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If you wish to trade from your website you will need a virtual shop which should be just like any other part of your website in its general theme and appearance. Usually, there is a catalogue which allows customers to browse through your products and their details, such as description, weight, colours availability, price, whatever would appear in a hardcopy catalogue, usually with a picture of the product, if relevant.
The advantages an online shop has over a bricks and mortar shop is that there is no need to rent a building to conduct your trading from, staff are not required for customers to make purchases and your customers can order goods from the comfort of their own home or office.

E-commerce solutions and packages come in many variations depending on your requirements and budget. There is some thing to suit most business small and large.
So first of all you need to decide do you want to give your customers the choice of paying by credit card? The answer, usually, Yes! Credit cards allow spontaneous purchasing, whilst cheques give the customer time to change their mind about a purchase.

Fully automatic Credit Card system
This allows your customers to browse your catalogue of goods adding items they wish to buy to a virtual shopping trolley (or shopping cart). At any time they may add or remove items from their shopping trolley. Then the customer proceeds to the checkout and enters their credit card details, delivery address etc. confirms the order with the knowledge that their credit card details are safe and secure. They then await delivery. This is typical of most e-commerce systems. However its a bit more complicated than that.

  1. Customer browse your catalog of products and add / removes products to and from their shopping cart.
  2. The customer proceeds to the checkout and confirm they wish to purchase the products in their shopping cart.
  3. The customer provides their credit card details and they are sent to the payment gateway for authorisation. Communications between your website and the payment gateway are secured using SSL technology.
  4. If authorised funds are reserved in the customers account.
  5. Funds are transferred from the customers account to your merchant account.
  6. Funds are transferred from your merchant account to your business account.
  1. When they have finished shopping purchases can be processed by the virtual check-out where the customer confirms the goods that they have in their shopping trolley and that they wish to purchase them. They are then asked for their credit card details, home address and address to which the goods are to be shipped. If the customer is a returning customer and has bought from your website before, some of there details may be entered automatically such as addresses and names.
  2. All communications between the customer and website are secure and encrypted using industry standard 128-bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology. SSL certificates must be renewed every year. Once the credit card has been validated, the details are forwarded to the Credit Card Association (e.g. Visa or Mastercard) via a Payment gateway (payment processing network). The transaction is either authorised or declined depending on the customer's credit limit.
  3. If authorised, the funds are reserved to cover the transaction. The customer is then notified and an email sent to the customer to confirm the order and an email sent to your shipping department with details of the goods to ship, quantity of each, and the name and address of the recipient.
  4. Once the goods have been shipped, a capture request is made for the reserved sum of money to be transferred from the customer's bank account, to your internet merchant account.
  5. Depending on your arrangements with your merchant account provider, your money will be transferred from your internet merchant account to your regular business account, usually once a month.
  6. In order to receive creditcard payments via the internet, you need to set up an internet merchant account. You may already have a merchant account if you take credit card orders already. Banks and other financial institutions are often very selective about who they issue internet merchant accounts too, so if you are interested in a fully automatic creditcard ordering system, you would be wise to research your position before going any further.