Shopping Carts in Blogging Software versus Association Software
Let’s continue with my small site for the Catalina380 International Association. Though the association’s officers didn’t want to sell anything just yet through the site, I wanted to make sure this would be easy to do later – when they see the light. Just as with membership plugins, various shopping carts are available as WordPress plugins. Even the MagicMembers plugin provides links to various payment gateways to take credit cards for membership.
The important thing to understand is that you don’t want to deal with credit cards on your own. The credit card rules are simply too complex for anyone to keep track of. Even the larger commercial packages are – or should – give up on dealing with credit cards and just outsource the headaches. It used to be that large associations wanted their own control of credit cards so they could have a “credit card of record” to make it easier for the member to purchase things later using the same credit card. In fact, they wanted to store the credit card numbers for automatic renewal of memberships.
All of this is well and good but companies like Verisign have worked out strategies to allow all of this to happen without your association having to store credit card numbers at all. Taking advantage of this is the way to go. For the small site, PayPal is probably the best solution to sales. They are used to dealing with both large and small associations. Vendors of commercial association software and using these same companies to handle credit card transactions.
If you sell just one type of thing, you may well purchase an inexpensive plugin to deal with simple order entry and payment processing. Where I see the real issue for large associations is that a large association typically sells a lot of different types of “products” from inventoried products to meeting registrations to exhibition booth space to transcripts to memberships. What’s more, these are all highly interrelated in terms of packages and pricing models.
I have yet to see this kind of ability from the simple open-source software providers and especially from blogging software being used as an association website. It is difficult enough for a commercial association management software system to provide this.
Then again, consider what you could do five years ago versus what you can do now for little expense. “Websites for the Masses” is a concept that is coming.
In my next post I’d like to take a look at a more radical view of association software. Stay tuned….