- Choosing a Shopping Cart
There are some great packages on the web for shopping carts such as VirtueMart, osCommerce and Squirrelcart. You can also get a shopping cart through Paypal, Google or Yahoo.com. Some of these shopping carts may fit your needs well. But, we have found that all of these shopping carts are built around the idea that ‘one size fits all.’ In addition, once you get all your products into the cart, its processes may not fit your needs. It may not be user friendly by not allowing a customer to choose certain options you want to offer.
Basically, there are three types of carts:
1. Template shopping cart – These carts stays forever on the parent site of Google, Yahoo and Paypal, all large companies. Although they are likely to work, they may not function the way you want them to. If you think you can get changes made, good luck getting hold of customer support. And, if you do, good luck getting your change made.
2. Packaged shopping cart – These carts are not developed by your website developer. Other developers make them and offer them for sale. If your website developer has a good understanding of the cart and is willing and able to make changes and upgrades, packaged shopping carts can work. Unfortunately, we often discover that the packaged shopping cart process does not always match the company. Then, when things go wrong, the developer is nowhere to be found. If the server does an upgrade, it can affect the code and break the shopping cart. Your developer must be there and know how to fix it. I have seen shopping carts work fine for a couple of years, and then after an upgrade, they break. Fixing them often requires in depth knowledge specific to the shopping cart. Again, the developer of the shopping cart is not the person who developed your website, so fixing it is a difficult, sometimes impossible task.
3. Custom shopping carts – Custom carts are created from scratch by a developer just for your company. At transNETMedia, we create custom shopping carts, but today developers take the easy way out and use a package. And, unless you maintain a long relationship with your developer, custom carts can create the same problems as packaged carts. If your website developer created it, he can easily fix it. Keeping long relationships with your developer is as important as maintaining a long relationship with your accountant or bookkeeper.
Your shopping cart is important and the more you use it, the more important it becomes to your business.
- Shopping Cart Considerations
When considering a shopping cart for your website, remember that not all shopping carts are equal. Do not let your need for one force you to choose a shopping cart that doesn’t work well for you. A shopping cart needs to have features that work best for you and your products. With the correct, carefully considered features, a shopping cart will work more effectively for you and provide a user-friendly experience to your customers.
Before choosing a shopping cart, consider the following items:
• Shipping: Make your shipping costs an easy add on. You could charge one flat price for the entire purchase or charge one price for each item. Or, you can also charge a percentage of the whole purchase. For overseas shipping, you can add an additional charge or decide not to ship overseas.
• Sales tax: You need to add a sales tax for your state of residency and other states requiring it.
• Pricing: Do you want to manage your products and pricing, or do you want your web master to do it?
• Do you want a long description of the product? (
• Do you want a close up image of the product?
• Does your product come in different styles, colors and sizes?
• How many items are you selling?
• Do you want your customers to buy items for gifts? If you do, should you give a choice of gift-wrap?
• Do you need a place for a gift-card message?
• Do you need a shipping address as well as a billing address from customers?
• Do you have item numbers on your products?
• Do you want to keep track of your customers and their purchases? If so, you will need a login.
• Do you want to offer specials?
• Do you want your website to keep track of your inventory?
• Are you selling files that need to be downloaded? If so, can the cart open the files with having to email them?
As the merchant, you need to answer all of these questions so you can better evaluate the available carts or perhaps consider the possibility of using a custom cart. This process will help you make a better decision. Before accepting any shopping cart, do a test buy. Make sure it works the way it should and that the user is aware of the price and totals at all time during the buying process. Your buyer should clearly understand what they are getting and what they are paying. If you have any other concerns, then the ones mentioned, please contact us.
- Simply Automated Money Maker: SAM
All website owners want their websites to accept money easily and effortlessly. Even non-profits want their online donations to be processed smoothly. In the Presidential campaign, Obama’s online contributions created a formidable fund. His site made donating small amounts easy and safe. But, online purchasing and donating can be risky, and as more and more companies sell online, the consumer needs to exercise caution when submitting credit card information.
Personally, I resent it when a company insists on holding onto my credit card number. Recently, an online company let me choose whether or not I wanted to register on their site and leave my information in their records. I appreciated the opportunity to choice and did not register. While checking out, I noticed I was eligible for free shipping; however, my order first had to be paid for and confirmed before I would receive the free shipping instructions. Reluctantly, I chose free shipping and then received the confirmation email. Guess what? In order to be eligible for cost-free shipping, I had to register and store my credit card in their database. I refused the shipping offer and paid for the expensive shipping cost.
At transNETMedia®LLC, we never let our clients keep customers’ credit card numbers in their databases. It is too risky. Experienced, professional companies specialize in securing credit card numbers, and we let them take the risk, not our clients. As a merchant, you can collect names, addresses and phone numbers. You can even track all of the items your customers buy from your website without taking their credit card numbers. By using authorized companies like Authorize.Net, PayPal and VeriSign, we protect you and ourselves. If we set up your site to store credit card numbers and your customers’ numbers were stolen, we would also be liable for the loss.
How It Works:
When customers buy on your site, you can still keep track of their purchases by having them register. But, they do not put in their credit card information. As soon as they have completed their shopping, the purchase information is sent to a third party site like Authorize.Net. Authorize.Net takes their credit card and immediately processes the purchase. If the credit card is accepted, the purchase is permitted and you and customer receive a message noting payment approval. The amount of the purchase dictates the length of time before money is deposited into the your account. This method of online purchasing is safe; in fact, it is safer than using your credit card in a ‘real’ store!
- Shopping Carts and Strategy
Having a shopping cart doesn’t guarantee that someone will come to your site and make a purchase. For all of the Internet’s success stories, there are far more stories of failure. After building a shopping cart and determining that it is functional, user friendly and compatible with your company’s needs, it is time to make sales.
If a website’s primary purpose is to sell products, getting free hits is very difficult. However, if the website is filled with information that supports the products, this strategy can start to increase ranking in the search engines, especially if a good keyword strategy is being used.
Aside from the free hits, merchants often use pay-per-click made popular by Google and Yahoo. With a monthly marketing budge, a company will bid on keywords. For more information on how this works, go to Google Business Solutions or Yahoo Small Business. The trick is to pick the right keywords and choose the correct bid. Some products have obvious keywords; other products are more difficult to choose keywords for. This dilemma applies to your strategy when you are looking for free hits. If you are selling health products, the keywords health products won’t get you many hits. Choosing one product and finding a keyword for it can be more effective. For instance, using Vitamin C as a keyword will bring visitors to your site looking for Vitamin C. But, if your site is well done, once your visitors are there, you can introduce them to your other products.
The Internet makes shopping for the lowest price very easy for consumers. If the merchant doesn’t want to sell on price alone, then he/she needs to focus on creating a great site that makes the visitor a buyer. Getting a lot of hits to a website doesn’t guarantee sales. Remember that the convenience of Internet shopping is that a visitor is just a click away from leaving. Visitors don’t have to get in their cars and drive to another store.
The strategy of a shopping cart involves:
1. Getting hits by using the search engines and other media – TV, radio and print.
2. Convincing your user to buy from your site.
3. Making the user feel safe enough to buy.
4. Giving the users good shopping experiences so that will return.