Posted By Doteasy

author: Kathy

For some reason many people think everything is different when they do business on the Internet. This is one of the more common reasons why many people stay away from putting their business online. But the truth of the matter is, there is nothing scary or rocket science about it.

When you have a store, you try to setup an eye-catching store at the most desirable location you can find/afford. You want your customers to come visit your store, and when they are ready, bring their shopping basket to your friendly checkout cashier personnel.

Same concept applies when you build an online store. When you sell your products online, you want customers to come to your website, and hopefully, add products to the shopping cart. You want to make sure your checkout process is user-friendly, ensuring a happy shopping experience.

What do your need?

The basic requirements to sell online are:

  • Domain name
  • Website
  • Shopping Cart
  • Payment Processing Capability

Domain Name

When you sell online, you want customers to come to your online store. This means you will need an Internet address. I recommend a simple, easy-to-remember name, preferably one that reflects your business name or the products you are selling.

If you are just starting out and/or your current domain name has nothing to do with your online business, you might want to consider registering a new domain name.

Finding a suitable domain name may not be easy, as many names have already been taken. Remember that even though the .com extension is still the most popular, you shouldn't rule out the main extension used in your country. There are many consumers out there who are reluctant buying from a non-local vendor. Your country's extension offers them the "home sweet home" comfort.

Website

There is a reason why some stores in the mall always keep you outside. All you want to do is quickly walk past it. There is also a reason why as a merchant, you make sure your display window and shelves are dust-free and updated frequently. It’s the same on the Internet. Shoppers associate unprofessional websites with "low quality." Even if the services/products you are selling are high quality.

Things to remember when designing an eye-catching website for your online store:

  • You don't have to spend a lot of money on a well-designed website. There are a lot of do-it-yourself web design tools available, and you can also purchase pre-made templates that require minimal customizations.
  • Keep it simple and clean. A clean lay-out, one or two images with some interesting text is enough to entice visitors. Don't overload or overwhelm your visitors, don’t scare them away. More importantly, don’t drive them away because your website takes forever to load.
  • Unless your business is so well-established that consumers recognize your brand name/logo, a nice logo picture on your first page with nothing else is not good design. Let your visitors know what you are selling.

 

Next, we'll be looking at shopping carts.


 
Posted By Doteasy

author: Kathy

Doteasy eCommerce: The Shopping Cart

Think of the last time you were at your local grocery store. You pick up the shopping basket. You stroll the aisles. New product promotion, Members Only. You read the product label and you put a couple into your basket. The store clerk helps you find pancetta. You take your basket to the checkout cashier. She calculates the total, takes your money, packs your groceries, and before letting you go, gives you a "come again" with a smile.

Depending on the sophistication of your shopping cart software, it will do all these for your online store.

A shopping cart:

  • lets you build a website with interactive features, such as "buy now", "search" and "checkout"
  • remembers which products your customer wants to purchase, and helps you calculate total costs, including shipping and tax, etc.
  • helps you keep track of your inventory and generate sales reports
  • helps you create marketing strategies, such as discounts and promotions
  • helps you manage your customers and orders, including newsletters and order confirmation

A shopping cart typically consists of two components:

  1. Storefront - This is the area of your online store accessed by your visitors. This includes your product pages, categories, checkout and other pages (ie. bestseller, search)
  2. Administration - This is the area where you mange your online store. Here, you will be able to add and edit your products, categories, manage orders and customers, set discounts, shipping and payment settings, and more, depending on the sophistication of the shopping cart

Choosing the right shopping cart is very important. Here are some of the things you should look for:

  • Storefront
    • Easy to browse and navigate
    • Presents product information in a way that is clean and useful
    • A Members area where existing customers can update their information and view previous orders
    • Special pages where customers can easily find products that are on sale, featured products, recommend products, etc.

  • The Admin Area should include easy-to-use tools and functions to:
    • setup storefront appearance
    • create and manage product categories and products
    • set shipping, payment, currency, tax settings
    • manage orders and customers efficiently and effectively

 

There are many shopping cart software available, including the PayPal Cart, the Zen Cart, and the Doteasy Commerce. Whichever cart you choose depends on how well it fits your needs, your budget, and your experience with scripts and databases. Stay tuned as we will be examining a couple of the shopping cart systems later.

*Note: A common misconception is that the shopping cart handles the entire selling process, including the payment process. The shopping cart does not take care of the payment transactions.

We will look at how payment is processed in the next part.


 
Posted By Doteasy

author: Kathy

This refers to the process of obtaining the money from your customer and transferring it into your account.

Payment processing can be online or offline.

Offline payment processing is recommended for sites with minimal volume of transactions. With offline payment processing, you will be handling your payments manually: depositing a cheque or money-order sent by the client, or manually processing credit card transitions via your Point of Sales (POS) terminal.

Online payment processing is recommended for sites with high volume of transactions. With online payment processing, payment will be taken automatically via an online payment gateway and a merchant account for higher efficiency. With automation, they do not have to manually process or handle transaction payments. When a customer submits their credit card information on your website, the information is then transferred to the payment gateway. The information is then validated and funds transferred directly into your merchant account.

Questions you might have:

  1. What are merchant accounts? Do I need one?
  2. What is a payment gateway? Do I need it?

You do not need a merchant account to do business online. But if you are planning to accept credit card payments on your online store, you will need an online merchant account. You can setup an online merchant account through a Merchant Service Provider (MSP) or through your local bank.

A payment gateway is a service provider that automates the payment transaction between your customer and you. They act as the bridge between your online store and your bank.

To understand how it works (click to enlarge image):

Payment Process

You will need an online merchant account if you would like your customers to be able to pay you in a real-time environment (ie. online) with their credit cards.

If you do not want to accept orders via credit card or you want to accept credit cards but you will be manually processing the payment transactions offline, then you will not need a payment gateway nor an online merchant account.

Next, we’ll examine a few of the shopping carts support on our Doteasy hosting services: PayPal Cart, Zen Cart and Doteasy Commerce.


 
Posted By Doteasy

author: Kathy

Doteasy eCommerce: The Shopping Cart

So now comes the big question – which shopping cart should you use?

As we have mentioned in our Shopping Cart section, whichever cart you choose depends on how well it fits your needs, your budget and your experience with scripts and databases.

PayPal Shopping Cart

Free shopping cart software by PayPal. With a PayPal Cart, you don’t need a SSL certificate or scripting knowledge. PayPal provides with a store HTML link that basically directs your customers to your store on the PayPal server. All SSL and scripting functionality as well as payment processing is handled by PayPal.

Downsides of the PayPal cart include its limited features and customization capability. For example, PayPal's standard cart does not support inventory management, or direct links to USPS or UPS shipping methods.

PayPal is good for small stores that have minimal products and minimal monthly transactions.

Zen Cart

Zen Cart is a free, open-source shopping cart. By saying that, the Zen Cart script is free to use and its source codes are open for anyone to modify or customize. This allows for the improvements and further developments of the software with other programmers and designers. Unfortunately, free and open-source also means there are chances of being hacked.

Zen Cart is acclaimed for being user-friendly, with it’s easily installation and extensive FAQ and help via forums.Because you will need to upload the scripts onto your server, you will need to make sure your hosting plan offers the required scripting and database support (PHP and MySQL). You will also need a SSL certificate, a payment gateway service, and a merchant account.

For information, including the installation guide, can be found here.

Compared with the PayPal Cart, with the Zen Cart, you will be getting more features and functionality (either built-in or through add-ons that you have to install separately). But, you will need a powerful hosting package that offers scripting and database support and you will need to install the scripts.

Doteasy Commerce

While many shopping carts seem to be a little too technical for the average non-technical user, the Doteasy Commerce is easy to use. We do all the installation and configuration for you.

The Doteasy Commerce has the features that you’ll see in the open-source carts, but because it is focused on sales and marketing, you will find more marketing features, such as product recommendation, promotional codes and discounts, email newsletters and product update communication, search-engine friendly meta data and tags, etc.

The Doteasy Commerce is not an open-source shopping cart. In fact, your source codes are compiled. This acts as an extra security feature. Say, if someone taps onto your store will ill intentions, they will not be able to tamper with your shopping cart’s codes. You do, however, have access to your storefront files – allowing for advanced storefront customization.

Doteasy Commerce allows you to setup real-time shipping inquiries for UPS, FedEx, USPS and Canada Post. Supported payment gateways include Authorize.net, 2Checkout, HSBC, Moneris, and more. Of course, if you want to use the PayPal gateway, you don’t need to worry about purchasing a SSL certificate.

So, considering the same basic requirements (advanced hosting plan, SSL certificate, payment gateway and merchant account) and the same basic functionality, why choose the Doteasy Commerce and not a free open-source shopping cart?

  • Many of the free open-source shopping carts are often geared towards a business owner who is technically proficient. Because the average user may not be tech-savvy, they might not have implemented their shopping cart correctly. The shopping cart is your interface between you and your customers. You want to make sure they see the professional side of you and your business, and a poorly implemented cart will not do justice.
  • Most free carts rely on support from other users via forums. Unfortunately, uptime means sales generated, downtime means sales lost. Support is an important issue and with a pay-shopping cart, you’re guaranteed support

More information on the Doteasy Commerce, including features, demo, and how to order.


 

 

 
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