|I recently received several emails from my readers asking how to get started selling online. My first answer is a question. Are you happy with your website? Do you need to make any changes? It is easier to make those changes before you add ecommerce to your website. However if you are happy with your website and ready to sell online, read on. |
The online selling process is made of two parts. The first part is the shopping cart program. This program runs the front-end of your online store. By "front-end" I mean the part your customer sees. When your customer clicks on a buy button, the shopping cart program keeps a running total of the items your customer wants to buy. Then at checkout, it calculates the tax, shipping, coupons, sales and all the rest prior to the last step which is the credit card authorization. Most web hosts offer a pre-installed shopping cart program as part of the hosting package which is usually adequate for small or startup businesses. Because it is pre-installed it is very easy to integrate the shopping cart program with you website. However if your website needs a more advanced or customized shopping cart program, you can install your own customized program.
The second part of the online selling process starts where the shopping cart program leaves off and is called real time credit card processing or a credit card payment gateway. This is how the customer's credit card is checked or authorized. This part of the process is not done on your website. You need to setup an account with a credit card processing company which will handle the credit card authorization for you. Your shopping cart program passes the necessary information to this company and they complete the credit card transaction. There are many credit card payment gateway companies that can process your online transactions for you. Just a few of the more known ones are TrushCommerce, VerisignR and Authorize.netTM.
There are also some companies that offer both a shopping cart and credit card processing. This sometimes makes the startup less complicated. PayPalR and IbillR are two of these better known companies.