E-commerce, short for “electronic commerce”, is the selling of products or services over the internet. E-commerce can be as simple as displaying a product on a webpage and asking visitors to send you money through the mail. Or it can be much more complicated, utilizing shopping carts for order tracking, payment gateways to process credit card payments in real time, SSL to collect sensitive payment information, and customized storefronts that keep track of product inventory. The e-commerce you use will likely fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
Shopping Cart Software
Shopping cart software tracks products that the customer wants to buy. When a customer comes to your online store, the software keeps track of all the products they place in their shopping cart. When the customer wants to check out, the contents of their shopping cart are added to the check out page.
Most e-commerce sites use credit cards as the preferred method of payment. How you plan on processing credit card payments will determine whether or not you need SSL with a secure certificate or a payment gateway such as Authorize.Net (provided by e-onlinedata).
Payment gateways provide a link from your website to the credit card processing company. If you want to process credit cards in real time from your site, then you’ll need a payment gateway. The gateway takes the credit card information and send it to the credit card processor to determine if the sale can be authorized. Once a sale is authorized, the funds from the credit card are deposited into your merchant account.
SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, encrypts the data sent to and from your website through https: URLs. You may wish to purchase your own secure certificate in order to use SSL with your domain name. Customers can tell when they are at a secure site by the presence of “https” in the URL. A secure site’s URL looks like the one we have up on our main site. You can check it out at www.pair.com.
Also, most Web browsers will display a lock to indicate that the site is secure.
Storefront software, such as ShopSite, which comes bundled with our ShopSite Enabled Hosting Package, is the most comprehensive e-commerce software we offer. It includes shopping cart software, as well as many other capabilities.
Some of the features found in storefront software are:
- Setup wizards to help guide you through setting up your store front
- Integration with most payment gateways
- Track and update inventory
- Send notification of low inventory
- Generate traffic and sales reports
PCI DSS is the global data security standard adopted by the payment card brands for all entities that process, store, or transmit cardholder data. All merchants, regardless of size, that accept payment cards are required to comply with PCI Data Security Standards.
Making the Decision
Now that you’re familiar with some of the terms used when thinking about e-commerce, how do you choose which products or services to use? First you’ll need to evaluate your requirements for your e-commerce site. Is it a simple project or a full-fledged business venture? Realistically, how fast do you want to fill your orders? How will you ship your products to your customers? Do you want to process credit cards manually or automatically? What resources do you have at your disposal financially and personally? These are all questions you’ll need to take into consideration when evaluating potential e-commerce packages.
It’s also a good idea to ask others who are already involved in e-commerce. They will have already gone through the process of deciding which services and software to use and can tell you what, in their experience, works well or poorly, and how easy or difficult it is to use. Researching and asking others (including our staff) will give you insight into things that you may not have even thought to consider.