Small Business: What Payment Processors, Shopping Carts?

What type of shopping cart / payment processor a business should implement? The answer is not quite so simple and in this article, and I’ve outlines the processes and technologies that go together to deliver a payment and affiliate solution and offer some choices.

Payment Processors

A payment processor is ‘the thing’ that sits between your website (typically a shopping cart) and your banks internet gateway into your account. It’s the bit that does the ‘heavy lifiting’ for credit card processing.

Payment processors include, but aren’t limited to: Authorize.net, 2CO, Securepay, EWay and PayPal.

PayPal does fall into this group, although it works a bit differently to the others.

Most of these processors offer an interface that we can code directly to and hook websites up to. This will eliminate the need for a shopping cart but, in my opinion, you are seriously better off considering a shopping cart to make your life easier.

Shopping Carts

This is the piece of software that controls your products, how much you charge for them, the description of the products, any sales discounts, postage / freight, coupon codes etc.

There are lots of shopping carts around, some are good, some are mediocre and others are just awful to use. Not all shopping carts support all payment processors nor do they interface with all software that will run on your site. Point in case, the integration with Wishlist Member between Shopping Carts can be limited.

Typically, there are two styles of shopping cart – hosted and self hosted.

1 Shopping Cart is a hosted shopping cart – someone else hosts the software, does all the system admin etc. You get an account on it and list your products.

Self hosted solutions include OS-ECommerce, Zen Cart, WP-E-Shop and WP-E-Commerce.

The beauty of having a shopping cart is that you can generally have a combination of payment processors and offer more choice to your customers and it is much, much easier managing a catalogue of products rather than individual payment buttons for products.

PayPal Only

Many small online business owners start off this way – create a PayPal account, generate the payment button, paste it into the website and away they go. It’s a good way to start if you have a small number of products, however trying to manage multiple products this way can be time consuming, confusing and problematic.

PayPal will do recurring and one off payments – the money is placed into your PayPal account and you can transfer it to your bank account.

What should you choose?

I think the question is – what do you need / want and what can you support yourself?

Hosted shopping cart solutions will generally cost you a monthly fee – there is a cost to maintaining the service. For that monthly fee, most of the headaches disappear. The downside – a prime part of your business is in someone elses hands – be very, very certain that your dealing with someone reputable.

Self Hosted shopping cart solutions will have a higher start up cost – you have to install and customize the solution however, ongoing costs are typcially much, much lower. Most of the solutions I’ve seen just seem to run once they’re installed and may, or may not, require software updates or upgrades. I strongly suggest you have a techie type on your team that you can call on when issues arise.