There you are one day on the web thinking your own business and someone drops you a line. It's a potential client. They want to buy one of the many fabulous products you feature on your website, but there's just one problem: they can not. You do not have a shopping cart.
What ?? You want them to call some worthless Bangladeshi call center? Sitting on hold listening to endless loops of Ravi Shenkar interpreting the Beatles on sitar music? No way, you're customer's will give you the 'upward facing finger' as they drop the receiver in the cradle. They want it NOW!
It's a real and growing problem because just like color TV, this whole "internet thing", as your pencil-neck boss likes to call it, is not turning out to be the fad that he and the other the three martini lunch board of directors had predicted it would be, and now they're breathing down your neck to "get something in place" PDQ by COB tomorrow or your fired, ASAP!
If only there were a solution! What you need is an e-commerce platform solution and fast. But I hear you say, "it's scary, dude." There are so many terms: open source, Java-based, J2EE, CMS, front end integration, backend build outs; seriously, you did not get an advanced degree in computer science just to sit around installing shopping carts! Oh, wait, you did … still, you're not completely out there in the weeds, pal.
There are a number of great solutions and ones that you can actually implement in a weekend. First, what you need to do is assess the requirements of your situation. Are you a static or a dynamic site? What drives your backend dBs? Are you ColdFusion, .net or PHP? What's the size of your catalog? Do you have PCI concerns? Any APIs? and so on, and so on, etc. Once you've tutted that up on the proverbial napkin, you can make an educated decision on the right e commerce platform for you.
Did you know that there's an infinite universe of potential shake and bake ecommerce solutions out there? Many are open source, like oscommerce. Some integrate well into existing installs of Wordpress or Joomla, like Virtuemart. Others still are big name players for Fortune 500 companies, like Magento, who specializes in enterprise level ecommerce platforms. And then there are vendors like Zen Cart, a "free" cart software vendor (free is always a good price, right?)
Depending on where youre at with your site, you might just consider buying a preformatted ecommerce platform html template or theme and developing from there. A lot of them come with some seriously nifty integration points; all the hard work has significantly been figured out for you already. So, when you're boss pops in around noon and notices that you're too tanned and well-rested, let him know you busted that cart out and then went skiing. Oh, and that you're going to need a raise. You know, for all the 'hard work' you put in over the weekend?
That'll drop a rock on his nine iron, huh?