E-commerce software features
At its most basic, an e-commerce website is a one-item-at-a-time shopping experience. The e-commerce software displays a "buy" button with each product description, but there is no shopping cart functionality to allow for purchases of multiple items at once. Visitors click the button for the product they want, enter their credit card details, shipping address, and in some cases the quantity to buy, and the transaction is complete. The order information is relayed via email, and you process it the same way you'd process a telephone order. This type of e-commerce is only suited for the most basic purchases.
Most businesses entering into e-commerce need a more complete online store that helps streamline the shopping process by allowing customers to shop for multiple products at once. To be called an online store, a site should include shopping cart functionality and an order processing and tracking system.
A typical shopping cart will include:
- Product name
- Product price
- Condensed product description
- Product image thumbnail for each product in the cart
- Quantity box enabling users to add or subtract the quantity of products they purchase
- Total cost of all products in the shopping cart
Many purchases involve multiple options: size and color are two very common examples. In an entry-level e-commerce site, you might have to create separate products for blue widgets, red widgets, and green widgets. Adding a "color" option simplifies the shopping process considerably and cuts down on the amount of work you have to do to manage your store.
Other important e-commerce features include:
- Shipping calculator. The system can determine shipping charges based on the weight of the items, the customer's location, and the type of shipping they choose.
- Tax status. The location of your business and the customer's location can affect whether or not you should collect sales tax on your purchases.
- Automatic charge processing. By connecting to your merchant account, an e-commerce system can automatically charge customers' credit cards.
- Stored shopping cart. Saves the contents of customers' shopping carts from one visit to the next if they are unable to complete their order.
- Product navigation. Good navigation features enable customers to browse through all your products to quickly find the products or categories they want.
- Search. No matter how good your navigation is, research shows that many web shoppers don't even try to browse their way through catalogs - they go straight to search to quickly locate the products they want.
- Discount codes. The online equivalent of coupons: by entering a special code, customers can get free shipping, a discount on their order, or other special offers.