Ecommerce, shopping carts and payment systems
Ecommerce is a complex area where wrong decisions can be costly and difficult to fix. Take trouble to learn what you can and there are many available choices so once more a mistake is easy to make. Good practical advice based upon actual use experience is what is needed in this area. This chapter is a very basic introduction only and serves to alert you to the complexities involved.
The actual selling part of your website is a very important and the final choice will depend greatly upon what you want to achieve. It is an area where outside programming help may be a very good idea to make sure fundamental errors are not made.
This book and my experience is insufficient to give the best advice. Bear in mind what I said above do not use your host for e commerce purposes unless you are very confident of the relationship now and more important into the future. Many hosts will offer a low cost or free shopping cart.
Be aware also that South African charges for even basic e commerce sites can be a total rip-off. We have better suited packages for ecommerce entrepreneurs here. We believe that consumers who do not have the know how or time should get a service that is fairly priced and user friendly, and we can build that for you!
In summary to be able to sell on the web you need the following:
1. A shopping cart if more than a few items are being offered for sale.
2. A payment gateway a mechanism to allow credit card purchasing to be made in a secure environment ( I used to use Worldpay and it worked well for me particularly since I sell in multiple currencies i.e. my customer can choose from a list of currencies such as US $, Australian $ or Pounds Sterling). Rates can vary a great deal along with set up costs and charge back policies. Unfortunately Worldpay were forced to pull out of South Africa in January 2005 in view of the new banking regulations. This has created a big hole for us here.
3. A merchant banking account where money can be transferred to by the payment gateway company.
4. A mechanism for delivering your product/s depending upon what they are.
Before making a decision I strongly suggest you go to Dr Wilsons sites (Wilsonweb) and I recommend you buy his publications that cover in exhaustive details the pros and cons of various shopping carts and payment gateways including detailed analyses of different systems. This will be one of those good investments you will make in view of the complexity and variety as well as cost structures and benefits involved. Dont make a final mistake here having done a great job of site optimization.
If you sell only electronic downloadable goods such as e-books, products and items, or software consider WooCommerce, Shopify, or www.esellerate.net These are all full service ecommerce packages for this type of product. Ive used them all and been very happy.