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The Anatomy of an eCommerce Website

The cost of ecommerce website can vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousands, so before you pick your ecommerce solution, you need to figure out what components are really important and what options you really need.

For those of you who have never owned an online store before, we have provided a short explanation of the eCommerce concepts. Should you require any more information, please contact us.

Online shopping process

Online Shopping Process diagram

The eCommerce application has five basic components a Shop Front, Shopping Cart, Checkout, Payment Gateway and Merchant Admin panel. As a merchant, you login to the Website Administration panel to upload product categories, product names, photos, descriptions, prices and shipping options. You also set up payment currencies and payment options.

The actual online shopping process mimics the shopping process in a physical store. Your customers browse the Online Store, pick products and put them in the Shopping Cart. When they are finished with the shopping, they proceed to the Checkout. The Checkout adds up the shopping, calculates the totals, adds applicable taxes and discounts and requests the payment.

The actual payment is then handled by a so called Payment Gateway. Once the Payment is processed, the Payment Gateway sends a message back to the Checkout about the status of the transaction (paid or unpaid). It is often confirmed via email. You are then free to ship the goods. A Shopping Cart is cleared and you get an information what you should be sending and to whom.

eCommerce Website - the components

The Shop Front

This is the part that the customers see. It has to be attractive and very easy to navigate. The more clicks the customer has to make to get to the product, the more chances there are that they will abandon the shopping and go elsewhere.

The customers need to be able to compare products and product options, see the details (be able to zoom on the picture), see special offers. However, the more sophisticated the shop-front, the more expensive it is. Be sure to select only the options you need, or you are likely to need in the near future, to keep the costs down. Start small and expand it later.

The Shopping Cart

The shopping cart is a program that keep track of items a visitor selected to buy from your site until they proceed to the "checkout".

Once the payment is made, the shopping cart is cleared and a message is passed to you that it is OK to ship the goods.

In addition to the basic features, some more sophisticated Shopping Carts, offer the following functionalities:

If you sell information products (e-books, software), make sure that the scripting is implemented to ensure the download is done through a temporary URL or via the shopping cart after a successful transaction has occurred. You don't want a customer (and his/her friends) to return to the page to download your product again and again.

There are literally hundreds of shopping cart packages available making it very difficult to make a decision. One of the most popular, especially for larger ecommerce sites are 1ShoppingCart and X-Cart.

The Admin Panel

Invisible to the customers, this is the part of a website that allows you to update your product details, change prices and set-up payment options. The Merchant Admin panel is sometimes incorporated into your Shopping Card module.

The Payment Gateway

This software sends payment requests via secure connection (SSL)to the buyer's bank/credit card and sends back confirmation or denial back to the shopping cart software. It also sends information about the payment to the Internet merchant account with your bank.

The most popular payment gateways are PayPal, Google Checkout, Authorize.NET, Moneybookers, WorldPay and 2CheckOut.

If you want to run a small online store, the simplest, cheapest and the most hassle-free option is to accept payments online via PAYPAL. Paypal integrates basic shopping cart functions with a payment gateway and merchant account - funds are paid to you via check or through direct deposit.

Paypal offers your clients an option to pay by credit card, without yu having to worry about transaction security. Paypal is an excellent way to begin in ecommerce and is very widely accepted around the world.

Sign-up for a FREE PayPal Account

If you have PayPal account, you can receive payments with no merchant account fees, setup fees, or monthly fees. All you have to pay is a small percentage of each sale. You also receive free fraud protection - no chargeback fees to worry about.

Best of all it costs you nothing to set up an account. All you need to sign up is an email address and a credit card or a bank account. To sign up for your FREE PayPal account, click on the image below:

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.

Some functions available with PayPal

This button will enable e-commerce on your website by letting your customers buy one item at a time.

PayPal Add to Cart allows the users to add items to a shopping cart and review their purchases before finalizing the transaction and paying for it.

View Cart button is a part of PayPal's shopping cart solution. It lets users review and change their purchases before paying for them.

PayPal Subscription button is useful for subscriptions and recurring payments (e.g. Membership sites). This button enables recurring, automated billing.

PayPal Donation button allows you to accept credit card and bank account donations on your website or via email.

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