Tuesday, May 03, 2005

22 Questions to Ask Before You Use Any Shopping Cart System By Tom Antion

Many seasoned professional speakers agree that you can make moremoney selling your knowledge in the form of products than you canspeaking.
You can use traditional methods to sell products such as directmail, catalogs and advertising. However, if you have a greatonline presence, the entire world is your marketplace at afraction of the cost of most traditional methods. To easily sellto this worldwide marketplace, you need a great shopping cartsystem.
Choosing a shopping cart system is perhaps the most importantsingle decision you'll make in your online marketing career.
This is because:

You're stuck with the decision for a long time.
If you buy into a system that isn't adequate, it can cost youmoney--big money- because it won't maximize the amount of moneyspent by each visitor.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of off-the-shelf, free andalternative products out there vying for your money, time orboth. And most of them are junk.
Don't suffer like I didI learned the hard way. When I started on the Internet I couldn'tfind a decent shopping cart program, so I took one that washighly recommended by my ISP (I now know the only reason theysuggested it was because it made them the most money. They didn'tcare if it was the best one for me or not). What a headache! Thesystem wouldn't do anything but take the order, but you had tohave a PhD in computer science to work on it.
Here are 21 questions you absolutely, unfailingly must ask anyonetrying to sell you a shopping cart. If you don't hear positiveanswers to the majority of these questions, put your wallet backinto your pocket and evaluate the next option. Don't get stuckwith a crappy shopping cart, even if they give it to you free.
If you have a poor shopping cart, get rid of it. I know thathurts, because you may have spent lots of time and money gettingit going, but a bad one will cost you many thousands of dollarsby waiting to replace it later rather than sooner.
Oh, and one more thing: if you hear the shopping cart programmeranswer one of the questions below by saying, "Well, we could makeit do that," run away even faster, because you're going to getstuck with a big custom programming bill with no guarantees thatthe cart is going to work the way you expected.
Every question below is very important when it comes to having aquality shopping cart system that gets more money out of the samenumber of visitors.

1. Will it calculate shipping and tax?

2. Does it handle specialized shipping like FedEx and UPS?

3. Will it automatically deliver hard goods and soft goods (e-books and other digital products) in the same transaction?

4. Does it offer customizable "Return to Shopping" pages withoutneeding custom programming? This is important so you can sendyour customers to the most likely product they will buy next.Standard carts just send customers back to the main catalog,which forces them to search for related products. This is bothirritating and time-consuming. Any delays in finding what theywant could mean a lost sale, when they finally throw their handsup in disgust and move on to your competitor's site.

5. Does it offer customizable "Thank You" pages based on what thecustomer just bought? These are pages where savvy marketers putaffiliate links and other offers specifically related to thecustomer's interests. When a customer clicks on one of theselinks and buys something from someone else, you get a commission.

6. Does it deliver receipt and confirmation e-mailsautomatically? The customer wants to know immediately that theorder went through. If he or she is unsure, you are going to haveto field many wasted e-mails and phone calls letting the customer know everything is OK.

7. Does it allow multiple order and dropship e-mails? In manycases, several different people in your organization and/oroutside your organization need notice of an order. Again, youdon't want to have to do this manually.

8. Does it have a Web-based administration page so you can workon your cart from any computer that has Internet access?

9. Does it include encryption technology and a secure server?Many companies make a fortune by sucking you in with a cheap orfree cart and then make money on selling you an overpriced secureserver.

10. Does it deliver easy output to your accounting software? Youwant to be able to import and export data easily between the cartand whatever programs you have that need to share the customerand sales information.

11. Does it have its own associate/affiliate program or is iteasily compatible with other major brands of associate software?An affiliate program lets other people promote and sell yourproducts on their Web sites. You don't pay them unless they sellsomething. When I tried to get an associate/affiliate program towork with my old cart, it cost me six months of down time anduntold amounts of money lost because it wouldn't work. Theassociate program people blamed the shopping cart people and viceversa. But ultimately I was left holding the bag.

12. Does it have integrated up-sell modules? The ability to offermore related products to customers making a purchase makes me asmall fortune each month. We call it, "Do you want fries withthat?" If you don't have this ability, you are leaving manythousands of dollars on the table from people who would havespent more if your cart just gave them the chance.

13. Does it have an integrated sales and prospect database? Inthe old days I would have to print out orders and then retypethem into ACT or some other database program. A good shoppingcart system eliminates all this hassle and potential for errorand gives you instant access to your sales reports and clients.

14. Does it have broadcast e-mail capability? Good shopping cartsystems are able to manipulate your customer database instantlyand send e-mails to any segment or sub-segment of your clientsand handle unlimited e-mail magazines. Again, in the old days Iwould have to be genius enough to pick out segments of thedatabase, export them to a file, import them into a mail programand then an hour later send the darn e-mail. Now this is all donein a few seconds.

15. Does it have mail merge capability? The e-mails sent arepersonalized to the recipients in any number of ways. Their namescan be popped in to the subject line and in various portions ofthe body of the e-mail. You can merge "what they bought," "whenthey bought," "where they live" or just about anything that willmake them feel the e-mail was just for them. Virtually allstudies show that mail merge gets a much higher response thanplain broadcast e-mail.

16. Can it handle coupons and other discounts? You can make adeal with Joe Blow that everyone coming from his Web site gets anautomatic discount -- either a percentage or dollar amount. Thismakes Joe look great to his visitors and makes more sales foryou. Here's a secret: Joe is your affiliate and makes money onthe sale too, so he's got a great incentive to keep yourdiscounts and coupons in front of his visitors. Good shoppingcart systems can automate all of this and also handle anyquantity discounts you offer.

17. Can it work for multiple Web sites with no extra fees? When Ifirst started I had to get a separate (and expensive) license foreach site and a separate merchant account too. Not only was thisa great deal of expense, the hassle with installation every timeyou wanted a new site to go up was enormous. Modern carts cansell bras on one site and bibles on another, and no one knows thedifference. The carts run on their own servers so there is noexpensive installation and set-up is immediate.

18. Does it have unlimited and fully integrated "sequential"autoresponders? This is one of the most powerful features when itcomes to Internet marketing. This feature follows upautomatically over and over again to your clients and prospectsto provide them customer care and to sell them more products andservices. You can even provide free or paid e-mail courses, andeach part of the course is delivered automatically.

19. Does it have ad tracking tied into actual sales? Simple adtracking can be had all over the 'Net, but it is pretty muchworthless unless it is tied to actual sales. This is called the"conversion ratio." Your cart system should be able to tell youhow many people clicked on a particular promotion and how manypeople bought. This is the only way you can determine if an adpaid off. Good carts will also automatically split test one ofyour sales pages against another and tell you which page sellsmore. You keep the page that sells more and get rid of the pagethat sells less.

20. Does it have a pop-up box builder? Even though many peoplehate popup boxes, they work. I use them judiciously to make allkinds of offers, and I have the sales figures to prove they getmore money out of the same number of people. If you know how touse them properly, no one gets upset.

21. Does it have a printable off-line order form? Believe it ornot, many people are still afraid to put their credit cardnumbers into a Web site. I still get lots of fax orders and phoneorders. If you want to maximize your sales, your cart must takethese kinds of orders easily.

22. Does it provide free training? You'll need training in boththe basic set up of using your shopping cart and determining youronline sales strategy, so that you maximize the amount of moneyspent by each customer.
You may not understand what all the above questions mean rightnow, but I can assure you they are important in putting moremoney into your bank account. If you want to know even more aboutthis subject, you can download a free e-book, How to Pick aShopping Cart System That Makes You Money at www.public-speaking.org/ebook.htm.
What shopping cart system do I use? I have my own private labelcalled www.KickStartCart.com.

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