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There has been a number of discussions on the issue of ecommerce is Zimbabwe. Some have predicted its success and some were sceptical that e-commerce will experience significant adoption in Zimbabwe. Be that as it may, let’s put all the debate aside and let’s go about creating an online store. After all there is no better way of testing the waters than the actual creation of the online store. This is an article of how we can use the available resources like Vpayments plus a number of other e-commerce tools out there to make an online store.
This short guide looks at implementing Vpayments assuming you have a Vpayments account AND you have a shop that is already selling goods. How do we go about creating the online store? It’s definitely not science fiction.
Basically there are a number of options that one can go about setting up an online
- Set up a new online store using a complete ecommerce tools, e.g. Magento.
- Set up a cloud hosted online store using cloud softwares, e.g. Shopify. All you need here is a credit card to pay for the online store.
- Embedding ecommerce features onto an existing website, e.g. installing WooCommerce plugin onto a WordPress website.
All the above options use popular payment gateways like Mastercard, Visa and PayPal. However we don’t want to use the popular gateways, we want to use Vpayments.
Using a cloud hosted e-commerce service is probably the easiest method used to set up shop but (confession) I have not learnt how you can integrate your own payment processor into the cloud based software so your built site can accept payments through Vpayments. All payment processors supported by Shopify for example are listed here. The other options however (1 and 3) allow for the integration of our payment processor.
So in short the e-commerce tools available can be categorised in the below. But we will have to go about this project by targeting option 1 and 3 which are the easier ones for integrating our own payment method.
- Downloadable complete e-commerce tools,
- Cloud developed and hosted online stores and
- Ecommerce plugins installable on existing websites.
Before we start developing anything however it is wise to first evaluate which e-commerce tools are already being used and trusted. This is so we can develop our project on something guaranteed to work. The most commonly used (as extracted from built with) are highlighted in the graph below.
Ecommerce tools usage statistics
Let’s start with what comes for free, (hey who doesn’t like free)
These packages come with all ready-to-use functionality like Add to cart, Checkout, Registration as a customer and payment processing using the well-known gateways like PayPal, Mastercard etc. Thus the site is functional immediately after installation of the application. Altering the look and feel of the site is a matter of installing a theme.
- Magento is probably the best open source e-commerce complete package, it is however heavy weight and has a steep learning curve if you are a beginner. After installing it onto my computer for testing I quickly observed I have to make many alterations of settings before I can actually use it. I however am of the opinion that Magento is for large stores like OK Mart. Using it for smaller stocks like Bata might be breaking a nut using a sludge hummer. Some of the free Magento themes can be found here. Magento Enterprise is the enhanced version of Magento, this was made for even larger online stores that require deeper customisations.
- osCommerce has received a good number of negative comments by reviewers. Upon my very short experience however the framework was easy to install and took little time to complete the whole installation process. It also comes with placeholder products (movies), thus you can immediately start testing the online buying. Some of the free themes for osCommerce can be found here.
- WooCommerce for WordPress
Personally I think WordPress is the best Content Management System (CMS) available. WooCommerce transforms a WordPress site to an online store. However, WooCommerce doesn’t work with many themes, so it will require some actual code to customise your online shop.
2. VirtueMart for Joomla
VirtueMart is one of the eCommerce extensions for the Joomla CMS. It’s important to include for the reason that it’s the one CMS that’s very popular locally
Cloud based e-commerce applications. These come at a cost. For example an online store setup on Shopify is charged $29 per month for 100 products and 1 GB file storage.
So which tools do we use to set up our shop?
Cloud based platforms are difficulty as long as they don’t accept more gateways, they may but I’m not yet in the know about that.
The complete packages like Magento and osCommerce are usable in our little project. There are a number of tutorials out there on how you can setup a new payment method. One tutorial on setting up a new payment method for Magento can be found here.
The easiest route for me, for us since I’m the coach here, would be to ride on the already popular content management systems, WordPress and Joomla, and integrate our Vpayments onto their e-commerce plugins. For instance, WooCommerce provides good documentation on how to setup a new payment gateway here. And for Wp e-commerce, another e-commerce plugin for WordPress, the documentation can be found here. On the Joomla platform, VirtueMart provides its documentation here.
So the easiest option would be to attack from the common CMSs. But big question, how do we go about creating the Vpayments plugin?
Basically we want to create a Vpayments plugin that integrates seamlessly into the e-commerce plugins. The couple of guides I pointed to above basically tell us what actions (functions) need to be carried out and the response that should be given after these actions (functions) for transactions to proceed. Good news is Vpayments has an Application Program Interface (API) that provide guidance on how one can implement Vpayments as a payment getway. The API can be accessed here.
So there you have it folks, a short summary of how you can start developing your own online store with available resources.
Last word: The smartphone is flying in to Zimbabwe on a daily basis and our service providers are competing to provide wide and fast broadband coverage. Africom one company which used to have very little coverage is now covering 70% of both Gweru and Kwekwe. Facebook proved the growing depth of internet penetration by recording 1.1 million active users in Zimbabwe. People want convenience, and this added to the other facts (to me) guarantees the adoption of e-commerce is inevitable. The big issue is the payment gateways, whoever solves that first will be in line for large income.
My idea is: Instead of waiting for sanctions to be removed and PayPal to come, what if a number of developers come together call themselves the SWAT team and develop a cloud based software for making online stores like Shopify but using our available getways. Like Vpayments, the coming PayNow from Webdev and the said to be coming EcoCash. All a user needs to set up and host an online store is a credit card. And of course the SWAT team can charge commission on every sell. This should ease the designing of online stores for everyone in Zimbabwe. I know there are probably issues with Vpayments, but hey money comes to be problem solver.
Note: this is not a conclusive guide on how to get your online shop running, it’s just how to get started. There are much more factors to consider like logistics, delivery methods, keeping stock etc.
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