So many options! There are three basic approaches to running an online shopping cart.
Starting an online store? So many options! There are three basic approaches to running an online shopping cart. Which one fits you best?
1. Full meal deal hosted shopping cart. There are many companies that provide ready-made shopping carts online. They are hosted on the company’s secure site and they come with all the tools you are likely to need to run you store. Your store’s website address can be whatever you like and it can even list some of your products, but for the actual product pages you link out to the store provider’s site.
[PROS] The nice thing about these services is that all your security issues are handled by the provider. You don’t have get a secure certificate for you site and you don’t have to worry about getting hacked or having someone steal customer info. [CONS] On the down side, you do have to pay a flat monthly fee which depends on how much business you do. Also, if you run a website plus the store you will have two separate logins and two different systems to manage. Some people don’t like the idea of linking out to their product pages, preferring to have everything in the same place. Finally, you will also have payment gateway and banking costs here as well. Figure about $100 per month for that.
2. PayPal and it’s cousins. PayPal is essentially a variation on the fully hosted stores. The difference is that, at least on the intro level, there is no upfront cost. You pay a small fee to PayPal for every transaction. Also, PayPal is set up so that you can easily add “Buy Now” buttons to any page on your website. All you do is copy and paste a short piece of code from the PayPal site. So you could set up a product description page, add a PayPal button and PayPal takes care of all the rest from there. Again, they provide security and function as the payment gateway. It’s a common misconception that if you use PayPal you can only sell to PayPal customers. This is not the case. Customers can also pay using credit cards.
[CONS] The disadvantages are that the PayPal shopping cart might be perceived as a sign that you are running a small time operation. Also, PayPal draws attention to their PayPal account payment option, so it can be a bit unintuitive to select the option to pay via credit card. You can see an example of a PayPal site here: www.13products.com. [PROS] PayPal is easy to set up and get running. Note also that you can pay a monthly fee for additional services, notably, the Merchant Services Pro version for $30 a month. This allows you to use all the tools of PayPal incognito (customers can’t tell you are using PayPal) and it also includes a virtual terminal for manual payment processing.
3. Integration to WordPress. There are several shopping cat plugins available for WordPress. These extend you current WordPress site by adding the shopping cart, product pages and checkout. If you go this route you will have decide how to process your payments, as that is a separate step. You can use PayPal for this, BTW. But many people chose to use their bank’s merchant services and whatever payment gateway they recommend. All the processing costs typically add up to around $100 per month, plus your credit card processing fees.
[CONS] You will have to get a security certificate for your website, which can start at around $50 per year and you will have to pay special attention to security. [PROS] It’s really nice to have everything in one place. The same interface for creating pages or blog posts also has all your product pages and configuration. Another issue is that whenever you use an off-site service, you are sending traffic away from your website. This is not such a problem with PayPal, but with hosting sites traffic and external links to your product pages do not increase your SEO standing. That does not seem ideal. When you integrate your shopping cart into you website, all the traffic points to the same address.
Some WordPress Shopping carts: