Fully Integrated E-commerce – the most flexible and robust way to accept credit cards online
This refers to when your shopping cart is hosted with and integrated into your website itself.
Depending on the software, you have the same payment options – PayPal, or a real merchant account and payment gateway. The real difference is in the other features: with a full shopping cart software, you can have customers log in, create “wish lists”, track inventory, and a host of other advanced features that are not available using PayPal’s simple cart or Mal’s cart. The exact features depend on your shopping cart vendor of course.
The difference between taking credit cards through Mal’s + a payment gateway vs your own shopping cart + a payment gateway is that you will have to provide your own SSL certificate since the transactions will be occuring on your site rather than on Mal’s secure server. You can usually purchase your SSL cert from your host.
There are many shopping carts available as pre-packaged scripts that can be customized for your situation, or a custom payment script can be developed that exactly matches your needs. Full e-commerce is more expensive and time-consuming to develop than PayPal or
Mal’s, but it can be integrated into your site for a truly seamless payment experience.
It can also save you money in the long run if you are doing a high volume of sales, as you can work out a custom workflow and automate your proceses with custom programming.
You will need to choose whether you will host it yourself or buy a managed cart, where they host and do upgrades for you. If you are comfortable installing and maintaining scripts it is often much cheaper to do self-hosting. On the other hand, it is much less hassle (and can let you sleep better at night) to let the pros manage the upgrades and make sure the server is optimized for the software. If you end up having to pay a lot of consulting and programming fees to make sure your cart is running, it can be even out to be cheaper to buy hosted. It all depends on your skill level and comfort. Some vendors offer both options.
An examples of a fully integrated carts are 3DCart and Shopify – both highly recommended.
For more information on the nitty gritty of payment processing, check out our articles on merchant accounts and payment gateways .