How to start selling products through your website

Being able to sell products online can take your business to a completely new level, opening up a potentially enormous new market. But in order to sell products over the web you need to be able automatically process payments online, and this can be a challenge for small businesses which don’t have the technical skills or budget to build an ecommerce site.

The good news is that there are several options available which make it easy to sell online. In this article we’ll look at how you can use some of the most popular tools that will help you to start selling products online with no up-front costs.

Google Checkout

Google Checkout

Google Checkout provides a secure way for customers to make online payments using a recognised and trusted brand. To get started you’ll need to complete the signup process at the above link, which involves providing some simple details about your business to prevent fraud.

If you are using a popular ecommerce platform like Actinic, all you need to do is select Google Checkout as your payment option and add your account details.

If you are not using an ecommerce system, you can simply create a Buy Now button using Google Checkout. Visit the Create a Buy Now page in your Google Checkout account and enter some information about your product, then Google will give you a small snippet of code which you can paste into the web-page where you want to sell the item.

Customers will now be able to make a purchase instantly by clicking on the Buy Now button in your page. Google will process the transaction and send payment to your bank account, minus a small fee which is based on the total value of the sale.

PayPal

PayPal

PayPal is one of the most trusted online payment services. It was originally designed to allow people to easily securely send money over the internet to other consumers (for example, to pay for an eBay item) and now the company offers a range of online payments systems for businesses.

The simplest way to use PayPal to accept payments on your site is to use the Website Payments Standard service. You will need to set up a PayPal account in order to use this service.

To sell an individual product you can create a Buy Now button, which will require you to enter some details about the product before giving you a code-snippet to embed into the web page where you want to sell the item. PayPal also offers some additional buttons which allow you to provide your customers with a wider range of options:

  • Add to Cart – provides a basic shopping cart feature to allow people to buy several products from your site in one batch
  • Automatic Billing – allows you to regularly bill customers a variable amount, like a utility bill
  • Subscription – set up a regular payment for a fixed amount, like a subscription to a membership site
  • Donate – enable people to make a donation to your site. This can be used if you are a charity organisation, or a donation-funded content site

When customers make a purchase using the button, PayPal process the payment and credits the funds to your account, after charging a small fee based on the value of the transaction.

Building a shopping cart

Both of these payment options are ideal if you do not have a complex website and simply want to add payment buttons onto a small number of product pages. If you have a more sophisticated business, selling a wide range of different products, you should consider implementing a more powerful ecommerce system.

Commercial tools are available to help build an ecommerce site without any programming knowledge. In the UK, Actinic is one of the leading shopping cart solutions and in Spain, France and Italy the sister company Oxatis offers similar tools.

If you have some basic technical skills, you can use free software to set up your own online store. OpenCart is a popular shopping cart tool that can be installed on most web servers running the PHP scripting language and MySQL database (most web-hosts offer these tools).

In order to install OpenCart, you will need to understand some simple technical points:

  • How to upload files to your web space/server with FTP
  • How to change access permissions of web folders using either an FTP client or the Linux chmod command
  • What your MySQL database details are

To install the software, all you need to do is upload the OpenCart files to your web-server, make sure the folder/file permissions are correctly set, and then enter the database details when prompted. Full details of the installation process can be found here. Once these three basic steps are completed, the system is ready to use and you can enter your product details through OpenCart’s easy-to-use interface.

OpenCart offers thousands of different themes, so you can easily customise the site to your own tastes. It is compatible with all of the major payment systems including Google Checkout and PayPal, making it easy for you to start selling through your site.

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