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Guide to E-Commerce


Beginners' Guide to E-Commerce

Setting Up: The Technology
Wondering about what you need to do to get the whole thing set up? Since every card processing company will have a somewhat different system, it's not possible to give a specific answer. The following steps are "generally" what will transpire.

1. You apply for the service. The company asks you to sign and return contracts and provide various information.

2. If monies are going to be transferred into your bank account, the company will make necessary arrangements with your bank. You will supply the card processing company with banking information.

3. Once approved with you bank, you can begin setting up your web pages. The card processing company will supply you with coding that must be incorporated into a form.

4. You design a form in HTML for each product you are selling, incorporating the company's coding that you were given. The form will also contain information such as the name of the product, the quantity being purchased and the selling price. Some card processing companies supply software that generates forms for you. If not, you will have to make your own. If you know some HTML, simple forms are not difficult to create.

5. You upload the web page containing the form to your web site. When a customer fills in the form and submits it for a purchase, the request is sent to your card processor's secure web site. There, the customer will provide confidential credit card information. When he or she clicks the final "send" button, the technology processes the sale in real time while the customer waits. The transaction will be either approved or disapproved. Both customer and
merchant will receive a message indicating the details of the sale.

6. If the sale is approved, you will then fulfil the order.

7. The card processor will likely provide you with a secure web page where you can go to edit your product list, check on sales figures, generate fund reports or process refunds.

8. According to the schedule stipulated in your sales contract, the card processor will transfer funds from sales into your bank account or otherwise pay you the money owing, minus fees and expenses.

Shopping Carts
Do you need shopping cart software? Strictly speaking, no. You can process your ecommerce transactions with nothing more than the HTML form described above. And if you have only a few products to sell and if the budget is tight, you might want to go that route and bypass the shopping cart until later. However, if you have many products and complex shipping requirements, then shopping cart software is invaluable. Good shopping cart software will collect complex information regarding shipping methods, taxation, quantities and other
concerns. Moreover, most online shoppers are accustomed to using this software.

So where do you get shopping cart software?

• If you are using a "one stop shop" service, the shopping cart software is likely to be included. More about one stops shops later.
• Your web host might offer shopping cart software as part of your ecom package, or for an additional fee.
• You can find free or low priced shopping cart scripts on the Web. Many of these free or budget scripts are difficult to install. Unless you are technically astute, or know someone who is, they might not be your best choice.
• You can purchase shopping cart software from one of the many developers that sell carts online. Prices vary considerably. You can pay anything from $100 one time fee to several hundred dollars a month rental. Shop around. You don't want to pay for features that you don't need.

Note: The shopping cart software you use must be compatible with the server that stores your web site and with the card processor's technology. To find this information you will quite possibly have to consult with the software developer, your web site administrator and the credit card processor's tech support people.




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