Many new small business owners get excited about the prospect of selling online. They find a web hosting company that offers a free eCommerce shopping cart with an account, and they think that’s all they need to start selling products through the web. However, a shopping cart is only one element of the full eCommerce process.
Of course, a free online shopping cart is a great bonus for buying web space from a hosting company. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that shopping cart includes all the necessary components to be a successful online retailer. Since all transactions occur online, you need software that will handle every part of the online buying process.
Here is a basic outline of all you need to start selling and making money through online sales.
Catalogue – Your online catalogue is your website. You display your products in an easy-to-browse manner for your customers online, just as you would in a printed catalogue. You don’t need special software to do this, but there are programs available to help you list items efficiently on your website. This may be a good idea if you have a large variety and number of products.
Shopping Cart – The shopping cart is the software that allows your visitors to keep a list of items they want to purchase. The virtual shopping cart keeps track of products, and then upon checkout, the shopping cart calculates the total for the full order, including any applicable shipping and/or taxes. Shoppers are free to add or remove items from the shopping cart and review the shopping cart before final checkout.
Payment Gateway – Checking out requires a way to collect money. The shopping cart only calculates a total, but the payment gateway is what actually facilitates the money exchange. The payment gateway allows the process of credit cards via the internet.
Merchant Account – To collect money from your customers, you must have a merchant account set up with a financial institution. When money is exchanged through the payment gateway, it is handled, processed, and collected by your merchant account. There is typically a fee collected by the bank for every transaction, plus a nominal monthly user fee.
With these four components, now you are ready to tackle the profitable world of online commerce!