Selecting an e-commerce shopping cart is a relatively easy process, and there are options available for businesses of all sizes. The first decision is whether or not to obtain a merchant account. For more active sites this is recommended. Then, a company can choose from either running their own e-commerce server in-house, or taking advantage of a hosted option for easier and quicker deployment.
How to Select the Right eCommerce System
Running an online store requires much more than selecting some products and making a Web page. The most important part of your online business is the part that your customers don’t see until they have already decided to buy, and that is the eCommerce shopping cart. This is the tool that makes the checkout procedure easy for your customers, verifies their credit cards, and sends the money to your account on a timely basis.
Do You Need a Merchant Account?
Start-up shops and beginning online entrepreneurs wanting to get up and running in a hurry may not want to wait for a merchant account and in some cases may even encounter problems in getting approved. A merchant account is simply an account with a credit card provider that allows you to accept credit card orders, and it typically requires an up-front and monthly fee. If you also have a brick-and-mortar component to your business, you will also need to purchase or lease equipment. There is an approval process involved, and start-ups with no track record or poor credit may encounter difficulty in gaining approval from a reputable provider.
There are several service providers that can get you up and running, integrating your eCommerce shopping cart with an existing back-end service that charges by the transaction without having to obtain a merchant account. Although the fees may be higher, these sorts of services may be beneficial for those who are first starting out or wish only to undertake a “test run” of an online store before making a larger commitment. Of course, PayPal is one of the best-known services, and it is relatively easy and quick to get up and running with a PayPal account.
Beyond the Checkout
The eCommerce shopping cart’s main purpose is to allow buyers to collect items off of your web site, total the costs, and then make a payment. Beyond that, a complete eCommerce system will give you other features. A system that integrates the checkout with your inventory system allows you to track inventory in real-time, and also allows for a customer placing an order to gain reassurance that the item they desire is indeed in stock. Further integration into your accounting software will make automatic entries to reflect purchases and revenue.
From Basic to “the Works”
The largest online merchants are much more likely to create their own eCommerce shopping cart systems from scratch, since their systems are likely to be highly specialized. Doing so can be quite costly. Fortunately, this is unnecessary for smaller businesses with standard requirements. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, it is possible to take advantage of existing systems, either in the form of a ready-made eCommerce system with a built-in shopping cart, or a hosted system. The on-premise system may require some installation, but it may also offer a greater amount of customization capability and direct control. The hosted option on the other hand puts the actual eCommerce shopping cart on a secure hosted site, to which the buyer is transparently sent when they need to make their payment.