Add substance to your Web site with online shopping cart

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Q. I have a Web site, but now I want to take orders. What are my options?
A. As I discussed in an earlier article, when it comes to the Web, taking an evolutionary approach makes a lot of sense. For example, say you have a Web site with some information about your company and its offerings. Adding e-commerce capabilities enhances the site by offering existing customers a convenient way to shop from home. To accomplish this, you can outsource the shopping cart functions or you can buy the shopping cart software and build it into your site. For this article, we'll focus on using a third-party service.
Even with a hosted shopping cart process, you can still keep the existing Web pages about your company. When your customers want to shop for products, they are actually re-directed to the hosted site for the shopping experience. Several companies offer this service and some provide more customization and configuration than others. Ideally, your customers won't even know they are using a service separate from your site. It still looks like your Web site.
The hosted options typically offer a lot of order management functions. You can control your catalog of items, receive notification when orders have been placed, integrate shipping options and carriers, and even provide tracking information so your customers can be fully informed as to what is happening with their orders. Everything about your online store can be managed from one portal. It's a great way to start--and with a low monthly investment. Search the Internet for "online stores" or "online shopping carts," and you will find many companies offering solutions and services.


Dave Rolston is vice president of e-business for Medline Industries. Reach him at (847) 643-4779 or