Not everything can be sold directly over the web and the purpose of some websites is to start a conversation that will end with customer visits and signatures on a contract, but if products that can be delivered by mail, mail order or downloads can be sold directly off the website. This sort of selling is known as e-commerce.
Taking credit card payments on your own website
To do this directly, you need an SSL Secured Server. It is a lot easier (and potentially safer) to use one of the online services (like Worldpay), though you must accept that they will take a percentage of each sale.
Online shop fronts
There are now a number of websites that offer you the ability to set up what amounts to your shopfront on their server. Shopify is one; there are others and a search engine will show you who and where they are. The advantage is that they are very experienced and skilled at handling the whole transaction and accounting to you for the proceeds after they have deducted their commission. The disadvantages are:
- Customers start off on your website and then follow a link to a different server and there is no guarantee that they will return
- You will need to maintain updated product pictures, details and prices on the shopfront website as well as on your own. When websites are duplicated, there is always the risk of a discrepancy to irritate the customer
Shopfronts on your own website
Woo commerce is an example of this approach; they have developed the software that allows them to set up on your website the same sort of online store as Shopify (above) offer so that you keep the customer on your site. They handle all aspects of taking the customer’s money, deducting their commission and passing the rest to you.
Whichever of these options you choose, make sure at the time you set up your website that you have the capacity to handle them. Many of the packaged Themes now available incorporate, for example, a Woo commerce facility.