shopping cartAfter you enter a brick-and-mortar store, the first thing that you’ll do is grab a shopping cart.  You’ll then look around the store and decide what products you’d like to buy, placing each product in your shopping cart.

Before you make your final purchase, you can add or remove as many items from the shopping cart as you like.  And once you’re ready to make a purchase, you head to the cash register and pay with whatever type of credit card they accept.

An eCommerce shopping cart is also a place where you can (virtually) put the things that you would like to purchase.  However, the eCommerce shopping cart also acts as your cash register.  And, through the use of webhooks, the eCommerce shopping cart can also integrate with third-party applications to perform just about any sequence of post-purchase events that you’d like.

eCommerce shopping cart as a cash register

cash registerIn a brick-and-mortar store, the cash register and the shopping cart are distinct.  Once you decide what you would like to purchase, you swipe your credit or debit card at the cash register, your information then goes off to Visa or American Express, and finally, the purchase is either accepted or declined.

As part of the eCommerce shopping cart experience, you submit a web form which contains information about what you’d like to purchase, as well as your credit card information.  Then, the credit card information is typically sent off to a payment processor such as PayPal, Stripe or Braintree Payments.

These companies have agreements with credit card companies to process the credit card on your behalf.  Once a charge is requested through your site, the payment processor can report back whether the charge was successful.  And, if it was successful, you can then fulfill the order.

The power of the webhook

Usually when you buy something online, you instantaneously receive a receipt for your purchase.  This is because there’s special computer code associated with your eCommerce shopping cart which says “Hey, send off an email once a successful purchase is made!”.  And, this special code is known as a webhook.

When you use webhooks as a part of your eCommerce shopping cart, you can set off a sequence of events as soon as a purchase is made.  To keep things simple, you can just think of a webhook as any message that gets sent off to a website once your eCommerce shopping cart accepts a purchase.

And, webhooks can be used in a variety of settings:

  • Integrated with marketing software, you can automatically build a list of people who buy a particular product
  • Using a course management system, you can automatically invite someone to a course after a purchase
  • Your database can automatically decrease inventory after a unit is sold

Depending on your specific needs, your eCommerce platform may have some webhooks already built into the system.  As just one example, here at Avizr, we’ve integrated with Shopify so that when a user purchases an online course through Shopify, we automatically send out a course invitation.  You can think of this as a “course invitation webhook”.

However, if your store is developed using custom code, the sky’s the limit in terms of what actionable event or events occur after a purchase.  It’s simply a matter of coming up with the idea and asking your developer to code it.

Conclusion

From the end user’s perspective, an eCommerce shopping cart is more or less a combination of a brick-and-mortar shopping cart and a cash register.  However, by using webhooks behind the scenes, a virtual store owner has the potential to instantaneously perform actions at the point-of-sale that wouldn’t be possible in a physical store.

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