The process of creating a shopping cart is relatively complicated, and can be quite specific based upon several factors such as:
- What type of items are being sold (real vs. virtual/digital, or both)
- Tracking inventory (for real assets)
- Discounts (buy 4 get the 5th for free) and coupons ($10 off of $20)
- Payment processors (credit cards, e-checks, bank draft)
- What language the server uses
Therefore, we are just going to look at the basics which is what the Shopping Cart does.
Basic Shopping Cart Types
Shopping carts generally fall into one of two categories.
- Direct purchase – Think Amazon’s 1 click buy, eBay’s Buy It Now, or Pay Pal’s Buy Now buttons. These will automatically send the customer to the check out procedure which may be instantaneous, or over a series of pages.
- Purchase Later – This is the most common. Think of the person which puts something in the shopping cart, and it stores it over time. They can continue to put items in the shopping cart until they decide to purchase all of their items.
The biggest difference in many ways deals with shopping cart abandonment and purchase volume. If someone has to go through another step to purchase, they may choose not to. However, if you can get them while “the iron’s hot” then they are more likely to follow through with their initial impulse.
However, if the person has a cart, they may “wander around your store” buying other items. However, they may “regret” their decision, and choose not to buy later on.
Advanced Shopping Carts
More advanced shopping carts will allow a customer to:
- Customize their item (color, size, etc) based upon some pre-determined criteria
- Change the Quantity of the item – including removing the item from the cart
- Save the item for review an indefinite amount of time later
Standard Features of E-commerce Software
Most e-commerce storefronts allow you to:
- Select from multiple items
- Organize items for sale into categories (or even tag them)
- Allow the customer to check out
- Allow the admin to run reports (sales per category/day/product id/etc)
- Handle payment
- Determine shipping rates
- Work with discounts/coupons
- Track inventory
How a Payment Processor Works
A payment processor is where the Credit Card info is sent, to transfer funds into your account. However, it isn’t as simple as that.
This is what typically happens:
- Form information is taken from your check out form, and sent to a form handler on the store’s site.
- The Form Handler then sends the necessary info (CCN, Expiration Date, Validation Number, Name, etc.) to the Credit Card Processor.
- The processor gets the info and looks into the system to determine if the information is correct and if the funds are available.
- The processor sends info to the store. Generally two pieces of info: a transaction number (which you store to go back and verify the number) and a processing code. The code lets you know if the transaction succeeded or not.
- The information is received in your form processor, and the processor then determines how to proceed. (Depending upon the success or failure.)