Category Archives: Money & Finance
UK shoppers spent £91 billion online in 2013 and that figure is forecast to grow a further 17% this year, according to the industry association for online retail Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).
The big beneficiaries have been dedicated e-commerce sites like Amazon and stores with established online services like Tesco and Argos. Any small business can get a bite of the cherry however.
Most businesses these days have a company website but in order to conduct sales and accept payments online you will have to take certain steps to ensure the security of both yourself and your customers.
Internet merchant account
The first thing you should do is obtain an internet merchant account (IMA), which can be used to receive funds for goods or serviced purchased over the net. Many banks offer internet merchant accounts and you can apply for one even if you are not an existing customer.
If you can already take card payments via a physical PDQ machine you will have a merchant account but will still need a separate internet merchant account.
You can also use a third-party merchant account provider. These essentially act as a go-between, sending your customers’ transactions to the bank to be processed.
Make your server secure
You will also need to set up a secure server. This uses encryption designed to prevent cybercriminals from intercepting confidential information. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology such as Apache SSL provides that essential security for online communications. Once you have obtained an SSL certificate your data will be secured and SSL with an Extended Validation (EV) certificate can also help verify your security status and engender trust with your customers.
An SSL certificate with EV will turn the address bar green in high-security browsers and display your verified organisation name, making it easy for users to trust your site.
Install shopping systems
Your customers will need a simple and self-explanatory system to actually make their purchases. This usually takes the form of a catalogue of products and an online ‘basket’.
Customers add the things they want to buy to this virtual basket. When they have finished they proceed to ‘checkout’ and can enter their payment information via your newly secured server.
According to some of the latest reports rolling in from the IRS and business sites like Business Tech and Business Insider, small business owners and eCommerce store owners in the United States have spent more than an average of 150 hours preparing their taxes. While most of these tax preparation procedures cannot be avoided, some of them can be minimized through proper procedures and preventive actions. 2013 is already turning out to be a tough year financially for many stores, both online and off. But it may be time to get a financial software program that you don’t have to spend so much time on your taxes next year.
Do You Really Need a Financial Software Program?
Some people may ask whether or not they even need to get a financial software program. After all, they’ve done just fine so far with their pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet. However, if you have any hopes of growing your business or in making it larger than a bedroom-based online store, you’ll need at some point to invest at least a basic financial software program.
Financial software programs help you to track your expenses, your invoices, and everything else that you will need for your taxes and keep your business solvent. While you can buy software packages that are more specific to your industry, the point is that you need one. Whether you specialize in professional website design or sell designer shoes from your eCommerce store, you have to make sure that you are keeping track of all of your expenses, earnings, taxes, and everything else.
Why Can’t The Receipts and Confirmations Serve as a Base?
A very dangerous tactic that is unfortunately quite common is to assume that since you are an eCommerce store, all of your receipts and sales confirmations will serve as the basis of your financial program. This is dangerous. It is also a recipe for a harried and frantic tax season. Aside from the fact that you have to go through every single one of these receipts and pray that you didn’t miss one, this does not give you a good overview of whether you are actually solvent.
Having a financial program to assist you with this process does not have to dominate your life. In fact, it will make things easier. While QuickBooks and Quicken are two of the most popular software for this purpose, you can choose from any number of other more affordable options. Just make sure that it has a clear accounting system as well as locations for your budget, targets, projections, and financial planning tools. You can make do with something very basic.
The Secret to Reducing Tax Time Stress
One of the biggest secrets to reducing the stress tax time is to make sure that you are on top of all the financial issues throughout the year. Take the time to record each sale and transaction that you have it on your books and can keep track of things as they occur. Not only will this help you to be more prepared for tax season, but it will also help you to catch any mistakes and problems that may otherwise developing your finances.