A variety of ways exist to engage in eCommerce, selling products online. One of the most used is selling products online with shopping cart integration. How does it work? Here are the basics.
What Is eCommerce?
eCommerce is an abbreviation for electronic commerce. It is the digital version of a storefront allowing the sale of goods and services to be transacted without money, checks, mail, or POS terminals. As an extension of retailers, online merchants are called etailers. While some merchants, like Amazon.com, operate exclusively online, others, like Barnes & Noble, have both a brick-and-mortar presence and a website.
There are a variety of ways to carry out eCommerce. One method is partnering with a sale-oriented site that provides subdomains to merchants. I this case, they take care of the website management and the payment system (for a fee), and the merchant delivers the goods or services. Many merchants, however, prefer not to be someone else’s subdomain, but have their own site and use shopping cart integration to conduct their eCommerce.
What Is Shopping Cart Integration?
Shopping cart integration is a way of selling products online that uses the image of a shopping cart to help customers translate their storefront experience to the web environment. There are many shopping carts to choose from, some with a default set-up and little room for customization, others with fuller features allow for customization, import of catalog, multiple images for each product, a built-in customizable search to help customers find what they’re looking for, and features such as “you might also like” recommendations. Some web hosts offer specific “shopping cart” hosting packages, but you can also add a shopping cart to a prebuilt website or use shopping carts supplied as add-ons to web building content management systems like WordPress.
When choosing a shopping cart, make sure it will integrate with the rest of your site properly, that it has the flexibility that you need, including customization capability, and that it is made for the number of products that you expect to be selling in the future. You don’t want to have to redo your shopping cart because you run out of room or have to pay an additional fee for more products. Also, check if the shopping cart will integrate with your shipping provider and/or your distributor.
In order for a shopping cart to work, the merchant must identify each product for the system, provide a name, description, pricing, images, and—if applicable—enter the alternatives available (for example color, length, size, and other variables). The shopping cart may allow placing products in a single category or multiple categories. So, for example, a pack of tennis balls could be listed under “sports equipment” for use in the game and under “pet supplies” for dog owners to use with their pets.
When all products are entered. it is important to test the site to make sure it works as designed. This is how things should work:
1. You should be able to create a customer account and enter your credit card information (which should be stored in a PCI-compliant manner), billing and shipping address, and contact information.
2. You should be able to search for merchandise and easily find what you’re looking for. Try a variety of products to make sure. The descriptions and images should be as you created them and well styled with no strange characters.
3. You should be able to initiate a shopping cart by selecting a product to add to your cart. You should be required to make the necessary selections that specify which item should be shipped (e.g., color, size, style, number, etc.)
4. Once you have added at least one item, you should be able to view contents of cart at any time by clicking a button and return to shopping or go to checkout when done.
5. Once you have added at least one item, you should be able to change the contents of cart from the cart page, either increasing the number of items or deleting the item from your cart.
6. If your shopping cart allows viewing of related products on product pages, appropriate products should be showing.
7. If your shopping cart allows for saving products to a wish list, this should function properly.
8. You should be able to purchase an item, entering your (current) credit card information. The shopping cart program should add appropriate shipping and handling choices, after allowing you to select any options that are available, and compute tax, if it is a taxable sale.
9. When you submit your order, the appropriate notifications should be supplied to the proper parties, so that your item is delivered in the proper timeframe.
10. Any specialized customizations or add-ons should be functioning as expected.
When you have completed these steps, your site should be ready for use.