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An Internet merchant service is a combination of software, web-based forms, HTML, and perl/cgi scripts that allows consumers to quickly complete an online purchase without hassle or error.
From software to books to music CD's to office products - the ease of use and user-friendly features combine technology to facilitate online buying. By "user-friendly," we mean things like easy navigation, plentiful help, and self-explanatory graphics or buttons - virtually anything that will make a customer feel comfortable about buying things online and anything that makes online purchases as simple as they can be.
The bare-bone basics of any merchant service are (1) an order form plus (2) a script to accept the form and notify a customer that the content of the form has been received. However some items that help make online purchasing easier for the customer are things like an automatic currency converter and calculation of taxes and/or shipping costs. These features and more are commonly found in what's called, a "shopping cart."
A shopping cart (as a merchant service) attempts to give the online customer a shopping experience that is similar to that found in a physical store. With a merchant service-shopping cart, customers can browse a store, select (click) items of interest, and then place them in a virtual cart. The shopping cart records what the customer clicks with cookie technology, and then adds up any resulting charges. At the end of browsing, the customer can choose to "check out" which is really just the final step of submitting credit card information to the merchant.
When a customer is finished with shopping and has checked out, a merchant service will prompt the customer for credit card information, verify his or her credit card information, and then complete the transaction. An important function of a merchant service at this point would be to record customer information to a database for later use.
One reason that the demand for Internet merchant service is so high, is that it performs a lot of tedious tasks automatically. That and the fact that they can be manipulated to operate in the customer's best interest. For example, a merchant service can arrange for custom shipping, calculate discounts, provide gift certificates, suggest wholesale pricing, offer coupons, point to related products, and/or display a customer's shopping list online.
An online merchant service can also process checks, phone orders, and mail orders, integrate payment data with preferred accounting software, verify and process credit card payments with a bank, and automatically update an inventory. For record information, a merchant service can generate, track, and store customer and sales reports.
In addition to automation, an online merchant service can be used to strengthen the trust between merchant and customer through the use of secure servers.
If properly integrated within a commercial website, a merchant service can add search engine optimization by supplying additional product descriptions, titles, and keywords that might not have been considered before.
In order for a commercial website to process online sales, the website and merchant service must reside on its own server unless a 3rd party merchant service runs the software on their server.