The neatComponents ecommerce model
neatComponents has a fully integrated ecommerce system, not a separate system, so wherever possible it reuses the existing data handling components, and then adds on the specialised components for getting items into the cart (the 'Sale View'), managing the cart itself ('Shopping cart'), and a set of data feed components for inspecting the order history.
Before looking at how to configure the system, let's take an overview of the scope of what it is possible to do.
At its most basic you can simply offer for sale a list of items, and the customer can place one or more of them in the cart, enter their details, and pay via a third-party processor such as PayPal.
These can be treated just like products, or you can add time-based aspects: for example you could sell an annual service contract, and the system would record the dates based on when the transaction took place. Or if you are selling a club membership you could set the membership year so that everyone is working on the same anniversaries.
Tax & Shipping
The calculation of shipping charges and varying rates of taxation depending on goods and location is a traditional weakness of shopping cart systems. neatComponents provides an easy to configure, graphical charging interface to simplify the process as much as possible.
The neatComponents shopping cart integrates with popular payment services such as PayPal, WorldPay and Authorize - and can be configured to work with any other standards compliant banking or payment service. The system provides customizable texts for error handling or failed payments.
Traditional shopping cart systems simply allow Users to add individual items to their carts. The Product Family ability of neatComponents makes it possible to build complex purchases with constituent parts.
An easy to understand example is the purchase of a new 'computer'. Although the User initially thinks of the 'computer' as a single item - in reality it is made up of a series of items (for example: processor, memory, case and all the peripheral devices and so on) that are separately chosen, before becoming the finished purchase, which can then be handed through the shopping cart system as a single item.
The Product Family system allows for sophisticated pricing models where the same item can be priced differently depending on the combination of items in a given sale.
Stock Control can be integrated with the shopping cart system so that as items are placed by shoppers into their carts the number of items available for purchase by other customers is reduced. The system will automatically take into account cart-ownership when showing remaining unsold stock - it will include the contents of your cart when you query the remaining stock level, whereas another customer would only see what is left on the shelf.
neatComponents handles both true stock (items remaining for purchase) and on-the-fly stock control taking into account those items in visitors carts. Items that are placed into carts - but not purchased, because the shopper abandons their cart, are returned to stock. The time-out on abandoned carts is configurable by the designer.
Combining stock-control with cart-time outs makes it a simple procedure to create e-commerce systems for unique sales - such as event ticketing - where the stock level is only one (for each seat) and abondoned purchases must be promtly returned to stock.
neatComponents' close email integration makes it easy for any website designer to include a 'send-a friend' feature on a product page. The email automatically includes a clickable link to the product page being viewed.
The neatComponents Associate Scheme allows designers to let website builders of other sites build links to the neatComponents site content and merchandise using an embedded affiliate tracking code. This system allows content owners with a neatComponents website to promote their products on other sites whilst the 'third-party' can derive an income stream from those sales.