[tweetmeme]Have you thought about selling your company’s products or services through your website, but you weren’t sure how hard it would be or where to start?
This article is non-technical, and will give you a better idea about what goes on behind the ecommerce websites you see and use on the Internet, and what is involved in creating and launching your own catalog website.
What is a shopping cart?
A Shopping Cart in its simplest form is a reliable programming “script” or application for making credit card or PayPal transactions within a website.
If you have ever made a donation through a website or if you have been on a website selling a few items that uses PayPal to make the transaction, you have seen a shopping cart script in action.
PayPal is a great way to add the ability to sell a few items on a website, and a good way for getting started in ecommerce. PayPal is a highly recognized brand and the company makes it easy to implement ecommerce using different ecommerce tools.
Basically, you are putting programming code inside your website, but your customers are really using and external shopping cart system that is run and maintained by PayPal.
What is a Shopping Cart System?
Shopping cart systems allow you to manage multiple categories of products, sub-categories and will provide you a comprehensive administration system for processing new orders, adding new products, charging appropriate tax rates and handling shipping and returns.
More sophisticated shopping cart systems will give you control over your website design and allow you to control every aspect of your website content, help you to create and manage featured products, coupons and specials, and make order processing simple and efficient.
Think of a shopping cart system as a website content management system, catalog and shopping cart combined into one application, which can be customized with your branding and has the ability to grow as you expand your online business.
How do you get started?
Assuming you are looking to sell many items with multiple product categories within your website, a good place to start is with first creating a list of all your product categories.
Next, estimate the number of products you will have for each category or if you are already using an inventory system you can export a list of your products in order to get a rough idea of how many products your website store will offer when you first go live.
What about product photographs?
You will need high quality product images on your website. Ideally, the product manufacturer will provide you images that are about 4 to 5 inches tall, which can be used within your website. Typically, ecommerce websites will have a thumbnail image, which can be enlarged when clicked on, giving the customer a better view of the product.
High quality images are important so that the customer can see exactly what the item is, but also so that customers feel comfortable with your website. Low quality images will cost you sales.
If you are creating your own product images, be sure to photograph your products using a seamless background so there is a good contrast between your background and the product and be sure to use a professional lighting setup so the items are well let, with soft shadows.
How do you create product pages?
The better shopping cart systems will allow you use an administration system to create individual product pages and add them to your website. Using a web interface, it only takes a minute or two to create a new product page, add it to the proper category, import a product image, add in a description, pricing and shipping information.
Most shopping cart systems will allow you to link products to related products, so that when a customer is checking out, they will learn about other products they may want to add to their shopping cart.