Overview of how to create an e-commerce store in Drupal | TopNotchThemes Drupal Themes – Premium Drupal themes, designed just for Drupal

Creating an online store with Drupal

Setting up an e-commerce website involves a fair amount of effort and planning, but the benefits are considerable. With e-commerce, customers may enter payment information on your website to purchase products and services from anywhere in the world. A well-designed online store also allows customers to select between multiple product variations and shipping options, giving them an easy to use and rewarding shopping experience. And the funds (minus processing/service fees) are deposited to your bank account within weeks (or even days)!

Depending on the complexities of your website/product, an e-commerce site can be a simple do-it-yourself endeavor or require lots of technical/development expertise. In either case the initial steps are the same:

  1. Establish a business entity to conduct business online, including a business name and location.
  2. If you are shipping products, obtain a tax ID to charge sales tax in the state where your business resides.
  3. Pick a general structure that gives your business a separate legal and tax identity from yourself, including a dedicated business bank account. This allows you to be sure that the money and acts of your business are separate from your own.
  4. Choose a reliable, reputable web host and begin development on a test site.

Electronic Commerce And Drupal

Übercart has become the leading option for Drupal e-commerce, though there are others such as the « e-Commerce » suite of modules.

e-Commerce is a solid platform that can handle most needs, but we feel Übercart is more user-friendly and possesses a stronger support and development community. And since Übercart is nearly equivalent in terms of features, and is at a stable release now, we believe it is the winning choice.

Of course, every project is unique, so look at both and choose the option best for you. One may have a specific feature that you need. A more in-depth comparison can be seen here.  This post is a bit out of date now, but there is still solid info here, and check the comments for more info.

Übercart Overview

Übercart allows you to sell physical products from various sized product catalogs, file downloads (music, videos, software), and site access/role promotions (i.e. for members-only websites, including automatic renewals and expiration of user access).  This site you’re on right now is built with Ubercart!  Also, check out their live demo of Ubercart.

Übercart’s main features:

  • Products are nodes, making it possible to create multiple product types with classes, and you can add any standard Drupal fields to your products.
  • Products may have attributes that modify the price, SKU/model, and/or weight of items.
  • Products are then displayed in your catalog, with or without images, by category, and with numerous configurable options.
  • Store administrators can manually create orders for customers, add products, shipping prices, etc. from a single screen.
  • Stock tracking options are available.
  • Activity logging shows all the changes made to an order, including payment processing.
  • All checkout information is gathered on a single screen composed of configurable checkout panes.
  • Support for international shipping and formats is available.
  • Shipping quotes are generated in real time from modules or web services.
  • A healthy and growing list of module contributions submitted by community members, as posted here.
  • More information about Übercart can be downloaded here (pdf).

Integration With Drupal

Unlike shopping cart-only systems, Drupal allows you to combine a fully functional community, business, or news website with your e-commerce. This adds powerful options for blogs, forums, social networking, custom displays of content, newsletters, and much more. These features can help your bottom line, as studies show the longer browsers stay on a site the more likely they are to purchase.

Other advantages of using Drupal for e-commerce include Drupal’s secure application framework and search engine optimization features. In addition, Drupal and Übercart have an ever-growing community of developers, a growing list of themes available for download, and numerous consultants offering design/theming services.

Übercart also leverages the power of Drupal through:

  • User System: User accounts are automatically generated when a purchase is made. This allows you to track and communicate with your customers, and encourages repeat business.
  • Taxonomy System: This important aspect of Drupal’s content management is integrated with Übercart’s core product catalog.
  • CCK: Übercart works with the CCK (Content Construction Kit) suite of modules to allow product customization in numerous ways.
  • Views: Übercart integration enables product display and organization by selected fields, filters, page views, etc.
  • Userpoints: Users may accumulate points for performing certain actions on your site, such as posting nodes, commenting or moderating a comment, and this can be tied in to your shopping cart
  • Fivestar: A module that enables customers to review/rate selected products (seen in stores like Amazon.com where multiple products and manufacturers are offered). 

Payment Options

Übercart works with the 2 main types of payment gateways:

  1. Third party. A secure order form takes customers to another site for credit card processing and payment. The main advantages are no SSL certificate is required for your site, and the third party deals with all CC processing, but these usually charge higher per-transaction fees and require the customer to be bounced over to the payment processor’s site. Some common third party gateway providers are PayPal, 2Checkout, and ClickBank.
  2. Merchant-side Application Program Interfaces (or API). This is a server-based system allowing the entire transaction to be handled on your website. The main benefits are that it keeps people on your site and offers more options for customizing the checkout experience. These also usually offer a lower per-transaction cost, but you will need an SSL certificate.  Some popular merchant-side gateways are Authorize.net, PayPal (yes, they do both options), and LinkPoint.

Currently Ubercart works with dozens of payment options.  A full list can be viewed here, and other payment plugins can be easily written.

If you are going with the API option, you’ll need an SSL certificate.  This is often the most confusing part of your e-commerce setup.  This is essentially what gets your end users notification that your server and purchasing process is secure.  If you are concerned about your customers having the highest level of trust for your site, you will want to stick with one of the top few SSL certificate providers.  We like DigiCert as a lower cost but still top tier SSL provider.

Drupal-specific Considerations

With the ever-growing number of modules available for Drupal, the options for Übercart integration are extensive. Here are some additional modules that are often used with a Drupal e-commerce site:

  • Google Analytics: You can track core sales, customer and product reports with Google Analytics integration.
  • Securepages: Allows you to coordinate your site with its SSL certificate. SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption protects your customers’ sensitive information during online transactions.
  • Pathauto: Automatically generates path aliases for various kinds of content (nodes, categories, users) without requiring the user to manually specify the path alias.
  • XML Sitemap: Creates a site map in accordance with the sitemaps.org specification.

 

This should give you a good overview of what is involved with creating an e-commerce site in Drupal.  It’s not something that can be built in an hour, but we firmly believe that Drupal + Ubercart is the winning choice for creating an online store with free, open source software. 

Overview of how to create an e-commerce store in Drupal | TopNotchThemes Drupal Themes – Premium Drupal themes, designed just for Drupal

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