I’ve been doing business online since 1999. In that time, I’ve looked at several different options for ways to sell things online, and finally, in 2003, decided that I had wasted too much time in doing things the old-fashioned way (having customers call me with credit card numbers or mailing me a check), and that I was long overdue to finally use an online shopping cart as a way to sell products and services online.
But, there seemed to be so many options out there. Where should I start?The first thing I had to do was find a merchant card provider. Since I do little face-to-face business, I chose a provider who deals almost exclusively with professional coaches, consultants, and speakers, Practice Pay Solutions., http:
//www.profcs.com/app/aftrack.asp?afid=127926 I generally advocate that you need to be processing at least $1000/month in credit card charges to make a merchant account financially viable for you, as you will be charged a setup fee, a percentage per transaction fee, as well as a monthly statement fee. Merchant Warehouse, www.merchantwarehouse.com, is another option for your merchant account.
Practice Pay Solutions also provides a virtual terminal to permit you to go in and manually enter transactions via an online interface, as well as a secure payment gateway, which allows your customer’s credit card data to be secure as they place orders. The other aspect I love about Practice Pay Solutions is that fact that I can do a batch upload of transactions. For example, I have a number of clients who pay their fees monthly, outside of the shopping cart system. All I have to do is maintain their information in an Excel spreadsheet, and update it on a monthly basis (changing the invoice description or amount, as applicable, for example), save it as a tab delimited file and upload all of my charges at once. This is a wonderful time-saving feature over manually inputting 10-15 charges each month.
After securing my merchant account, the hunt began for a suitable shopping cart system. Several friends tried to interest me in some open-source shopping carts, like OS Commerce, www.oscommerce.com or ZenCart, www.zencart.com, but I found the learning curve too steep for these carts. I like to be able to go in and tinker with my products and not have to call a programmer every time I make a change. Additionally, these carts lacked some features that I had seen in other shopping carts. Ultimately, I decided to go with Kickstart Shopping Cart, http://www.kickstartcart.com/app/?pr=31&id=59401
Here are the money-making features you’ll want in a shopping cart:
1. Calculate shipping and tax. Make sure you have several options for calculating basic shipping, including overnight shipping.
2. Sell hard or electronic goods. If you sell physical items that must be sent to a consumer as well as electronic items (audio files, ebooks), your shopping cart should be able to handle both types of products in the same transaction. In addition, when your cart is delivering an electronic item, it should generate a webpage for the downloadable file that disappears within a certain time-frame so that the purchaser doesn’t provide the download link to 100 of his closest friends.
3. Special offer management. A full-fledged shopping cart should be able to offer discounts for multiple purchases, a “free when you buy 3” type of promotion, or other similar special offers.
4. Receipt and confirmation emails. An email confirmation of purchase to the customer as well as a receipt for you as the business owner to place in packages that have to be shipped are a great convenience for both you and your customer.
5. Web-based administration page. An online interface should be provided so that you can log in and add products, change prices, generate special offers, etc. from anywhere in the world.
6. Affiliate program compatible. Instead of buying a separate piece of software to create an affiliate program to help you sell your goods and services, your shopping cart system should have one that is integrated and permit you to manage it from your web-based administration page.
7. Upsell modules. Good shopping carts will have the ability to suggest related products to the shopper based on what they have already purchased, or what’s already in their checkout cart.
8. Coupons and discounts. The ability to offer coupons and discounts can mean a tremendous boost in your sales. A good shopping card will enable you to offer percentage and fixed discounts when selling your products.
9. Multiple website capability. Shopping cart systems that can handle products from a variety of websites (various one-page sales websites you might have, for example) will save you tons of money and aggravation.
10. Integrated autoresponders. Sequential autoresponders can be your best online sales tool. Autoresponder systems can send follow-up messages to your customers automatically to ensure they’re happy with their purchase and to tell them about special offers and promotions you have for them. Or, you can use the system for those who don’t buy your product and offer them an e-course, for example, that will give them a small taste of the product you’re selling.
To integrate all of the features that I mention above using stand-alone applications could run into many thousand dollars. I like the one-stop shopping concept, and want my software to be a workhorse and fulfill as many functions as it can. Let the features of your full-fledge shopping cart regularly earn you money in your online business!
Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed professionals make more profit in less time online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE ebook, TurboCharge Your Productivity: 50 + Tools To Help You Automate Your Business and Make More Profit in Less Time Online!, visit her site at http://www.OnlineBizCoachingCompany.com