The implementation of a system on your website to facilitate the exchange of money for products, access or service is what’s referenced here by the term “sales system.”
It is often a critical piece of an online business and while there are other means of making money online (i.e., ads or off-site platforms), the integration of methods for displaying a product and taking payment at a website you own is far and away the most popular.
- Selling online should be addressed after you’ve finished setting up your website. While it can be done alongside website creation and e-mail marketing integration, it’s an involved enough process to overwhelm and should be addressed separately.
- Choosing what products or services to facilitate transactions online is often times the most difficult part, with implementation being next.
- You will have to pay a small percentage, usually around 2.9% of your sales, to do business online. In my experience (and I have spent some hours in this area), there is no amount of technical tweaking to get around this. Consider it a part of doing online business and take it into consideration when pricing your products.
- Your specific type of business, along with individual requirements, will determine an ideal sales system. There is no ultimate, one-size-fits-all best system.
You sell products or services on your website by doing two things:
- Creating a sales page with text and images about your product
- Integrating a button or link that leads to a payment gateway for the customer to complete a transaction
*The variables can be endless during this process.
Once you’ve sold something, you have to deliver it. Not all sales systems include a functionality for this, so including a download link or making a digital product available via a link is sometimes a separate task in itself. Commonly you put a link in an e-mail or lead the user to a page after checkout with instruction.
The biggest decision to make when integrating a sales system is choosing whether you need an entire digital store for multiple products and variations of products, or if you need to craft each sales page individually, with individual links to purchase. Said more concisely, do you need a store or do you need to sell a few products?
The answer to this question narrows what integrations you’ll use.
Some solutions allow you to quickly create a product and generate a link that leads to a checkout page, while others, meant to host many products with varying options (quantity, size, color, etc.), take more time to set up and configure.
Costs can vary highly based on solution.
The tools and services you use to bring customers through a checkout system and list your product, believe it or not, DO NOT necessarily include the function for actually charging your customers’ credit card. It’s often an additional integration with the sales system you use called a Payment Gateway. Paypal has both both sales system features and acts as a payment gateway linked to your bank account, so it is most commonly used online alone or in conjunction with a broader solution.
For example, you may use a WordPress plugin like Cart66 to display a product page with a buy button and facilitate product delivery, but without integrating Cart66 with a Payment Gateway, users can’t actually enter their purchase information and buy your product.
When choosing a sales system, you’ll often times need a “gateway” which enables you to take credit card transactions online. That gateway then needs to be integrated as part of your sales system. Some popular Payment Gateways include Authorize.net, Clickbank, 2Checkout, and Trialpay, Paypal and Google Checkout. These gateways connect your sales checkout system to your bank account.
Payment gateways vary in cost per transaction.
The Buy Now Button
Most commonly, online businesses and professionals start by selling a service or product with a “Buy Now” button which sits on a sales page and links the person who clicks this button to a checkout page. Although it sounds simple, the process often raises questions.
It’s a simplified sales system: Create a page with sales text and an image that says Buy Now. That image that says Buy Now is nothing more than a direct link to a Payment Gateway for a specific price to facilitate the checkout transaction. The code for that button comes from the payment gateway vendor.
Common solutions for this are Paypal, eJunkie, 1Shoppingcart and Clickbank.
The process involves setting up an account at one of those Payment Gateway vendors, linking that vendor to your bank account, creating products and entering product details in their system. Your Payment Gateway will then give you a link or code you can use on your website directing customers to a checkout page.
The most common issues with these checkout pages are that they look foreign to customers because the checkout pages are hosted at the sales vendor, and limited flexibility, like the inibility to customize a thank you e-mail.
E-Commerce Web Store
Those who have a host of products with varying options often use a “store” type solution that allows for rapid creation of many products and has product management options built in, as opposed to using a page with a Buy Now button or some other link to checkout integration.
It takes additional work to get your head around these systems but they often have more features.
They exist in two major forms: on-site plugins for WordPress and off-site, entirely separate platforms with rudimentary website building options meant to match the look of a home website.
Matching the look of a store platform like Volusion or Shopify to your website is not easy and often times takes a developer and dedicated work.
Ultimately, the sales system process is muddied with options, so confusion and doubt are often the norm for a lot of users. Discovery of the best solutions for your situation is half the battle. You can read more about choosing the right system in the next section.