E-Commerce websites are specialized websites that allow financial transactions to be transacted over the internet. E-Commerce websites can be stand alone operations, or can augment physical retail operations. Realize that e-commerce websites do not necessarily have to sell products – e-commerce websites can be also be built to sell services such as stock trading, subscriptions and memberships.

General Features of an E-Commerce System:

User Interface or Front End – this is where the users interact with the e-commerce website and is comprised of forms and screens that visitors use to interact with the website.
Shopping Cart or Product or Service Catalog -A shopping cart or a product/service catalog, whether it is a single product or several hundreds of thousands or products, becomes the core of an e-commerce website: it provides the functionality that allows the management of users, products, orders as well as order tracking options. We use various levels of e-commerce shopping carts or product catalogs that are then customized to fit the requirements for a given website.
Payment Gateway or Payment Processing System – An e-commerce website requires a mechanism to collect payments and this is done via a payment gateway service provider. In a nutshell, a payment gateway is a third party service provider that facilitates the collection of payment and the subsequent deposit of that payment into a merchant account. Examples of payment gateways are: Autorize.net, Paypal & Google Checkout etc. Please note that payment gateway providers charge a monthly fee and a per-transaction percentage commission and fee for their services.
Merchant Account to handle payment facilitation – Once a payment has been processed by the payment gateway, the money is then deposited into a merchant account which subsequently transfers the money into the e-commerce website owner or operator’s bank account. It is worth pointing out that Paypal is the only payment gateway that also acts as a merchant account. Please note that merchant account providers charge a monthly fee for their services.
Security (SSL) Encryption using SSL (Secure Sockets layer) on HTTPS – Security is critically important when it comes to the Internet and the HTTPS protocol uses SSL technology to securely encrypt the communication between a user’s browser and the server that hosts the e-commerce website. SSL certificates come in various flavors and sizes and encryption strengths ranging from 40-bit keys to 1024 –bit keys. Some examples of SSL certificate issuing authorities are VeriSign and GeoTrust. SSL Issuing authorities may charge a one-time setup fee and annual renewal fees for their certificates.