Shopping carts

shopping carts

A shopping cart is essentially a series of scripts or processes that allow the customer to select items from your website, it will track the buyer as they go from page to page keep a running total of items they select and produce a total amount ready for payment, how you accept payment will be dealt with futher down this section.

The simplest way to get a shopping cart is to place your website with a hosting company that automatically gives you their own cart but this is perhaps not advisable as payments will be subject to their fees which are usually higher than the market rates offered by other payment processors and if your unhappy with the hosting company you wont lose your shopping cart if you move to another.
Better to look at shopping carts that are not tied to your website hosting to get a better deal.

Most off the shelf shopping cart applications are supplied with an integral cms system, so you build your site through the admin panel as well as load your product inventory into its database, as with most cms the setting up can be tricky if your new to website building as some content or style changes can only be achieved by editing directly into the files. If your up for the challenge and willing to search forums for help its quite possible for the novice to learn the basics.

Payment processing

payment processing

The most common way to process payments is to use a 'payment gateway', this is a company set up to process online payment with debit and credit cards, you would need to open an account with one then set up your shopping cart to send the buyers shopping total to them, they will then process it and take payment on your behalf. There can be a small fee for setting up your account but some are free to set up but all will charge transaction fees on the sales they process for you. There is a competitive market in payment processors so you are likely to get a better deal if you shop around

Paypal offers an easy way to sell your products, on the one hand they will host the shopping cart and provide payment solutions that can easily be added to your website by copying and pasting the blocks of code they supply, on the other hand they also operate as a payment gateway to which your own shopping cart can send your cutomer orders for payment processing, because of this duel role it is perhaps a good place to start.

Note* although paypal is free to set up they charge a fixed % fee on all transactions.
Other gateways such as 'Worldpay' may charge you for setup and a yearly fee and while they also charge a % fee on credit card transactions 'Debit cards' are treated diferently and will only charge a small fee of less than £1 per Debit card transaction no matter what the value is. So it may be worth paying for the setup costs to save on the transaction charges for debit cards.

secure connections

Alternatively if you want to process payments yourself using your own merchant account you will need either an 'SSL connection 'Secure Sockets Layer or (TLS) Transport Layer Security which is basically an encrypted conversation between your shopping cart and yourself to pass the card details (This will involve an extra cost and will be available from your website host, if you expect a large sales volume this can be cheaper as a high street bank merchant account may have lower transaction charges than an online payment gateway but it will involve you manually processing the orders) or there are companies that offer secure storage of the details for you, you then log into their site and process the payments manually.

So to add to our search for a website host we can add the issue of shopping carts. are they fittings we want already in our web space, if one is included is it specific to that hosting company which means you are tied to them or is it an independent one that could move with you or would it be better to add it yourself, if we want to use a cms would it be better to use one with an integrated shopping cart.
One other issue needs to be understood, that is not all shopping carts are compatible with all payment gateways so it is advisable to check before committing to anything.


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