For starters, sooner or later, you’re likely to be called on to write website shopping cart copy for a client. So, it’s smart to be familiar with how these carts work, as well as how to promote them with your copy.
The second reason is that you might launch your own e-commerce venture some day. It’s actually very easy to sell your own product — no Internet programming necessary. Plus, it means another stream of passive income to complement your freelancing business. Understanding how online shopping carts work brings you one step closer to that passive income stream.
I’ll delve into each of these topics more in a minute, and I’ll even recommend some easy-to-use shopping cart services. But first, here’s a brief overview of online shopping carts and how they work.
Online Shopping Carts: What They Do And How To Get One
No doubt you’ve used them before, but what exactly does an online shopping cart do?
The most basic kind is simply an e-commerce tool that lets a website collect credit card information from visitors. Shopping carts don’t actually process payments. For that, you need an Internet merchant account, or you can choose a shopping cart that bundles payment processing as part of their service.
There are essentially two approaches to shopping carts. One option is to buy full-package, e-commerce software that does everything. But, it’s expensive, and most shopping cart software is for heavy hitters (i.e., major retailers).
The second option is to go with a hosted solution. That means your site is not responsible for collecting credit card information. That gets handled by a third party that hosts your checkout procedure. A hosted service also means you don’t have to worry about processing credit cards. Overall, using a hosted shopping cart is typically an affordable, simple solution for most small site owners.
Maximize Your Cart’s Effectiveness
Whether you have your own program or opt for a hosted setup, the best shopping cart setups include the following:
- Item selection and removal
- The ability to change things at any point in the transaction (e.g., quantity)
- A running price total
- Tax calculation when necessary (usually based on a shopper’s zip code)
- Shipping fee calculations (where relevant)
- Secure transactions between your site (or the host site) and your customer’s computer
The best carts also send an email confirmation to the person placing the order, and they inform the buyer when an item ships.
Benefit 1: Shopping Cart Savvy Impresses Your Clients
Remember, even if you don’t plan to use a shopping cart for your own freelance business, it’s still smart to understand them. Chances are good that you’ll come across many opportunities to write copy that directs prospects to your client’s shopping cart.
For example, a promotional email might have a link that takes a reader to a shopping cart order page. Or, a landing page might link a prospect to an order form. For that matter, any page within a client’s website could be a springboard to the order form.
This is particularly good news for you, given that each link to a shopping cart page (also known as order form or point of sale), makes it easy for your client to measure response. It’s easy to demonstrate the value of your work if your client can link your copy directly to sales.
If you’re involved in a project that links to a shopping cart, make sure you always review the copy on the order page you link to (that is, if you haven’t already been hired to write it). That’s because the best copy can deliver prospects to a shopping cart page, but if the copy on the shopping cart page itself isn’t good, the response rates will plummet.
If you can think of ways to improve the copy on the order page, make sure you communicate this to your client.
Benefit 2: An Easy-To-Launch Extra Income Stream
Impressing clients is one thing, but becoming shopping cart smart can also put you on the path to a passive income stream. Let’s say you decide to sell an information product online. I’m not talking about full e-commerce right now, just a simple, downloadable PDF booklet. It’s remarkably easy to do.
First, make sure you have a good product. Do your research and identify what your key prospects will find informative or useful. As with any promotional copy, you need to know what your customers really want on an emotional level.
Don’t worry about coming up with the perfect idea. Writing the ideal information booklet takes some guesswork, no matter how much research you do. Your customer is the one who decides what works, so it’s wise to adopt a strategy where you constantly plan and test new products — and analyze your results, of course.
When you have your downloadable booklet ready, create a sales page for it. Set up a shopping cart that lets prospects buy your book, and presto — you have a new income stream.
How much you make on the book depends on how well you market it, which is a whole topic in itself (and something we can cover in a future issue). But, know that most e-books sell for between $19 and $39, and are generally at least 30 pages long.
An added benefit to selling an e-book on your site is that it impresses prospective clients. Not only does it make you look authoritative on whatever topic you wrote about, it also shows the client you’re experienced with e-commerce.
Recommended Hosted Shopping Cart Services
If you decide to add a shopping cart service to your site, choose one that gives you access to live help during business hours. Live help 24/7 is even better.
- PayPal is one of the simplest services for hosting a shopping cart. They don’t require an upfront fee for accepting credit cards, and you can keep the sum of your earnings directly in your PayPal account.
PayPal is excellent if you’re selling a product because it works well with various shipping services. Just note that if you sell a downloadable product, you have to provide links and instructions on your own site for your customers to follow once they place their orders.
- Clickbank is another popular choice because of its comprehensive service. For less than $50 to get started, you can accept credit cards and PayPal payments. Plus, you have all the tools you need to sell downloadable products such as e-books, videos, and software.
Clickbank also connects you with a network of more than 100,000 affiliates. This means other companies and entrepreneurs will promote your product in exchange for a percentage of your sales.
- 1ShoppingCart is popular among web-based entrepreneurs. It’s slightly more expensive than other options, ranging between $35 and $99 per month. On the plus side, it offers you a complete way to both accept payments and manage orders. This includes the delivery of digital products and the ability to ship products.
Final Tips For Launching An Effective Cart Set-up
Always try to limit the number of questions on a shopping cart page. Every extra click risks losing your buyer. Ask only what’s necessary to complete the order. Be brief, but clear. Ideally, show the total on every page that is part of the transaction.
Also, don’t make your prospect register before the sale. And, if you’re offering more than one product, let customers save their shopping carts.
As with any service related to your freelancing business, you’ll want to keep a record of all your user names and passwords. If you ever expand into multiple sites and offers, the different logins could get confusing.
Also, store back-up copies to any website where you sell a product or service. Have your designer give you the HTML code for those sites. That way, should anything happen to your sites, and should your designer not be accessible, you’ll be able to recover.
After all, once you have a shopping cart set up to make you money, any time it’s not live online, it will cost you money rather than make you money. The same is true for your clients, so present yourself as an authority and pass these tips on to them as well.