A basic system
Basic e-commerce software lets a customer buy one item at a time. A customer clicks a "buy" button that's next to the picture and description of your product or service. The software then takes the customer to a page on which he or she enters credit or debit card details, the postal address, and the quantity they wish to buy, if applicable. You receive this information by email and act on it just as though the customer phoned the order through.
A more comprehensive system
It's likely that you'll need something more sophisticated than the above. You may want customers to be able to buy more than one product at a time, and you may prefer a quicker and more responsive system for payment. If so, you'll need a shopping cart and a function that processes orders immediately and tracks them.
When your customers are going to purchase more than one product per visit, you must also consider various multiple options for your software. Two of the most popular of these are colour and size. For example, you might have to develop separate options within your e-commerce system for large, medium and small gizmos. By doing so, you make online buying far easier and reduce the effort required to administer the shop.
- Automatic data processing. This enables your e-commerce system to charge a customer's credit or debit card automatically thanks to a direct connection to your merchant account.
- Discount/promotional code. You may wish to have a box on the payment screen that allows a customer to enter a certain discount or promotional code. The code can give the customer a discount, a bonus gift or free postage and packing.
- Search function. Market research has indicated that a lot of online shoppers won't browse through your pages of products. Instead, they want to go straight to the item they're interested in. To help them, you can install a search facility.
- Postage charges. You may waive postage charges for your products. Alternatively, you may want a calculator that works out the postal charge depending on the product, the destination and the postal service. This can be useful if you intend to send products across the globe.
- Shopping cart storage. This is a useful function that retains the products in customers' online shopping carts if they leave the site without finishing their purchases.
- VAT. You may want your system to itemise VAT separately on the online bill. When you're selling abroad, you may also need to remove the VAT in accordance with the nature of the product, the destination and the current tax law.