Finding the E-Commerce Solution that Works for You
Finding the E-Commerce Solution that Works for You avatar

If you’re in the business of selling goods or services, or looking to raise funds, the Internet can be a powerful tool. E-commerce provides you with instant access to a global marketplace at a fraction of the cost of a brick-and-mortar store.  If you already have a storefront, an e-commerce site will allow you to expand your reach and offer your customers an alternative.

But just having an online store isn’t your ticket to instant success.

Like brick and mortar businesses, you still need a distinctive product or service, delivered in an attractive and user-friendly package. In other words, even if your product or service is excellent – or your fundraising cause is noble – if your website isn’t user-friendly, or if people can’t find it, you’re out of luck.

What makes for a user-friendly e-commerce website?

  • It’s intuitive to use.
  • Your shopping cart clearly indicates what is being purchased.
  • You feel confident that your transaction will be processed safely.
  • You trust that your personal information will be kept confidential.
  • You know exactly where you are at each step along the way.
  • You have clear choices for both payment and shipping methods.
  • You get clear confirmation that the transaction was processed successfully.

Sounds simple, right? So what are your options?

Your options depend on your objectives. If the primary function of your site is to sell products or services or raise money, then a comprehensive e-commerce content management system is your best bet. If selling a product or service or raising funds is a sideline, consider adding e-commerce functionality to a standard website.

Zen Cart: The E-commerce Content Management Solution

Of all the various e-commerce systems we’ve reviewed and tested, Zen Cart comes out on top. Zen Cart is a comprehensive e-commerce shopping cart system. It was developed and continues to be refined by a global community of software developers who make it available for free under the GNU General Public License.

Zen Cart combines an intuitive and easy-to-use customer interface with a powerful administrative console. As the site administrator, you have complete control over your inventory and customer database. Adding, editing and removing products is a snap.

You have the ability to let customers search your online catalogue, read and write product reviews, redeem coupons or gift certificates and sign up for regular newsletters.

To process financial transactions in Zen Cart, you will require a bank account and a third party payment gateway. A merchant account is required to accept credit card payments. A payment gateway processes the transaction and acts as the bridge between your site, and your bank account.

Some payment gateways have their own distinct branding and user interface – so your users know they have left your site to process the transaction. Others allow you to customize a gateway page so that it looks like the transaction is being processed within your site.

Not all payment gateways are created equal. If you’re just starting out, we recommend starting out with PayPal since it’s inexpensive, and it performs as a merchant account and a payment gateway. There are no monthly fees; PayPal makes their money by charging a small commission on each transaction.

One big benefit of using a third party payment gateway is you never have to ask for or store your client’s credit card information. The gateway handles and keeps your client’s private financial data secure.

Zen Cart provides modules that can integrate a range of different payment gateways.

For more information about setting up a Zen Cart store front, contact us at .

PayPal: Adding E-commerce Functionality to a Standard Website

If you’re interested in featuring financial transactions on your site as a sideline, a full-blown e-commerce site is probably overkill. PayPal offers the most recognizable, affordable and user-friendly set of tools available for adding e-commerce functionality to your existing site.

Visitors shopping on your site add items to a PayPal shopping cart by clicking a secure PayPal “add to cart” button. When they’re ready to check out, they click a secure “buy now” button and are transferred to a secure PayPal payment page. Once the transaction is complete, they return to your site.

All you need to do is sign up for a free PayPal Merchant Account and we’ll do the rest. For more information, visit PayPal Merchant Services.

WordPress E-Commerce Plugin

If you have a WordPress site or you would like to use WordPress as the platform for your website, a range of E-Commerce plugins for WordPress are available to meet your requirements.

Contact us for more information.