An e-commerce system allows a website to sell products or services online to consumers or businesses. The most popular type of e-commerce for consumers is the shopping cart application where people can browse through a catalog, add items to a cart, and then checkout to make the purchase. The ability to conduct trade online is an important aspect of growth to most companies both big and small since the number of people making purchases online is expected to increase dramatically.
Aside from the convenience afforded to buyers by allowing them to make a purchase anywhere an internet connection exists, an e-commerce system provides a company with a virtual storefront capable of operating 24 hours a day, something that a traditional sales model cannot emulate. A typical e-commerce system includes an order taking application that interacts with the customer, such as a shopping cart; an online merchant account that handles the financial transactions; and a secure data hosting server.
Developing an e-commerce website can be an extremely complicated task, especially for large organizations where security and robustness become a critical issue. While there are decent open-source e-commerce platforms available to save time, sometimes only a thoroughly customized application will do.
For large businesses, getting an online merchant account from a reputable bank is the common setup. This will entail a lot of work however, as connecting the e-commerce system to theirs, and developing secure transactions is no easy task. An alternative approach is to use a third-party online merchant provider. Such providers normally take care of all the processing and are responsible for encrypting sensitive credit card data.
While setting up a sophisticated e-commerce system is no easy task, the benefits far outweigh the trouble and cost of development