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Online Shopping Carts Tips

Read these 18 Online Shopping Carts Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Shopping Cart tips and hundreds of other topics.

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What is a web site control panel?

Your web site control panel

A web site control panel offers you various functions to manage your web site. Typically, these would include a means for setting up subdomains, protecting directories, configuring email accounts, and perform basic system functions. You access the web site control panel after entering a username and password. You can set up different usernames with different administrative functions. You might want to allow individual users to control their email accounts, for example, but not let them have access to other administrative functions.

   
Can ecommerce software integrate with my customer database?

Ecommerce software integration

An ecommerce software solution can take customer information from your ecommerce shopping cart and add it directly to your customer database. Reminder emails, daily specials, coupons, or loyalty program information can be sent to subsets of your customers, based on who bought what from your ecommerce shopping cart. If you also have customers phoning in orders, you will want to integrate with that process as well.

   
If my web control panel includes shopping cart control software, do I still need to buy shopping cart software?

Shopping cart control software

Some ecommerce oriented control panel software includes basic shopping cart software, which can be fine for limited ecommerce use. You will still need to have a merchant account to collect credit card income and a payment gateway to communicate between your shopping cart control software and the merchant account. Your web site control panel might include other useful scripts as well, such as forums, guestbook scripts, and chat software. Make a point to explore what your web site control panel offers you before assuming you need to buy a stand-alone package for these additional functions.

   
What is an an online shopping cart?

Easiest Way to Quick Ecommerce Set-up: Do it Online

The easiest way to set up an online shopping cart program on your site is to purchase access to web-based shopping cart software. There are two types of Internet shopping carts - locally and remotely hosted. Locally hosted shopping carts need to be set up on your server by an Internet professional. Internet shopping carts, which are remotely hosted on the provider's servers, offer point-and-click set-up and integrated shopping cart merchant accounts and other necessary Internet shopping cart software. Purchase access to a web-based shopping cart and you can often be up and running with a total ecommerce solution within hours.

   
My control panel offers separate accounts for ftp users. What does that mean?

Control Panel and FTP Usage

Most control panel software offers something similar. In essence, some people will have the ability to place files on your server and others want. Ftp is a file transfer protocol which most control panel software lets you set up separate user names and passwords to access. So your regular users can get their email but cannot add or delete!) files from your web site. Your ftp users might be an out-sourced web site team. Your web design firm can update your web site at they need to without you having to be present or do anything. But they will not be able to access anything else, like people's email. Also, you might want to set up a "guest" spot on your web site and have on particular folder set aside to exchange files with clients and such. You would use your control panel software to manage the directories and set up special ftp accounts that only have access to particular directories. If you want multiple to have access to a certain set of folders and don't really care who sees them, you can set up an anonymous ftp account.

   
When do I need shopping cart software?

When do I need shopping cart software?

You need an online shopping cart if you want to sell items from your web site and collect payment. The best shopping cart software can help you make additional sales as well, by suggesting complementary products after your customer adds an item to the electronic shopping cart. Shopping cart software also keeps track of payment methods, sales tax, shipping information, delivery charges, and more. There are some free shopping cart software solutions but most require your customers have an account with them as well, and not all customers want to do that. If you want to offer coupons and discount codes, keep track of your customers' previous purchases, and automatically send messages to customers about their purchases and special offers, and perhaps handle an affiliate program, you will want to add an electronic shopping cart to your site.

   
Who offers the best remote hosted web-based shopping cart solutions?

Shop Around for the Right Online Shopping Cart Program

There are hundreds of companies that offer remotely hosted, web-based shopping cart software solutions. Most follow the standard model of offering easy-to-use integrated Internet shopping cart software for a low entry fee and monthly and per-transaction fees. Ecommerce giants like eBay, Yahoo and Amazon.com all offer complete storefront packages. If you already use a commercial web hosting company, your provider may already have a deal with one of these companies to offer an online shopping cart program. Or if you're just starting out, you can build your site on the server space offered by the ecommerce provider.

   
My control panel software says it supports subdomains. What are those?

Subdomains and your web site control panel

Subdomains let you set up URLs like sales.yourdomain.com. These are generally easier for people to remember than yourdomain.com/sales for some reason. Many companies use these to promote certain brands. When you set up subdomains, you can use your web site control panel to set up a totally separate web site or redirect it to some page on your normal web site. Your web site control panel might also offer reports based on your subdomains, so you can monitor traffic and usage of your subdomains. You would still monitor and control these subdomains through a single web control panel.

   
What else do I need besides an Internet shopping cart?

Beyond the shopping cart software: other things you need to do business online.

An Internet shopping cart handles your customers selecting which items they want to purchase from your site. It does not handle the financial transaction. You will still need to subscribe to other services, including a payment gateway and a merchant account. Different payment gateway services work with different shopping cart software and different merchant accounts. Make sure your electronic shopping cart can communicate with the payment gateway you select and make sure the payment gateway can communicate with your merchant account. Some hosted shopping cart software already includes connections to specific payment gateways and merchant accounts so make sure you know what you need and what you are getting.

   
Do I have to use the bundled solution sold by Internet shopping cart provider?

Easier to Go With a Bundle, But Not Required

Most Internet shopping cart providers offer bundled solutions, with at least a merchant account and credit card provider included. But what if you don't want to use their choice of provider or merchant account? It depends on the provider. Most shopping carts offer different tiers of service that look like this:

* Use our bundled merchant account and credit card gateway.

* Choose from this list of compatible merchant accounts and credit card gateways.

* Use your own choice of merchant account and payment gateway, but it may not integrate as well as the other choices and require more work on your part.

If it's more important to you to use a specific merchant account/credit card provider, it might be easier to find a compatible shopping cart.

   
Can my online shopping cart integrate with my warehouse or CRM software?

Inegrate Shopping Cart With Business Software

If you're a busy merchant, either online or brick-and-mortar, you've likely already made an investment in software to keep track of your products, or perhaps to help manage your relationships with clients or suppliers. So wouldn't it be great if your online shopping cart program could work in tandem with these products in order to give you complete sales tracking? It can happen, but you need to do some research. If you've already invested in business software and are looking to buy or upgrade a shopping cart, find one that works with your software. If you're starting out, or ready to upgrade all your software, you can purchase an integrated solution up front.

   
What's included in an ecommerce software package?

Ecommerce Software: A Shopping Cart, Plus More

An "ecommerce shopping cart" is a piece of Internet software. But when someone says or writes "ecommerce shopping cart software" the speaker or writer is almost always talking about the Internet shopping cart software, plus the other software it takes to make ecommerce happen:

-A shopping cart merchant account for accepting and processing credit cards

-An integrated database for items to be sold through the web page shopping cart and tracking customer data.

-Integrated marketing tools like an email autoresponder.

   
What is shopping cart software?

Selecting shopping cart software

Shopping cart software allows online shoppers to select and purchase merchandise offered for sale on a web site. An online shopping cart can be located on your web site, which is suitable for those with significant programming skills, or hosted by a vendor who provides the supporting infrastructure for you. Remotely hosted shopping cart software can typically be customized to look and feel like your own web site and is generally cheaper upfront, but a package solution offers more customizing features and gives you more control. Either way, a visitor essentially adds items to be purchased to their internet shopping cart until they are ready to ""check out."" Shopping cart software does not handle the financial transaction, but typically collects the necessary information and forwards it on to a payment gateway service, which then communicates with the merchant account.

   
How can I decide which is the best shopping cart software for my site?

How can I decide which is the best shopping cart software for my site?

If you already have a merchant account to process credit cards, find out what payment gateways are compatible with your account. From there, see which internet shopping carts work with the various payment gateways and then check the different features. Otherwise start by making a list of the features you want now (electronic delivery, coupons and quantity discounts, auto responders, types of credit cards, remote versus locally hosted depending on your programming skills, cross-selling features, and so on). Of course, if you are hosting the internet shopping cart on your own site, make sure your hosting company supports the database and language of the shopping cart software. See if your chosen vendor offers support, forums where you can communicate with other users of the software, and tips and best practices to help you get the most out of the shopping cart software.

   
What about integrated sales and marketing tools?

Integrate Sales and CRM, Too?

Smart business people know there's more to successful ecommerce than putting together an online shopping cart program. Smarter buisness people know that all those sales and CRM (customer relationship management) components can be integrated online with a web-based shopping cart to create a full ecommerce solution. Some ASP ecommerce hosting providers bundle in a variety of sales, marketing and CRM software, including autoresponders, email lists and newsletters and sales affiliate programs, along with Internet shopping cart software. If you're just starting out, it makes sense to investigate one of these complete solutions. If you already use a remotely hosted ASP ecommerce provider, find out if it offers additional integrated tools by upgrading plans.

   
How much should I expect to pay for a web-based, hosted Internet shopping cart?

Cost of a Remotely Hosted Online Shopping Cart Program

When it comes to paying for a web-based Internet shopping cart that's hosted remotely as an ASP, there's good news for underfunded start-ups. The ASPs make up the difference, however, on the other end. You'll pay a monthly fee for a web-based shopping cart program that can run to hundreds or even thousands per month, depending on your needs. You'll also be charged a transaction fee by the host, in addition to credit card transaction fees. If quick set-up and managed services are important to you, this could be the way to go. Otherwise, look at other options.

   
What are the disadvantages of an online shopping cart program?

Disadvantages of an Online Shopping Cart Program

The disdvantages of an online shopping cart program vs. a locally hosted model are few, but include the following:
* Customization: You most likely have to use the software provided by the shopping cart host provider in the way they have intended it to be used. If you want to customize the shopping cart or overall ecommerce process, or substitute in a different shopping cart merchant account or payment gateway, you might be out of luck.
* Ongoing costs: With a locally hosted online shopping cart program, it costs more to set up, but there's no monthly fee. Go with a web-based shopping cart solution and you'll be paying the provider monthly for as long as you use the product.
* Integration with an existing site: Depending on which online or web-based shopping cart solution you choose, it can be difficult to integrate with an existing web site. The shopping cart must exist on the host server, which requires a user to click away from your site (even if the user doesn't realize it at the time).

   
What are the advantages of a web-based shopping cart program?

Advantages of an Online Shopping Cart Program

The advantages of purchasing a web-based shopping cart program vs. locally hosted software include the following:

* Quick set-up: Web-based shopping carts are built with point-and-click interfaces and almost always do not require specific IT training to set up and manage.

* Low upfront investment: Most web-based shopping carts have a very low set-up fee and charge monthly rates, as well as per-transaction fees. So an online shopping cart program can be much less expensive to set up.

* Integrated product database: Most web-based shopping carts offer integrated product databases. Simply load your products, SKUs and pricing into the database and it's ready to go.

   
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Sherril Steele-Carlin