E-Commerce Software Solutions
Definition: A software program or set of programs that facilitates
the buying and selling of goods online.
Typically, an e-commerce software package is configured on a secure server and
connects to a
database for product catalogues, prices and other information. It
presents a shopping cart to the site's visitors who can choose, configure, and
order these products or services using a credit card, debit card, or alternative
online payment mechanism.
The goods can range from offering three varieties of home-made jam to local
customers, to being a complete online retailer, such as Amazon or Dabs.
There are plenty of commercial applications which handle everything for you; all
you have to do is enter the details of the goods or services you want to sell.
Some are more complex and integrate with
- payment gateways (to carry out credit card
- courier companies' online booking and tracking software
- the systems/software of
drop shippers, affiliate merchants,
PPC programs, software download houses, and order ‘fulfilment’ agencies.
The exact requirements you have for your particular business to function on the
internet will vary, depending on the goods and services you're trying to sell
and the size of your business.
Things to consider when selecting a shopping cart:
See whether it can handle (customer facing):
* Detailed description of goods or services, item by item
* Pictures of goods, possibly with enlargements for extra detail
* Stock details, showing your customers how many of each item is available
* Pricing details, both inclusive and exclusive of VAT / other local taxes
* Maintenance of ‘shopping carts’, showing what a customer has selected and
providing a current spending total
* Suggestions of other items as alternatives or in addition to those on view (upselling
/ cross selling)
* Reviews of items by independent reviewers and/or other customers
* Details of special offers or sale items
* "Remembering" repeat visitors
See whether it can handle (management):
* Running on the current server and hosting technology
* Processing of credit card details and validating transactions
* Management of an affiliate program
It is also worth checking if the e-commerce program is friendly to search engine
robots. Some programs create convoluted tracking URLs for each product which
URLs search engine spiders can't index.
Other points to bear in mind:
- Some shopping carts are free. They generally use Paypal to handle the
payments. Visitors who don't have a Paypal account will not be able to order
- Some software is sold on an annual licence. The obvious advantage is that you
may benefit from a lower price to get started. In the long term it could prove
restrictive, cumbersome, and very expensive. Your online business is also tied
to the continued success of the makers of that particular program.
- Some e-commerce software can be modified to suit your particular needs. They
will typically offer you the source code of the program you're buying, eg.
Productcart. If you are thinking of relying on a company to provide both the
e-commerce software and fulfilment services, make sure they are able to deal
with any likely expansion in your business, as moving from one fulfilment
company to another while continuing to trade can be problematic.
Companies which offer e-commerce software include StoreFront, Actinic, Erol and
For more details of the good and bad sides of e-commerce, try this page on
Directory of major e-commerce software suppliers.