When we needed a shop for our website to sell SmartInspect licenses, I researched the different available options. Our primary goal for the shop was to make it easy for our customers to order our software. One important factor when you want to sell software online is to accept a wide range of payment options like different credit cards, wire transfer, check and purchase order. If you think you can setup a shop without accepting credit cards: forget it. People won’t buy your software. If you don’t make it easy to pay you money, people will go elsewhere and even buy inferior products if it’s easier.
One option is to host your shop yourself by using one of the countless shop packages out there. The problem with this approach is, that you have to process all orders yourself, deal with credit card chargebacks and fraud protection. To make matters worse, you will have to sign a merchant agreement with the different credit card vendors in order to accept their credit cards. This can be quite expensive because often they will want some kind of deposit to cover their backs in case you receive money and the customer later decides to do a chargeback.
Page of our shop where customers select the order method
The other option is to use some kind of order processing service. They typically have merchant accounts in place, process your orders, generate invoices and handle chargebacks. There are many different order processing services for software companies out there and all have their pros and cons. I found that Regshare gives you a good overview over the different services and even lets you calculate the cheapest order processing service for your product price.
After careful evaluation of the different order processing services, we decided to go with ShareIt. ShareIt is a service of Element5 AG. Element5 AG has been bought by Digital River recently, which owns many of the order processing services available on the net. I have heard about the reservations regarding Digitial River and that some order processing services downgraded their support when they were acquired by Digital River. I can say that this hasn’t been the case for ShareIt when judging by my experience with them. Their support staff has been prompt with answers and was very helpful when we set up the shop and needed some questions about the ordering process answered. The response time of the support staff is an important factor when choosing a processing partner because you don’t want to wait for 5 days when your customer has a problem with ordering your products.
What We Wanted
We could have just set up the shop by using the ShareIt Control Panel and be done with it. Our shop would then look and act like thousands of other ShareIt shops that don’t look that great and are not easy to use. But what we wanted was an easy to use shop that integrates perfectly with our website so that people do not lose faith when entering our shop. I think it’s not very professional when customers see that the shop uses a completely different design than the website of the software vendor. Also we didn’t want to have any kind of shopping cart which could distract our customers. For websites like Amazon it makes sense to have a shopping cart, but for a smaller software company with just a few different products it is overkill and just makes the shop harder to use.
The ideal shop would just have an overview page with the different software licenses to pick from. The customers would then enter the license amount and recalculate the price. When they selected the licenses they whish to purchase, they would just click next and enter their contact and payment details. I’m not sure why, but as far as I can tell, all the order processing services I looked at just do not offer such a simple ordering process. They all have shopping cards, product groups, product detail pages etc.
Page of our shop where customers select the licenses
Fortunately, the ShareIt shop is flexible enough to make it work the way we wanted. But to do so we had to develop the first shop pages by ourselves and host it on our servers. You can see the results of our efforts on our ordering page. I think it’s easy to use and should not put any customers off like many other shops do. If you like our shop and would like to set up something similar for your software business, read on and learn how to do so.
How We Did It
As noted above, to make the shop work like we wanted, we had to develop the first pages of the shop ourselves and host it on our servers. The custom made pages contain the shop entrance page where our customers learn more about the ordering process, our no-questions-asked money back guarantee and possible discounts. Also, customers have to decide how they whish to order (online, fax, phone or purchase order). When our customers select online or fax ordering, they are forwarded to the license selection page which is also hosted on our servers. For phone or purchase orders, customers end on a page where all details like phone numbers and addresses are listed.
The page that contains the license selection provides the option to recalculate the overall price. Customers can enter their license amount, push the button and directly see what they need to pay. When they proceed to the next page, they are forwarded to ShareIt. ShareIt provides the option to add all kind of parameters in the page URL like what products the customer wishes to purchase, how many licenses, allowed currencies etc.
The different pages of our shop
You can build such URLs in the ShareIt Control Panel. We built an URL without shopping card, hardcoded language (English only) and limited choice of currencies. All you have to do now is write a little server side script with ASP, PHP or something else that lets the customer enter the licenses, add the product details to the URL and forward them to ShareIt. If you do not know any web scripting language, get somebody who knows how to do it. It is really easy to build this page and it shouldn’t cost that much.
You now have an easy-to-use and functional shop but one problem remains: it does look totally different than the rest of your site. To change the layout, visit the ShareIt Control Panel and select Design and Layout from the menu. You can enter the Style Editor to make the shop pages look and act like the rest of your website. It is not too uncommon to use a feature-reduced layout in a shop. As you can see in our shop, we don’t use our normal menu. This is to not distract the users from the ordering process itself. As long as the shop looks and acts like your website, it can still be somewhat different.
As you can see, we tried to design our shop to make it as easy as possible to order our products. I hope that you learned something new by reading this article and found it useful. If you want to set up an easy-to-use shop using ShareIt, you should now have a good starting point. If you have any comments or questions, do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.