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E-commerce For Dummies?

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I was wondering if anyone here knows of a tutorial or a book that would step me through how to set up an e-commerce site?


I have a friend who is interested in me designing a site for him, but he will have an online store with various products.


I haven't set up this type of thing where the store is actually embedded into the site. For previous sites I have used other payment type services like Acteva, CDStreet and Paypal.


I am guessing I'd have to find some kind of storefront or shopping cart script (I think there is one included in the TCH plans?), and a gateway to connect the cart to the merchant account.


Any suggestions for merchant account companies that don't charge huge setup fees? How does the client apply for a merchant account and what are some things to watch for? Do they run credit checks etc?


I was also wondering what kind of tax info I would need so that state tax would be calculated. How does that all work online? Do people from that state that the site is in only pay the state tax, or is there some other way it works?


I am very new to designing this type of site.... so if there is a book or an online tutorial that would help I'd love to hear about it. I am just doing this one as a favor to my friend, but I don't wanna mess it up and if it proves to be out of my league I may just refer him to a design company.


Thanks in advace for any help ;)



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All I can say is that you're a VERY good friend. Setting up an e-commerce site is work.


This is what my business is, but there are many different cart systems availabe too. But I've never used any of them or know how they work with merchant accounts.


One thing I think I can offer you is a reasonble credit card processing, especially for set-up, of a merchant account. I refer my clients there and, for people with reasonable credit, things have gone smoothly. Check out my site and the link in the upper-left (credit card animiation). The people I use offer free set-up and a 2.19% discount rate (internet transactions). There are other fees involved, but they are all pretty much the same as other processors or less. The discount rate and set-up fees vary pretty wildly.


One thing you might consider is the store up-keep. Do you want a store where you make changes or your client?


I ask this because this is where my store products are designed to work best, with those who don't have any special web design skills. All the customer needs to do is plug in their business information and product information to set up their store. Some carts that are out there might also be as client friendly ... but others will have better input for this.


For on-line stores I believe it is at least smart, if not required, to calculate state tax. So for every sale that occurs INSIDE the same state as the merchant, a sales tax rate is charged according to the state that the store merchant lives. The exception is if your store owner also have a presence in other states, then it gets more tricky.


Beyond carts, you can design the store yourself ... but that will be months of work ...


Not sure if there's anything else I can answer for you. But I'll keep watching the thread.


Good luck!

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One thing you may want to do is look at the carts that we offer as well as look on the web and find one you like. Then look at what merchant systems work with that cart and compare them to see what the features are. Many of them come with no setup fee, expect to pay about $50 a month in basic fees, those that happen before the transaction fees. Figure about $20 for gateway, $20 for merchant, and then $10 for misc like AMEX fees and such.


My site is based on osCommerce, there are many more free and not so free carts out there. We all have our favorites ;)


This is in addition to what Bill had to say above.

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I'm going to sound like a sale's person by writing this ... but it's still good info.


The fees for where I send my clients are:


Discount rate: 2.19%

Transaction fee: $0.25


Monthly Statement Fee: $9.95

Gateway Fee: $15.95


There is a minimum fee of $18/month for the discount rate. So if you didn't sell anything your monthly fees would be the $9.95 + $15.95 + $18.00 = $43.90 (check me on this).


If you sold 10 items at $50 each in a month it would be $9.95 + $15.95 + $18.00 (still below minimum) + $2.50 (transaction fees) = $46.40.


if you sold 100 items at $50 each in a month it would be $9.95 + $15.95 + $145 (discount rate) + $25 (transaction fees) = $195.54


There are additional fees for using Amex, Discover and E-Checks as well. But that is what you'll find just about everywhere.


When I went hunting, and comparing with PayPal, I did up this spreadsheet for my clients to help them understand the fee structure that's out there. It was quit overwhelming at first. I think I got my hands around it now ... but man, it's a lot to take in.


Again ... good luck!

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Hey TCH-Rob,


Maybe you could give our friend a summary of osCommerce. I've never looked at it before, but since you've been using it I bet a synopsis of the things you really like or don't like might help her choose a good cart system.


If you start, maybe others will chime in with their cart experiences.


There so much out there that information overload could happen just by trying to research the thing ... but nothings better than some good experience and direction.


I'll be interested in seeing what people say myself!

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I will tell you what, there is a small learning curve but it is pretty simple to do the basics in a short time. It is open source so it is free to use and the backend of it, adding proucts and overall configuring isnt that bad. If you run into trouble there is someone that has run into the same situation and you can find the answer on their forums. I donr suggest asking a question there unless you have looked at the first 30 pages in your search results. Not always that easy on the new people, I like to help when I can though so dont worry too much about that part. We have a number of osCers to assist here.


The big thing is that it uses blocks, you can modify the heck out of it though. I have seen some sites, even our members that look nothing like the basic site.


If you want to look at the basic site you can see it at knifeandblade.com/test and that is what you start with. Take off the test and you can see what I have done and I will see if I can find examples of other osC sites that are even further along than I am. I am also working with ZenCart, an osC offshoot and about 6 other free carts I found on hotscripts that I liked the looks of. One day I hope to have a "Robs eye view" of all of them.


Ask away if you have more questions.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is a link to a website that sells a Shopping cart solution. I am looking to buy it, but have not yet. I am still doing some research as you are. I am interested in creating shopping carts as a business but I am not sure what all is involded.


http://www.interakt.ro Check out the MX Kart and MX Shop products. They also have a lot of other php.mysql products as well.

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OK, here is my osc "Robs eye view". Thoughts? I know, I need to learn to write for the web. Any good sites?


According to the osCommerce website; "osCommerce is the leading Open Source online shop e-commerce solution... Everything you need to get started in selling physical and digital goods over the internet, from the Catalog frontend that is presented to your customers, to the Administration Tool backend that completely handles your online store data." Take the PR spin off of it and is it as they say it is? Pretty much, this software comes with almost everything you need to get going within a small amount of time. You can have a few products up and be ready to sell in a few hours.


Built using PHP and accessing a MySQL database you may think you need a programming degree to get this up and running. osCommerce developers have made installation relatively easy. After you have unzipped/extracted the program and uploaded it to your hosting account you can access a web based installation process. You say it is in your control panel with your host? Then your install could be as easy as selecting a folder to put the software in and selecting a username and password.


Now that you have it installed, how easy is customization and adding products. Adding single products is a simple process through the admin interface and we have done over one thousand via a contribution called Easy Populate. Contributions are additional features developed by the community and submitted for public use. Customization and contributions can be done but you will need to be able to follow directions. We have found even novice users can adjust to basic PHP by looking through the contributions and following the directions on its installation. If you have a good grasp of the language you can make enough changes to make it close to impossible to recognize as the software you started with or you can make it somewhere in between.


What about support? All support is handled through the over thirty thousand community members via their mailing lists or online forums. You will not find a phone number to call. This is common for open source and free software. We have found the fastest way to solve our issues was to visit the forums and get our answer. Your best bet is to use the forum search function and type the error message you are getting and search ten or so pages. It may seem like alot to do but it is faster than posting and some (not all) of the members can get testy if you havent done your homework first and found one of the other hundres questions about the same issue.


Navigation to products is most often through the category/sub-category/product method but there is a search feature and manufacture browsing capability as well.


Keep in mind, if you have a merchant account already you will need to make sure there is a module for it to use with osCommerce. Payment gateways built in include; 2Checkout.com, Authorize.net, iPayment, PayPal, PSiGate, SECPay and TrustCommerce. If yours isn't listed here then check the contributions and there may very well be one for your gateway. There is even a contribution to help assist with search engines. There is even awebsite you can get the software from that has the most popular contributions included.

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Nice summary Rob :blink:


Nothing I can really add to that other than to add another vote for osCommerce as being worthwhile looking at.


Because of the size of the community, there's probably more work goes into the development of osC than any of the commercial alternatives making it very robust and feature-rich.


It's free, so it's worth installing for a "test drive" at least.



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  • 1 year later...



I know your post in this forum is old, but I tried your link, knifeandblade.com/test and got a 404 not found.


I took test off the URL and got an access denied.


Do you still have test osCommerce page somewhere that I could look at?


I have been reading through the forums trying to determine which shopping cart to implement.



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Hi Wigoweb,


You'll find a demo of a standard osCommerce store on the osCommerce site at http://www.oscommerce.com/osCommerce22ms2/


That's pretty much the way it'll look when you first install it, however there's loads of ways you can customise it and add to it.


My site (see signature) has a few examples of how it can look when customised, although really the sky's your limit!


Have fun, and if you get stuck at any point, I'm sure there's loads of us here that will help you out :clapping:



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  • 8 months later...
thanks everyone. i found this thread very useful =)

Me too! Thanks for this forum. I can't tell you how frustrating it has been trying to self teach the internet commerce game. I am very happy I found this forum.



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