I remember that evening when I set up my first online shopping cart with e-Junkie and PayPal several years ago. What was really exciting is waking up to several sales and the money from those transactions deposited in my PayPal account. It was the closest thing I’d experienced to “making money while I slept.”
Since those early days I come a long way in my understanding of how ecommerce works. Website tools, shopping carts and merchant accounts are all part of the process. When I first began, understanding how all the pieces fit together was somewhat confusing, so I thought I’d use this post to share some basics that are important to understand when you start selling online.
Let’s look at : Website Requirements, Shopping Carts and Merchant Accounts.
Many WordPress themes come pre-designed to work with shopping cart plugins. Going in to the details of each of these is beyond the scope of this post. Here are some popular WordPress shopping cart plugins to investigate: Shopp, Cart66, WP e-Commerce and WooCommerce.
When people visit a section of your website to make a credit card payment, they need to know it is secure. So, you will need to obtain a private SSL certificate. These can usually be purchased through your hosting company or the company where you purchased your domain name. Private SSL Certificates are appropriate for e-commerce websites and for any situation where you need secure communication with your website visitors. One way to tell if a website has an SSL certificate is to look at the URL. It will have an “s” after the http and the URL will start with https://.
As I already mentioned, there are several premium shopping cart plugins that can be used on WordPress websites. However, many business owners opt for using a separate shopping cart company in order to take advantage of several integrated features and tools. These can include a customer relationship management (CRM), online store to sell digital or tangible products, email marketing and affiliate tools. The price for these start at around $40 and can run as high as hundreds of dollars a month.
Some popular shopping carts to consider are: 1Shopping Cart, BigCommerce and Infusionsoft. Most of these solutions give you the option of hosting an online store on their website and/or adding product specific links to your own website. When comparing shopping carts, keep in mind what features are important to you and which merchant accounts you need to integrate with.
Merchant Accounts and Payment Gateways
Without a merchant account, you won’t be able to get the money you receive from your product sales in to your bank account. Now, that would be a bummer! When I first began setting up eCommerce websites, this is the part that was the most difficult to understand. Many business owners begin by simply using PayPal. It’s simple to set up and most of us have used it to make purchases and are somewhat familiar with it.
If you are going to get serious about taking Credit Card payments online, you will want to set up a merchant account with a company like Authorize.net. To help us understand this process, let’s outline the steps when using Authorize.net from your customer entering their credit card information on your website to the money ending up in your bank account. (Note: this is adapted from the information on the Authorize.net website.)
- Your customer submits credit card info to pay for products or services.
- Authorize.Net passes the secure transaction information via a secure connection to the Processor.
- Your Bank’s Processor submits the transaction to the credit card network (like Visa or MasterCard).
- The credit card network routes the transaction to the bank that issued the credit card to the customer.
- The issuing bank approves or declines the transaction based on the customer’s available funds and passes the transaction results back to the credit card network.
- The credit card network relays the transaction results to your bank’s processor. The processor relays the transaction results to Authorize.Net.
- Authorize.Net stores the transaction results and sends the customer to the website for the customer and merchant to see.
- You deliver the goods or services to the buyer.
- The customer’s bank sends the appropriate funds for the transaction to the credit card network, which passes the funds to your bank.
- The bank then deposits the funds into your bank account within two to four business days.
I know that sounds pretty complex. That’s why using a company like Authorize.net is so important. Once you have all of your accounts set up, the transaction process happens seamlessly with little interaction from you.
Have you thought about how you can monetize your website? The possibilities are endless and making money while you sleep in FUN!