the information you have collected.  You can read more here: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-is-gdpr-uk-eu-legislation-compliance-summary-fines-2018

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