E-commerce is a large concept but for the most part when we talk about E-commerce we are essentially referring to E-tailing or “virtual storefronts” on a website, which usually has an online catalog and may or may not take real-time credit card payments.
We can break down the E-commerce functions for most online retail outlets into two areas; the online catalog, this is the function of maintaining the catalog products or items, their cost, description and options; and the order/payment function.
We use a number of open source solutions to provide the catalog function including but not limited to Opencart, OsCommerce, Zen Cart, Magento Commerce, VirtueMart, Seber Cart, Shopper Press, and many more. As you can see there are a lot of online shopping cart solutions capable of doing the job.
One thing that is common to all of them is an administrative area where you as the store owner manage the catalog contents, pricing, images, decriptions, product options (colour, size, weight variations etc), specials, categories (catalog groups) etc. Because of the large choice of software available to you we would start by trying to gauge your needs, experience, complexity of your retail requirements eg shipping options; do you only require a unit based flat rate table or will you require multi-source, multi-destination shipping costs on a per item basis. Once we fully understand your retail system needs we would then be in a position to recommend the online solution that best fits you.
The second decision all new online retailers are given is do I implement an ordering system or do I want to take real-time payments. As with the Catalog Solution choice the payment system is full of options and potential pit falls, we will discuss all of the options available to you from a simple email ordering system (without credit card information being disclosed to the world in the email) through to the other end of the scale of fully secured hosted or non-hosted payment system backended to the bank of your choice.
Having said that there are essentially 3 options that most retailers are faced with;
You may only require an email order system with the contact details of the purchaser, you would then make contact with the purchaser and transact payment in whatever off-line preferred method you choose to use. We have had customers in the past wanting to use this method of ordering combined with taking the credit card details of the customer via the online shop and storing the CC details in the shop database, we strongly discourage this method but if the client insists on this method we will point out the dangers of doing so and insist on them signing a waiver to relieve us of any responsibility from credit card theft or fraud.
The next step up from a simple email ordering system is the use of a third party payment gateway system like PayPal. We will explain the costs of doing business using this model and will assist you in setting up an account and payment page etc. We have had customers in the past who are already very familiar with transacting in this model and prefer to stay with it and we are only too happy to work with whichever third party system they choose.
When we talk about a hosted or non-hosted system we are usually referring to a system where you the client prefer to have a system where the transaction is into your bank account using a payment gateway such a DPS. Under this model you will go through a process with your bank to become a certified e-Merchant, we will assist you through this process as your bank will need to satisfy themselves that all appropriate security features and measures are in place for you to be a “good online retailer”.
There are fees associated with this model and we will outline those to you, we will also ensure you understand the payment fee structure so that you can choose the fee model that suits you best. Most retailers new to this model will opt for a flat fee structure to begin with but may switch to another fee model as the online business grows.
The difference between a hosted and a non-hosted system is essentially whether you choose to have the final payment page residing on your website or have the payment page hosted on the gateway providers website. We will recommend you opt for the non-hosted option as this is, in our opinion, a much safer option – no credit card information is retained by us/you under the non-hosted option and you will not require to have an SSL certificate installed into your website as that will be handled by the payment gateway provider. If you are feeling a little confused after reading that don’t worry we will ensure you do understand it when we discuss your choices with you.
There are a few more options available to you but most retailers moving to an online retail model will settle on one of those three, when we come to discuss your needs and get to know you and how you work the solution that best fits you will become obvious, and we will ensure you know everything you need to know – and understand it – before you make those decisions.
So if have some questions about the next step in selling online, give us a call, we are happy to help and even if its just to answer your questions!