Choosing a shopping cart

Types of shopping carts

The internet has been accepted as a viable e-commerce platform for some time now, and merchants are asking the question of how they can get their products online. There are quite a number of options available. I will talk about a few here that are relatively easy to implement.

Add-on shopping carts

These shopping carts work by providing you with special links for your Buy It Now buttons. When clicked, they take you to the providers checkout pages. These are very easy to implement and require no back end database. An example of such a provider is PayPal with their Website Payments service. Paypal charges a small fee per transaction.

One of the great things about going with PayPal is that they handle your payment processing as well. This means that you will be able to accept credit cards easily without opening additional accounts with your bank. When payment is processed, the funds are first deposited into your PayPal account. You can then choose to transfer these funds to a nominated bank account of your choice.

Host your own shopping cart

If you intend to have a larger shop, you will need to look at installing a shopping cart. These are a lot more complicated and require some time spent learning, tweaking, and customising them, but offer more features than Add-on shopping carts. Some examples of these are osCommerce, Zen Cart, X-Cart Gold, and Magento.

Purchases from your store can be processed manually offline, or online with a merchant account or third party payment gateway. If you wish to accept credit cards, this is where it gets complicated.

Please refer to the section below on Accepting credit cards with your own shopping cart.

Which do I choose?

It depends on the number of items you wish to sell, and the features you would like in your shopping cart.

If you intend to host a small shop with only a handful of items, then PayPal Website Payments Standard will do just fine.

If you have lots of items or would like advanced features like inventory management, then go for a full shopping cart solution. In which case we recommend Magento.

Accepting credit cards with your own shopping cart

Accepting credit card payments on your website is a great and easy way to make payment easier for customers. There are a number of options to choose from, each with their own benefits.

Offline processing

The most common and easiest way to accept credit cards is to apply for a merchant account with your bank and an EFTPOS machine. Transaction information is either stored in a database or emailed to you for processing offline. When a payment is made on your site, you manually bill the customer by entering their credit card details on the EFTPOS machine. This method has very little overheads and is great if you conduct only a few transactions each month. This process can be quite tedious for stores handling many transactions a day.

Online processing

In order to accept online payments, you will need to apply for an Internet Merchant Facility with your bank. When a customer completes payment, the money transferred straight into your bank account. There is usually criteria your website will need to meet in order to qualify for online payments, such as displaying the Mastercard and Visa logos, and clearly stating your terms and conditions of sale.

Some shopping carts do not directly support Australian banks in which case you will need to open an account with a payment gateway. Your shopping cart will then hook into the payment gateway, which will then talk directly to your bank to complete the transaction.

Well established payment gateways that support most shopping carts are eWAY, and eMatters.

Third party payment processors

Third party payment processors allow you to accept payments without opening a merchant account with your bank. They way they usually work is by giving you a special link which your shopping cart links to at the end of the checkout process. Once the transaction is completed the funds are then transferred to your nominated bank account. This is a very easy and cost effective way to start accepting online credit card payments for beginners.

PayPal provide a Third Party Payment processing service named Website Payments Standard.

Which do I choose?

If you are performing low volume transactions then offline processing will do just fine. But if you are looking to do many transactions a day, then you will need to look at more efficient online methods.

Out of the two online methods, a good way to start would be using a Third party payment processor as this is easy to setup. Once your store matures you should start looking into Online processing by applying for online payments with your bank and using a payment gateway. This is how most well established and mature online stores operate.

Need more information?Need help choosing? Contact us to find out how we can help you.