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Newbie Shopping Cart Questions
Posted 19 June 2007 - 05:41 AM
I thought I understood shopping carts, maybe I did 5 or so years ago, but not now. Now I'm a bit confused. I have questions ...
1 - I looked at osCommerce and Zen Cart. Am I correct in saying that they run a database and you input your products, their details and prices into the database and the cart software creates a web site displaying those products for you, thereby not requiring you to create web pages manually and this is why it's good if these packages are SE friendly?
2 - A service like Mals e-Commerce is a hosted shopping cart solution which means you don't have to install any shopping cart script on your server?
3 - A shopping cart script passes details like goods ordered, quantities, addresses, names and costs onto your payment processor?
Anything else I need to know about Shopping Carts?
I'm also looking at payment processors. I took a look at PayPal and their 'Website Payments Standard' option looks good. It's cheapish, fairly easy to interface with and so on. Or am I missing the point. I don't want a merchant account yet. Any and all advice on payment processors would be gratly appreciated as well.
Posted 19 June 2007 - 09:54 AM
1) Yes. The biggest advantage to this type of "self-hosted" cart/cms system is time/labor savings. Sounds odd, but having a system that is template based and sources a db to generate your site pages means you don't have to edit each individually. Go the initially simpler route of designing in dreamweaver, frontpage or similar, and you'll forever be forced to make site-wide changes one page at a time. With this type of system, a lot of integration may already be done by people who have come before you, or at least have that potential. Integration with payment gateways, shippers, and your accounting system ... HUGE time savings, as each tiny manual task takes time you could better use elsewhere, and they add up quickly.
2) Correct. I don't use MALs, but use a similar paid "hosted" cart. It was a great way to get started, but the monthly costs have far exceeded what I would have paid for a "self-hosted" system now after 3 years, and the integration capabilities suck. Also, I can't do lots of things I think I should, because their system is set up to serve the masses, not my custom needs.
3) If you don't want the merchant account yet, I'd consider a combo of 3rd party payment processors (like 2CO) and PayPal. My personal experience is that PayPal brings in additional customers I might not get otherwise, but they are a small percent of my overall customer base. I wouldn't rely on it exclusively myself, though I haven't looked at their hosted cart. I consider this option, and #2 as ok places to get started, but not good long-term solutions.
<edit ... BTW, due to the path I took, i.e. designing and learning html 1st (w/ the assistance of FrontPage) & using a hosted cart to get started, I have spent huge amounts of just time making little tweaks site-wide, because every change has had to be replicated 100 times or more. I'm in the midst of my 4th major overhaul of my site right now: the 1st to clean up the design, the second to start using "include files" to make many site-wide changes easier, the third to add a lot of detail per each product, and this one to move to a self hosted, template-based cart (site management software, similar to OSC). My path wasn't a bad one to take, I learned html, I'm learning php, I have a strong foundation. BUT, consider the time I'd have saved if I had started out with a system like the one I'm working on now. My time invested in the 1st overhaul would have been quartered I'm sure, and the 2nd & 4th overhauls would have been completely unnecessary. Imagine the progress I could have made on adding content, testing and refining layout issues and refining my marketing if I hadn't had to 'redo' so much work so many times. Just a thought /edit>
Edited by arlen, 19 June 2007 - 10:24 AM.
Posted 19 June 2007 - 11:41 AM
If the software stores product information (and potentially inventory data, etc.) in a database and creates the entire store from this database, I've heard this referred to as "catalog software" or "store software." This would include stuff like Zen Cart and osCommerce, and commercial products like ShopSite, PDG, Miva et.al.
For clarity, when I'm talking about it, "shopping cart" is reserved for things like Mal's where all they provide is the actual checkout function. (For the record, the pricing on Mal's is extremely reasonable, IMO. I think I pay something like $9 a month for the one site I run through there...)
BTW, you could "roll your own" database-driven store using the scripting language/database of your choice and hook it into a shopping cart if you like the content management aspects of store software, but need additional flexibility or custom options the full catalog applications out there don't offer. That way, you get the control you might want/need but avoid the complexities of programming the payment processing interface.
Posted 19 June 2007 - 06:24 PM
I will go with the database driven solution, from my past experience with similar things you can get up and running so much quicker.
So as a way of clarifying your replies ... I can use Zen Cart to create a database backed web site for me containing all my products, descriptions and prices as well as the 'add to cart' functionality. Zen Cart will, once a customer checks out, pass the customers purchases and details to my payment processor such as PayPal and/or 2CO.
Is that pretty much it in a nutshell?
Posted 19 June 2007 - 06:30 PM
I'm not sure what payment processors Zen Cart is set up for... 2CO may be an option, PayPal almost certainly is. You'll need to look deeper to be sure what is available with the cart <oops ... store software> you choose. Most carts are set up for multiple payment processors / gateways, you should find one that suits you.
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