"How do I add a shopping cart to my website" is a frequently asked question from WebStudio owners. How to actually add a cart is important, but not as important as knowing what to add. That may seem like a strange statement, but knowing what shopping cart you'll need and what pieces you have to have is a bigger question that the mechanics of adding the cart to a site. This article gives you an overview of what's involved with what to add.
Shopping Carts and Credit Card purchasing are not a function of the software, it is a function of your hosting company, a credit card gateway, and a bank.
First, the shopping cart software is provided by 3rd party companies. Some that are used by WebStudio customers include PayPal and EasyCart. There are a bunch of others. What happens is the shopping cart company provides you with graphics and HTML. You add that to your WebStudio pages. You don't have to know the HTML, just add what they give you to WebStudio. In some cases you'll have to modify the HTML but you won't have to understand what it means or does. An example would be to add the names of your products, prices, sku numbers, etc. But that is easy.
Secondly the cart software is the software that provides sales incentives features such as sales, cross product promotions, gift certificates, coupon redemptions, etc. So you'll want to make sure the service you purchase has those features, if you want them.
Shopping Cart Components
The first component of an e-commerce site is the product catalog. These are the pages that contain pictures or lists of your product. They also contain descriptions of your products, price, product sku number, etc.
Next is the page typically called the Shopping Cart. This page displays the items the customer has placed in their cart as well as individual and total prices.
You'll have to know who your customer is. That is the function of the registration page, or customer info page. This is where the customer enters their name, address, and other contact info.
If you are going to ship product, you'll have some place where the customer enters their shipping address and the shipping method they want.
Next is the payment page. This page asks for the person's credit card number, type and expiration date. Some carts with good fraud protection features also ask for the billing address. This is the address that is found on the credit card's billing statement. It is a good idea to have this type of protection with internet commerce!
Finally, there is the order confirmation page. This is where the customer finds out if the transaction was approved by their credit card company, gets further instructions, receives receipt numbers, etc.
Note that each of these pages may actually be incorporated into other pages. For example the Shipping and Billing addresses may be on the same page. Or, everything could be on the same page. The thing to remember is that these components are those necessary to do e-commerce on your site.
What Else is Required?
Credit cards: There are a few pieces to to this. First, you need a merchant account at your bank. This is a business checking account that accepts the funds from the credit card transactions. And, the merchant account must be capable of handling real-time-internet transactions, not just transactions from a card swiping machine.
Next, you need a credit card gateway. This connects your ordering software to the credit card company's computer and then back to your bank.
Next is the secure server for the pages that gather the information for the order; name, address, credit card #, as discussed above. The secure server encrypts the information so no one can steal it when it is transmitted over the net. You do not want to have any customer information entered on non-secure pages!
Some hosting companies offer shopping carts for their customers. Some Shopping Cart companies host it themselves and your site just links to it from your hosting service. An alternative, a difficult alternative, is for you to host it yourself. But you'll need to have your own hosting company to do it! Any of these work fine. The cart company's website would have a "control panel" that allows you to add product to the catalog, set shipping info, tax info, etc. These carts would then create the pages of your catalog for you. Other carts make you do that by modifying HTML on your pages, you create the catalog's pages. The first way lets you do it easier, the second lets you have more control over how it all looks.
Some banks and gateway company's have an all in one approach to the credit card gateway, merchant account and secure pages. You order their service and they give you secure pages on their site that a customer is sent to when they click Buy on your site. It gets the appropriate info from the customer, then sends it thru the gateway to the credit card company for approval. If it is approved, the customer is informed, the funds are transferred to your account, everyone that touched the transaction takes their cut, you and the customer are informed that they have purchased something, what it is, and where to ship it.
We use Wells Fargo Bank for our merchant account and gateway. We host our own secure server and pages. Wells Fargo has a complete product line of services from the simple to complex.
The advantages of doing it with a bank that handles it all for you is it is very simple and quick to get up and running. The disadvantages is you lose some control over the purchasing process. But, you may not want that extra level of control...also known as paper work.
So, to answer your questions, Yes WebStudio can handle all of this. You'll have to decide on a shopping cart to use, and a vendor for the credit card pieces.
For help with Adding the components of your new cart to your site, go to our on-line forum at http://www.webstudioforum.com. Post a message in the WebStudio Forum section asking for help with shopping carts and credit card processing when using WebStudio. 35% of the people with business sites that use WebStudio have shopping carts and credit card capabilities on their sites. Many of them frequent the forum and are more than eager to help you get started looking for the right pieces and then help you get it all running when you build your site.