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.   (49)Choosing an Ecommerce Shopping Cart

Choosing an online shopping cart is a big decision. Unlike a traditional brick and mortar business, your website is your only chance to impress potential customers. It needs to project a professional image to capture the trust of your visitors. The shopping cart is a particularly important part of your website because it deals with people’s personal information and credit card numbers. People are nervous about online purchases and need to be assured that they are giving their credit card numbers to a reputable company.
 

There are several types of ecommerce shopping carts available. They range from merchant services, which require no programming skills, to fully integrated shopping carts that require custom programming. The three main categories of shopping carts are:
 

  • Merchant services such as eBay and 2Checkout
     
  • Hosted shopping cart services
     
  • Fully integrated shopping carts
     

Merchant Services
 

Most shopping carts require you to have your own merchant account and gateway. A merchant account is a bank account that allows a business to conduct credit card transactions and the gateway allows the transaction to be conducted over a secure connection. It’s okay if you don’t have a merchant account or gateway. Merchant service shopping carts allow you to use their merchant account, gateway and shopping cart for a higher cost.
 

Merchant services are beneficial for very small businesses or those that are just starting and don’t have a lot of orders. Merchant services provide the merchant account, gateway, hosted shopping cart and will maintain your customer’s personal information. They usually require a set-up fee between 50 and 200 dollars, transaction fee between 30 and 75 cents, and 5% to 10% of each transaction. Because you are using their merchant account, your customer’s credit card statement will show the merchant services business name not yours. In some cases, customers will not recognize the charge and may dispute it.
 

Merchant service shopping carts have an administrative interface, which allows you to login to your account to add products, prices and shipping options. The shopping cart generates the html for the purchase buttons and you simply copy and paste the html into your web pages. When your customer clicks on the purchase button, he is taken to another website to enter the credit card information. This indicates to the customer that you are a small business. Some potential customers will abandon the shopping cart rather than enter their credit card information on a website they know nothing about.
 

Once your business grows to the point where you are processing over $1000 a month, it’s more cost effective to apply for your own merchant account and switch to either a hosted shopping cart (little or no programming) or a fully integrated shopping cart (programming required).
 

Hosted Shopping Cart
 

The hosted shopping cart is a great solution for a small business that is processing over $1000 a month but does not have the resources to create or customize a fully integrated shopping cart. Hosted shopping carts are similar to the merchant services because they provide an administrative interface for you to enter products, pricing and shipping options. They will generate the html for the purchase buttons, which can be copied and pasted into your html pages.
 

Hosted shopping carts face some of same problems as merchant service carts because your customers will be transferred to a different website to enter the credit card information. Some hosted shopping carts allow you to customize the shopping cart so that it has the same look and feel as your websites. Customizing your shopping cart may require some programming skills, but it could also prevent customers from abandoning their shopping carts.
 

The main difference between the merchant services shopping cart and the hosted shopping cart is the name that appears on the customer’s credit card and pricing. Hosted shopping carts allow you to use your own merchant account and gateway, which means the customer’s credit card statement will show your business name next to the charge. This can decrease your charge backs.
 

If you are using your own merchant account and conducting over $1000 of transitions each month, the hosted shopping carts can be less expensive than merchant services. Your merchant account will probably charge a monthly fee between 20 and 60 dollars, transaction fee between 10 and 50 cents, and a percentage of the transaction, usually ranging between 2% to 3.5%. In addition to the merchant fees, your shopping cart service will also charge a monthly fee between 10 and 30 dollars and could charge a transaction fee. These fees sound more expensive than the merchant service option, but if you are processing over $1000 a month and growing, it’s better to pay flat monthly fees than continue to be charged 5 to 10 percent of the each transaction.
 

Fully Integrated Shopping Carts
 

The fully integrated shopping cart is a great option for any business that can afford it. The shopping cart will be dynamic and will have the same look and feel as your website. The ZIP Baby Potty Training Store is a great example of a fully integrated shopping cart. Fully integrated shopping carts like this contain features that are not found in merchant service or hosted shopping carts. For example, you can discount items, display customer reviews, assign products to multiple categories, display out of stock notifications, sort products and prices, and display shipping estimates without requiring the customer to create an account.
 

Integrated shopping carts require advanced programming skills and can often be used with your own merchant account or with a service that allows you to use their merchant account for a higher fee. There are many integrated shopping carts available. Free carts require the most programming skills, but if you don’t have the programming skills necessary to customize a free shopping cart, there are many companies that specialize in customizing fully integrated shopping carts.
 

Your choice of a shopping cart can have a dramatic impact on your business. Your website is the first and only impression you get to make so you’ll want to make it as professional as possible. While shopping for a shopping cart system, put yourself in your target customer’s shoes and browse the Internet. Review your competitor’s websites as well as those outside your industry. Make a list of shopping carts that you find appealing and research them thoroughly before choosing one.
 

Copyright 2009 Danna Henderson. All Rights Reserved.
Danna Henderson started ZIP Baby in order to provide parents with comprehensive potty training information and a large selection of potty training products. For more information visit the ZIP Baby Potty Training Store .

Written by: Danna Henderson


(50)Choosing the Right Online Shopping Cart

 

Are you a website owner or a web designer/developer?  If either applies, I would venture to say that eventually you'll need an online shopping cart for one of your websites. In fact, almost all new websites today need some sort of ecommerce built-in, for the purpose of selling goods and services in the online marketplace.

The greatest challenge is to find the perfect ecommerce shopping cart solution for yourself and/or your client. This task can be very overwhelming, considering, if you type 'shopping cart' into Google.com, this search alone returns over 14.4 million hits! Most of us don't have the time to sift through more than a few pages of a search engine to find what we're looking for.

For the last 3 months, much of my time has been devoted to researching as much shopping cart technology as I could get my hands on. In general, shopping cart software ranges in price from free to over $2009 for a single license and web hosted carts range from $5 to hundreds of dollars per month.  The studied carts cover the spectrum of all web programming languages (ASP, ASP.NET, Cold Fusion, Flash, Java, JavaScript & Perl shopping carts) and provide limitless features as a whole. The problem is that locating YOUR perfect cart with YOUR specific features can be a big task.

But no fear, just follow this guaranteed step-by-step guide to locate it:

The Top 10 Steps to Finding the Best Online Shopping Cart

Cost

How much money do you have to spend on an internet shopping cart? The nice advantage is that there are shopping carts with hundreds of features and they don't cost you a dime.  They are generally open source products.  The only problem is that these same "free shopping carts" can take hours of installation time and be fairly difficult to configure. For a monthly fee, web hosting shopping carts are made for users with little programming experience and allows them to have an online storefront presence in no time.

Hosting vs. Software

There are two options in selecting your overall shopping cart solution. Either you get shopping cart software, download it, install it on your web server, then configure the shopping cart OR you get an online storefront (aka a hosted shopping cart) where the configuration is very basic and the required setup time is minimal. If you have some programming skills, I recommend buying a script and installing it on your own. The nice thing is that you pay a one-time fee for shopping cart software and the license is good for a lifetime. It's approximately the same price to have a hosted solution for a year compared to most one time shopping cart license fees.

Supported Gateways

What do I mean by gateways?  Gateways give shopping carts the ability to connect and securely process credit card orders in real-time.  Not all shopping carts are created equal. Make sure that your client's merchant account is supported by the cart you select. I have found that almost all carts support the larger online payment processing companies, such as Authorize.net, PayPal and Verisign.

Shipping Options

Will you be shipping physical products? If so, there are shopping carts that have built-in real-time shipping options through DHL, UPS And USPS. Often times, the cart gives the user the ability to view tracking orders and order status all from within your secure shopping cart web interface.  Also, there are shopping carts with options to ship digital goods as well (files, programs, pictures, music and others).

Technical Support

What kind of technical support does your shopping cart offer? If you choose to purchase a script, be sure to also subscribe to the shopping cart creator's newsletter, so that you can stay on top of future updates to the software. Be aware that technical support is generally available on a pay-per-incident basis, as a yearly fee or in the rare case, free. Be sure to know what kind of customer support guarantee the shopping cart comes with.

Security

Please, only buy a shopping cart if it supports SSL (secure socket layer), with 128-bit encryption. As an online storefront, remember that you are responsible for the safe transfer of sensitive information (credit card and bank account information) that is processed through your store. If any of the sensitive information is accessible (stolen) from your website, you could be liable. Be sure that you're purchasing a secure shopping cart solution.  Ask the creator's of the shopping cart what they do specifically to protect the secure transfer of sensitive information.

Style Compatibility

Can you customize your shopping cart to look like your website?  There needs to be a seamless transition between your website and your shopping storefront or your customers might get hesitant in purchasing your products.  There should be similar colors and style layout to look professional and believable.

Extra Features

I just wanted to mention some of the other features that I have discovered, which might be a critical point in determining the shopping cart you want.

Affiliate Program - Offer your own customized affiliate program through your shopping cart software. Quickbooks Integration - Many carts allow direct integration with Quickbooks.

Newsletter & Mailing Letter Managers - The ability to stay in touch with your current customers and keep them returning to your online store.

Custom Taxing Options - Create taxable or tax-free products and have the ability to add various global tax options at checkout.

World Languages & Currencies - Shopping cart language translation and support for world currency might be a necessary feature for your cart.

Error Free

You mean shopping carts can have errors?  Of course. A private UK-based web testing firm found the following, after studying a large group of UK online shopping carts for a period of one month (24/7):"The majority of UK web sites are guilty of leaving e-consumers stranded at the checkout empty handed, once they have already spent valuable time browsing and selecting goods to purchase. This is due to erratic functionality within shopping carts, at a critical step in the online purchasing process."

"E-consumers are prevented from making purchases on UK web sites for 9 hours and 30 minutes a month on average, (115 hours a year)." "80 per cent of web sites perform inconsistently with widely varying response times, timeouts and errors - leaving consumers at best wondering what to do next and at worst unable to complete their purchase successfully. This is potentially costing e-retailers millions in lost sales from consumer frustrations." (http://www.scivisum.co.uk/report/ecommerce/)

Be sure to see what other users are saying about a shopping cart that you might be interested in purchasing.  Any shopping cart errors could cost you thousands of dollars in sales.  Get a stable and secure cart.

Shopping Cart Directory

The following is a link containing a directory of shopping carts that are categorized according to each of the above-stated steps. Make shopping for shopping carts a breeze!

Shopping Cart Directory

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact the author.

Evan Stevens (http://www.evanstevens.com) is a professional web developer. This article reviews ecommerce online shopping carts.

Written by: Evan Stevens


(51)Christmas Gifts - Making Your Shopping Easier

Buying Christmas gifts can either be a pleasure or a pain and the deciding factor is often centred upon whether you know what to buy for your recipient, or whether you are simply wandering aimlessly in search of inspiration.

So to avoid the pain, a little prior gift planning can pay dividends and can really help to reduce some of the seasonal stress you have to cope with.

It always helps to start your Christmas shopping preparations by writing a list of those you need to buy gifts for. It focuses the mind and can also assist with budgeting, as once you know how many recipients you have, you can allocate your funds accordingly. At this point, you will have a better idea of the type of presents you should be seeking too, as you will have a price range for each gift on your list. It's not mercenary to think like this, it is a sensible and practical measure, as the joy of Christmas can make even the most budget conscious person lose control of their finances during the festive season.

Once you know how much you can afford to spend on presents, don't set off to buy them until you have a few ideas for each gift recipient. Even if you plan to do your shopping offline, make use of the Internet to browse through Christmas gift sites to get an idea of what is available and what the prices are. If you are comfortable with shopping on-line, it can save you a lot of time whilst opening up a whole world of gifts that you may not have previously considered. To reduce postage costs, check out presents for your entire recipient list before you place orders as you may find that several presents can be ordered from the same company.

To decide what gifts to buy, have a good think about each recipient and what you know about their personality. The key to buying gifts that people love is to buy something that they will appreciate, rather than something you like yourself!

Start with those you know well, as you will come up with ideas more easily and this may spark ideas for those recipients you find it harder to buy gifts for. Unless you know someone very well, avoid gifts for the home, as personal tastes can vary wildly in this area. A luxury treat or 'occasion' present can be an excellent choice though, as they don't require the recipient to keep them on display for months afterwards to avoid hurting your feelings. For instance, if you know someone likes to cook, a gift basket of exotic spices and cooking oils will probably be well received and your recipient needn't be a chocoholic to appreciate beautiful handmade Belgian chocolates or a chocolate club tasting box, so these make excellent choices.

Despite our electronic awareness, traditional favourites such as board games can still bring great pleasure when received as a gift and chosen with care, are very suitable presents for friends and relatives. They are also ideal to give as a shared gift for a couple or a family.

One of the latest trends in gift buying is the 'experience' or 'adventure' gift. These can be superb choices if you really are stuck for a gift item as they come in a vast range of prices. For instance, a ten pin bowling session for two is very modestly priced, making it suitable if you have a limited budget, whilst an exciting driving adventure or a luxury spa day will be more appropriate if you have more funds. The beauty of such gifts is that they last long after Christmas, so recipients have something to look forward to long after the wrapping has been discarded.

If you know what someone really wants for Christmas but you simply can't afford it, don't be tempted to buy an inferior quality or similar product. The chances are that despite your good intentions, it won't be used and your money will have been wasted. It is far better in such circumstances to buy something completely different, which is within your budget providing you have applied the principles above to try and select a gift that they will love to receive.

As a final bit of planning, if there is a chance that you might be invited to visit friends over Christmas that you haven't seen for a while, consider buying one or two small token gift items such as books, wine or tree decorations. Have them ready wrapped with a blank gift tag ready and you will always have a little gift ready for someone if you need it unexpectedly.

About the author:

Copyright Alison Thompson 2009. Alison writes for The Christmas Site http://thechristmassite.co.uk which provides ideas, information and inspiration for Christmas gifts, food and entertainment.

You may use this article on your website only if the author's resource box is included in full.

Written by: Alison Thompson


:(52)Christmas Holiday Shopping Online: 5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Online Shopping Experience.

Christmas Holiday Shopping Online: 5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Online Shopping Experience

Christmas is just around the corner and many people are turning to the internet for their Christmas Holiday Shopping to save time, money, gas, and avoid the crowds. Can a good deal really be found online? Is it safe to purchase online? Where are the best places to shop online? Keep reading for some tips to make your holiday shopping online a little easier.

Great deals on the net

Can a good deal be found online? Most definitely yes! Most large retailers have an online store and many run internet only specials, that translates into savings for you. Many stores are only found online as the cost to run an online store is less expensive than a brick and mortar store. Since these stores don't have the high overhead they can provide some great deals that will only be found online. Price isn't the only factor to consider when shopping for an item though. When searching for that special gift you will have a greater selection online and you won't have to travel or beat the crowds. Instead of the local mall you can shop the world, all from the comfort of your own home. You are bound to find unique gifts online!

Shopping online is not only convenient it is safe when you follow a few simple rules.

5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Doing Your Christmas Holiday Shopping Online

1). Comparison shopping is a must, just like in regular stores. Don't just think you are getting a good deal - know you are!

2). Know the shipping and handling costs before you make your purchase. Some stores may offer a great price only to make up for it with the shipping and handling charges. On the other hand, many stores offer free shipping!

3). Make sure the online store is reputable. Do they have a return policy and a privacy statement that you can live with? Do they offer secure purchases? You should only make online purchases through a site that offers secure purchases. Most sites that offer secure purchases will display it. For those that do not, look for the http: in the address bar to change to https: on the store's shopping cart or the page where you put in your credit card number.

4). Make sure the online store includes complete contact information, including a phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address.

5). It's best to make your online purchases with a credit card. A credit card offers you an extra level of protection in case something goes awry and the online store is not handling the situation to your satisfaction. Most credit card companies will reverse a charge if you dispute it for good reason and have tried to resolve the problem to no avail.

Holiday shopping can be stressful but by doing your Christmas holiday shopping online you can have an easier time of it. The World Wide Web offers many benefits to online Christmas shoppers such as, no lines, great deals and the widest variety of products. Go ahead, give it a try you may just be pleasantly surprised at how stress free your holiday shopping can be.

Unique gifts online are easy to find at Mary Lus Unique Gifts Online Stop by, you will find a wide variety of gifts including gifts with Bling, gifts for Red Hat Ladies, gifts for the home, ornaments, plus much more. Visit us now and see how you can get free shipping too!

About the author:

MaryAnn is one of the site owners to http://www.marylusuniquegiftsonline.com . Her goal is to bring a wide variety of unique gifts online to her visitors. Visit today to see how you can get free shipping.

Written by: MaryAnnFarnsworth


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