Factors That Make Shopping Online a Good Idea

Shopping being an essential one for everyone can be fun and easy for some, while some would consider it a chore and irritating. Online shopping is the perfect solution for the home bound and for those who find shopping a difficult task. Online shopping has proved to be a boon for those who live in rural areas too. Whether you’re buying directly from a business online retailer, an individual online shopping site, or an Internet auction site, shopping online can be fun, simple, time saving and economical.

More about Shopping Online…

Since the development of the Internet, all hard-to-obtain, hard-to-do things have become quite simple that anyone can get anything from wherever they are, all by using a your PC. The Internet not only gives you an ocean of information you required, at the same time expands your shopping options like never before! Now, with only a few clicks of a mouse, you can go online to buy just about anything you need or want.

Festival shopping can be a real stress for most of you, and with Christmas just around the corner, it’s time for you to think about the gifts you have planned to buy. Secure online shopping gives you a little less shopping stress and saves more time, especially during Christmas and other festival season when the crowd packs the streets. Shop your things without venturing into the crowded shopping areas and wrestling your way between shoppers. Most important of all, you need not hurry or worry about finding a parking lot for your car. A simple online search can lead you to the right product at the right price, fast.

If you are looking for great online shopping suggestions or you want to find Australia’s best online shopping websites please read on…

Online shopping benefits…

  • Online shopping offers unbelievable convenience to the shoppers.
  • Online shopping allows people to browse through a variety of retailers, items and categories without leaving their home, compare prices with greater ease and order as many items as they can afford.
  • It provides round the clock service that allows you to shop at your leisure, regardless of your time. Unlike direct shopping where you can shop only during the showroom’s working time, online shopping allows you to buy things any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
  • Compared to physically going to a shopping mall to shop, online shopping can reduce overhead costs in a variety of ways that inturn reduces the prices to an unbelievable amount.
  • Online retailers too offer many attractive sales promotions. “Festival/seasonal offers”, “Discount sales”, “Buy one and get one free”, and “Buy now” could be few of them. Bargains can be numerous online.
  • Online shopping renders you great help if you wish to gift your daughter who is staying in another country, you can make her day special by sending her a jewellery set by shopping online.
  • With a click on your mouse, you can buy anything from flowers to fly tickets. Groceries, clothing, jewellery, gifts, wine, art, pet supplies, pharmaceuticals, sports goods and equipment, toddlers and kids essentials are some of the others you can get online.
  • The transaction you do is purely safe and your credit card data is encrypted.

Use the checklist below to help make your online shopping experience a safe one

  • Be clear with your needs & budget: With copious online retailers in the Internet, supplying anything you wanted are sure to confuse you while deciding on the one you are looking for. So it is important to be clear with your needs and preferences along with your budget to make your shopping easy.
  • Decide with your paying format: Be clear with your payment format, whether using your credit, debit or charge card before shopping, for making your shopping safe. It is always advisable to save and get your transaction records printed.
  • Check out the terms & conditions: Do read the terms and conditions of the site from which you have decide to shop, to be clear with the delivery, refund policies and warranty. It is a good idea to search and shop from retailers within your country, if you want fast deliveries and low shipping fees.
  • Know your online retailer: Make sure you shop from secure and safe online shopping sites.

We hope this info helps you to shop safely and wisely online. Online shopping is the most practical, economical and fun method of shopping that is perfect for everyone. It saves on your time. Browse through different products without going to the market, compare the prices of products offered by online stores and make the best deal for yourself and your loved ones.

What is the Best Shopping Cart Software For Your Ecommerce Website?

Searching for the best shopping cart software for you ecommerce website can be a daunting task. There are literally hundreds of carts and ecommerce solutions available. How do you know which one is right for you?

You should consider the following factors when you are searching for a shopping cart that fits your needs.

  • What is a shopping cart?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Should I buy or lease a cart?
  • What Features Should I Look For?
  • What Kind and How Much Support Does will I get?
  • Which Payment Gateways Work with the Cart?
  • What Hosting/Server Platform is Required?
  • What if I Need Customization?

What is a Shopping Cart?

First, let me define a shopping cart or ecommerce website. In the most basic terms, a shopping cart is software that allows you to list your products on a web site and then automatically collect fees when a customer buys products from your website.

For example, lets say that you sell vitamins from your home, and now you want to start selling them on your website. First, you need shopping ecommerce software. You will also need to have a business bank account and a payment gateway, a service that allows you to automatically process credit cards on your web site.

Once you have the cart software set up on your website, you can add your vitamin products to the website using a web browser. The software allows you to add product images, descriptions, prices, shipping and tax rates, and so on. Once your cart is populated with all of your products, you can start selling them on the web.

Here’s how it works: A customer comes to your web site and adds products to her shopping cart. When she is ready to buy the products, she enters her shipping and credit card information in a form so you know where to ship the product and whom to charge it to. When the customer clicks the button to submit the order, the shopping cart uses your payment gateway (credit-card-processing service) to validate the credit card and then transfer the money from the customer’s credit card to your bank account. Then it’s up to you to ship the product.

You can also use a shopping cart to sell digital, or downloadable products such as electronic books, music, and software.

How Much Do Shopping Carts Cost?

As you might expect, shopping carts come in a wide range of prices, from free to thousands of dollars. Does that mean that the more you spend, the better cart you get? Not necessarily.

There are several free shopping carts that are very powerful and full of features; for example, OSCommerce and ZenCart. Both of these carts are completely free and offer most of the features you would expect in a modern shopping cart: unlimited products, connections to the major payment gateways, credit card payments, real-time shipping prices, discount customer groups, multi language, and more.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to free: free products lack good documentation and support. For example, there is no official support group that you can call when you need help. And there is no official user’s guide to explain how to use the software. You usually have to search through user forums to find answers to your questions.

Free shopping carts are probably not be the best choice if you are new to ecommerce and are trying to do everything yourself.

Fortunately, there are many commercial carts in the range of $100-500 that offer lots of features. The carts in this range usually have some kind of support system to help you with problems, and they usually have documentation to explain how to use their software. X-Cart and Ecommerce Templates are two carts between $150 – $200, and both are very powerful and relatively easy to use.

Should I Buy or Lease a Shopping Cart?

There are two basic models for online shopping carts:

  • Pay a one time fee for the software and install it on your web server: This can be a daunting task unless you are comfortable working with Linux web servers and configuring web-based software. The good thing about this model is that you don’t have to pay monthly fees, and the software is usually much more customizable than leased shopping carts. If you have the skills to install the software on your server, or if you hire a website designer to install and configure your shopping cart, this method is more economical than leasing.
  • Pay a monthly or yearly fee to lease the software: This model is easy to implement because you don’t need to install, configure, or maintain any software. If you are going to do it yourself and have little web experience, this is the easiest way to get started. The downside is that leased software is often hard to customize and many ecommerce sites need some customization. Furthermore, it can be very expensive when you add in the cost of leasing over many years.

What Shopping Cart Features Should I Look For?

Most shopping carts come with standard features like unlimited categories and products, web-based administration, easy-to-use product creation screens, and tax and shipping calculation. Unfortunately, not all carts include all the functions YOUR business will need to operate an online store.

The following is a list of features to look for in a shopping cart:

Installation and Design

  • Easy-to-use web interface: A web interface allows you to administer your shopping cart from any web browser that is connected to the internet.
  • Shopping Cart Reporting: The ability to get detailed reports about your sales, inventory, states, users, categories, products, destination zones, taxes, shipping rates, orders, membership levels, etc.
  • Multiple Languages: The ability to display multiple languages in your shopping cart
  • Customer Support: Most carts usually provide email or forum-based support, but sometimes they provide live phone support.
  • Upgradeable: Find out if you can get free updates as the software is improved. Usually you can get free updates for 6 to 12 months.
  • Template-based Design: Tempate-based designs make it easier to customize the look of your website
  • WYSIWYG Editor for Products: This feature allows you to enter product text and images using a word-processor-like editor.
  • Content Pages: Does your cart allow you to create content pages? For example, can you create an “About Us” page?
  • Mini-Cart: A mini cart is a small box that indicates if the user has items in their shopping cart. These are usually located on the top or side of the page. Most carts have this feature.

Customer Features

  • Newsletter Function: Do you need to ability to send mass emails to your customers? Many carts come with the ability to send emails to customers.
  • Customer Order / Customer Account / Customer Registration: The ability for your customers to view their account and their order history.
  • Product Search: A search tool for your products. This function is especially helpful if you have more than 20 or 30 products.
  • Googlecheckout: Google Checkout is a new service that makes online shopping faster, safer and more convenient. Many carts have been updated so they work with Google Checkout.
  • Wish list: A “Wish List” allows your customers to save products to a wish list. That way they can come back to your online store at a later date and buy the products in the Wish List.
  • Send to friend: This feature displays a form that allows customer to enter a name and email address so the can send a link of a product to a friend.
  • Memberships and special pricing: This feature allows you to create memberships on your store and then give them special prices or discounts.
  • Printable Invoices: The feature allows your customers to print their invoices.
  • Multiple Shipping Addresses: The feature allows customers to store multiple shipping addresses. This is a handy feature for customer who often ship gifts to friends and family members.

Store and Products

  • Unlimited Number of Products: This feature means you can list as many products as you like. With many leased shopping carts, the total number of products is limited by your plan. The more you pay, the more you products you can list.
  • Unlimited number of categories: Products are usually stored in categories; for example, Men’s Clothing, Women’s Clothing, Children’s clothing.
  • Products can be assigned to multiple categories: This feature allows you to assign a product to more than one category.
  • Featured Products: This feature allows you to list feature products in a box or area on your home page.
  • Bestsellers: This feature automatically lists your best-selling products.
  • Related products: This feature allows you to relate one product to another product so the customer can see products that are related to the product they are looking at.
  • Unlimited product options and option price modifiers: This feature allows you to add options to products, and the options can add or subtract from the product price. For example, T-Shirts come in sizes Small, Medium, and Large and colors Red, Green, and Blue.
  • Custom Input Fields for Products: This allows you to add fields to products. For example, if you sell custom greeting cards, you can use a custom field so the customer can enter a custom message to be printed on the card.
  • Unlimited number of product images: This feature allows you to add more than one product image for a product.
  • Popup Product Images: This feature allows you to add popup images so your customer can see a larger, more detailed product image.
  • Manufacturers: This feature allows you to associate manufacturers with products.
  • Drop Shippers: This feature allows you to sell products that another company stocks and ships. When your store receives an order for a drop shipper product, the shopping cart sends an email to the drop shipper with the product and shipping information and that company ships the product to your customer.
  • Discount coupon codes and gift certificates: This feature allows you to sell gift certificates or to offer coupon discounts.
  • Inventory control: This feature allows you to enter the number of products you have in stock and then automatically makes a product “Unavailable” when there are no more products in stock.
  • Quantity discounts: This feature allows you to give discounts based on the quantity ordered.
  • Retail and wholesale price: This feature allows you to create a wholesale and retail price for any product.
  • Limit minimal order amount: The feature allows you to specify and minimum order amount.
  • Real-time USPS, FedEx and UPS shipping calculation: This feature allows you to provide realtime shipping calculations for USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
  • Shipping Label Generator for USPS and UPS
  • Allow your customers to choose delivery methods: This feature allows your customers to select a delivery method; for example, USPS, FedEx, or UPS.
  • Add handling fee: This feature allows you to add a handling fee per order.
  • Digital Electronic Downloads: This feature allows you to sell digital products such as E-Books, Music, or Software. Once a customer purchases a digital product, the cart sends them an email with a link to download the digital product.
  • Product-specific taxes: The feature allows you to charge a unique tax on any product.
  • Payment Gateways: This feature is VERY important. Most carts support many different payment gateways; for example, Authorize.net, Paypal, or 2CheckOut. If you already have a payment gateway, make sure the cart you purchase supports your gateway.
  • The ability to Optimize all pages for search engines: This important feature allows you to optimize your product and content pages for Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines. This is a VERY important feature; if the search engines can’t find your products, your customers can’t find them either.
  • Multiple Administrator Accounts and Account Levels: This feature allows you to have multiple administration accounts. This feature is very handy if more than one person maintains your shopping cart.

What Kind and How Much Support Does the Shopping Cart Provide?

Shopping cart software and ecommerce is pretty complex and there are many opportunities for problems. Whatever shopping cart model you choose, be sure to consider amount and type of support offered by the leasing host or the software seller. Because a smooth operation of your website and shopping cart are necessary for financial success, you’ll want to have appropriate support for emergencies.

Which Payment Gateways Work with the Shopping Cart?

If you are going to use a leased shopping cart, or you are going to buy shopping cart software, find out which payment gateways will work with the shopping cart.

Note: Each shopping cart provider builds their own interfaces for payment gateways.

What Hosting/Server Platform is Required?

Will your website and shopping cart be hosted on a Linux / UNIX server or a Windows server? If you are going to use a hosted shopping cart, you probably don’t need to worry about this unless you already have other web-based software applications installed on your current web host.

If you are going to buy shopping cart software, your choice might be limited by your server choice. Currently there are many more shopping carts made for Linux / UNIX than for windows.

What if I Need Customization?

Every shopping cart I have installed, designed, and configured, has required some customization. In most cases, the client wanted to do something the cart did not do. For example, one client wanted the ability to send a custom email with specific products so he could send special instructions whenever a customer ordered a specific product. A few shopping carts have this ability, but most don’t.

The best solution is to first determine your specific requirements and then find a cart that fits your needs. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a cart that does EVERYTHING you want it to do. If this is the case, you’ll need to have some custom development done to add a new function to the cart.

Keep in mind that many popular shopping carts have dozens of Modifications and Plugins that you can add to the shopping cart software to make it fulfill your requirements.

Note: If you use a leased shopping cart, you will probably not be able to make modifications to the software.

How To Find A Great Auto Repair Shop

Don’t choose a shop just because of convenience. Once you have determined that the shop is qualified, Convenience is a plus. But only after has a good reputation and backs up their work with a good warranty. Remember that a good shop may be convenient but the most convenient shop may not necessarily be the best shop for you.

Don’t pick a shop based on “special offers”. OK, we all do it. It seems to be the market trend nowadays. You want your shop to be competitive, of course. But even more important you need to have the job done right. Unfortunately it is all too common for many shops to bring the car in the door with a loss leader and then charge a higher amount as the work progresses. This is due somewhat to the nature of the industry. But, if you see a price that seems unrealistically low it probably is. You will be better off going with a shop that gives you professional service and backs up their work. Quality will win out over low price every time. The savings will come with a longer lasting and more trouble free repair.

Don’t pick a shop just because they look like “good old boys”. Poor choice. Some of those good old boys are great. Others have never moved out of the past and can’t cope with today’s vehicles very well. Get recommendations and proof of qualifications rather than looking for a good old boy shop.

Choosing a shop based on a low “labor rate”. This is one of the worst ways to choose a shop. Price shopping for a service this way just does not make sense. There are just too many variables. Only one of those is the price. And the final price may not be even remotely related to the “labor rate”. If you need an idea of cost just ask for that and not the labor rate. If you base your buying decision on the “labor rate” you may find a shop that gives you a low rate, takes longer and charges you more for the job than you would have paid at a higher rate shop. The end result could be a shoddy job for about the same price as you could have paid for a professional one.

They can get me in right away! Oh really, then they must not be that busy. If that is so then maybe they are really not that good? Sometimes a good shop can get you in quickly. Often they are booked up for a day or two in advance due to their reputation though. This could really backfire on you if you end up in a shop that is never busy because they are doing terrible work. Getting your vehicle back soon is important. But, getting it fixed correctly is even more important. Wouldn’t you agree?

They can get it done right away. A good job takes some time. A good shop can reduce that time but they cannot eliminate it. Most people do not realize the amount of time their vehicles must be in the shop for certain jobs. Choosing a shop based primarily on this criteria is usually a mistake. Some shops will, unfortunately promise anything to get the job. That does not mean that they will necessarily deliver on that promise once the job has started.

They don’t have very many staff or support people so they can charge me less than a shop that does. Again, this reasoning is faulty. Most modern facilities have a ratio of almost one support person to each technician in the shop. This allows the technicians to do the maximum productive work without undue interruptions and distractions. Therefore the entire procedure is more efficient. With too few support people the production staff will spend way too much time doing tasks not directly related to the services or repairs on the vehicles. The end result will often be lower quality work due to interruptions and higher prices because of an inefficient business model.

My neighbor went there and he said they were great. Actually this is one part of a good plan to choose a good shop. However, before you buy into this recommendation ask a few more questions. What did your friend have done? How many times has he been there? If he had any problems how were they resolved? If he went in one time for an oil change and you need a transmission repair, there may be a problem here. Make sure the shop is qualified to do the type of work that you need. And try to find a shop where an acquaintance has been to more than once. Recommendations are an excellent way to find a good shop. Just make sure the recommendation is qualified.

They seem really nice and I feel that I can trust them. This is actually a very good sign. A feeling of trust is very important when dealing with a service or repair shop. Just be sure that this is one good component out of several. Some folks are very good at schmoozing you on the front counter. That, in itself does not mean they are a good shop. You need to take more into account than that. You need to find out if they are qualified and give you a good warranty as well as a good feeling.

Jumping around to just any shop for small jobs until you need something really important. Not a good idea at all. There are shops today that can and will take care of almost all of your vehicles needs. If you establish a good relationship with them on the smaller jobs they will be much more likely to get you in and treat you right when you need a larger job. Some shops won’t even talk to you for an emergency job unless you are already and established client of theirs. Start with an oil change to check out the shop and to help you decide if that match is right.

Get those recommendations from friends and neighbors. As I said before, just make sure they are qualified. Any shop can have a few folks that have had a bad experience or a bad attitude. However, they should be a very small minority of the total clients. Take into account the personality of the person that is giving you advice before you decide not to consider a shop that seems OK to you.

Contact some independent sources. Start with a call to or visit the websites of BCAA, the BBB or the local Chamber of Commerce for a list of member shops. The B.C. Automotive Retailers Association is another source of shops committed to customer satisfaction.

Next phone some shops from your list above and ask some questions. Call them to get a feel for how they answer the phone and how you are treated on this first contact. Tell the person that answers the phone that you are looking for a qualified shop for your vehicles. Ask if they can spare a few minutes to answer some questions. If you catch them at a busy time ask for a good time to call back.

Next, ask them what services they can provide. Ask them if they have any industry affiliations such as trade associations. Ask if they have a code of ethics and if they follow it. Ask them how many of their technicians are certified. Ask them how long their technical staff has been in the industry. Ask them how long they have been in business. What is their standard warranty for most jobs. One year is a minimum standard. Ask if they have a technical resource like Alldata or Mitchell on Demand to access service bulletins and recall information.

Evaluate the call: Were they nice or rude? Did they seem distracted when they were on the phone with you? They should be able to handle your phone call with grace. If you like their attitude and answers so far go to the next step. If not go back to your abbreviated list and start again with the shop with the next most qualifications. Keep up this process until you find a shop that feels right to you and then go on to the next step.

Visit the shop. Drive by at first and see if it looks like a place that you would want to leave your vehicles. If it passes that test, park in their lot and visit the office. Note how you are treated, the look of the office and the attitude of the staff. They should look professional and be friendly, courteous, helpful, and efficient and act like they want your business.

Look for certificates on the walls that show government certifications and other affiliations. Let them tell you a bit about themselves. Ask the history of the shop and so on if they have time. Ask if they have any handouts that would help you to decide if they could be your shop. Let them know that you are looking for a shop to take care of your vehicles needs. See how they react to that. A good shop will appreciate your research and will be glad to start a new relationship with a potential good client.

Ask if you can meet the owner or the shop manger. If they are not too busy ask for a quick tour or a look at the shop. See if it looks clean and organized. Get a general feel for the attitudes in the shop.

If the shop passed so far schedule an appointment for an oil change or other minor service.
A note of caution here: If they can’t or won’t set up an appointment for service you probably don’t want to pick them as your shop. A shop that does not set appointments usually does not focus on preventative maintenance and is more of a “breakdown shop”. This is not what you need if you are going to get the best bang for your service and repair dollar. Also, getting you in quickly without an appointment usually means that getting you back out on time with a quality job is not very likely. A well-run shop will schedule appointments and also be able to handle some minor emergencies. If they cannot get you in for an emergency they should have a contingency plan such as rental car availability or a shuttle service to your home or work to help you when you need it.

Keep your appointment. Call ahead and reschedule early if you cannot make it. A good shop will appreciate that courtesy. Make your final decision after your first appointment. They should call you up and send you some follow up information to solidify the relationship. A really good shop will ask you to fill out a questionnaire to make sure that your service was good. They will also ask you for input to help them make the business better for you and their other clients.

Your final decision. If the shop has met all the above criteria to your satisfaction reward them with your loyalty. Schedule your oil changes and other preventative maintenance services with them. You will be glad that you took the extra effort to locate a GREAT shop when you have an emergency. You won’t believe how much less stressful it can be to have your own shop that you can trust with your vehicles from now on. If the shop did not meet all of your standards or if you had a funny feeling about them you will need to start all over with step one again until you find a shop that you can make your own. Sometimes it is not just the shop itself. Occasionally you may have a personality conflict with someone at the shop. You don’t want or need to go to a shop that you feel funny about. Look around a bit until you find one that treats you like a friend.