Most contemporary entrepreneurs recognise the importance of advertising their products and services online. However, for business owners who want to create an online store or expand their brick and mortar ventures into an online business, web programming is not likely a skill-set they possess. If you are searching for a way to open an ecommerce store with minimal effort and very little programming knowledge, you could make your online store using Zencart. Zencart is an ecommerce package that you can deploy to create an online store.
What is Zencart?
Zencart is an open source shopping cart application that runs on a Linux-based web server. Most web hosting companies offer Linux-based plans. If you have a Linux-based web hosting account that you manage with CPanel or a similar dashboard, you likely have everything you need to get started building a Zencart store. If you have a Linux web hosting plan, applications like Zencart are included with the cost of your plan. Because Zencart is open source, you will not need to pay an additional licensing fee for using the software.
Zencart is highly customisable, meaning that you can make the web pages that make up your store look any way that you want them to look. However, you can use Zencart right “out of the box” or apply one of hundreds of freely available themes to the application to change the look and feel. You do not need to write code to design a professional appearance for your storefront.
Zencart is a standalone application. This means that Zencart does not need a base application because it can run as a standalone website. Some ecommerce applications like Jigoshop and Woo Commerce run on top of a WordPress installation as a plugin. Therefore, you must have an installation of WordPress running as the backend for your web store. You first need to deploy a WordPress installation, design the site, and then incorporate the ecommerce functionality. After you get the plug-in working properly, you then will enter you inventory and configure your store. With Zencart, you simply deploy the application, enter your inventory, configure your store’s settings and go live! There is no need to integrate the software into any other application and you can have your online store up and running in less than an hour. You will save a lot of time if you make your online store with Zencart. However, note that entering your inventory will take a considerable amount of time not accounted for in the estimate of less than an hour.
Zencart Setup and Installation
If you do not already have a Linux-based web hosting plan, the first step to making your online store using Zencart is to purchase a hosting plan from a reputable web hosting company. Linux web hosting is the most cost effective hosting option, and you can secure a Linux plan for as little as $5 per month if you shop around and compare.
Once you have your web hosting plan, log into your CPanel dashboard with the credentials provided by your hosting company. On the CPanel dashboard page, locate the Softaculous or Fantastico section. Your hosting company will offer one or the other. Softaculous and Fantastico are deployment tools that keep track of the software you install on your web server space. These tools will keep track of and automatically apply updates, coordinate backups and more. Most important for our purposes, these tools will deploy applications like Zencart in just a few clicks. When you deploy through Softaculous or Fantastico, the backend database required for your application is automatically created and the front end is integrated with the database. No coding is required unless you want to customise your site beyond the available options. Everything you need to deploy the Zencart application is available through the deployment tool.
Installing Zencart Using the Deployment Tool
Click the Softaculous or Fantastico icon to open the tool, and then click the Zencart icon to open the Zencart installation dialogue page. Enter the URL where you want to install the ecommerce application. Click the “Enable Auto Upgrades” check box if you want the deployment tool to manage your upgrades. Complete the form with the administrator’s email address, user name, the name of the store, etc. Click the “Currency” drop-down box, and then select the correct currency option. When you have completed the form, click “Install Now.” The Zencart application is automatically installed at the location you specified. The process takes just a minute or two.
When the installation is complete, a page will open with a link to the administrator’s page, along with your admin username and password. Be sure to record this information because you will need it to configure and manage your new store.
Configuring Your Store and Entering Inventory
When you navigate to the URL where you installed Zencart, you will see the front end of your new store. A few sample products are included along with the installation so you can see how inventory appears to users. To configure and manage your store, open the admin URL provided after the installation, and then log in with the admin username and password. The admin interface, also known as the backend, is where you will perform configuration tasks, such as naming your store and selecting a theme. You will also enter your inventory using the admin interface. For detailed information about entering inventory and setting up your store, check the Zencart support website.
Zencart provides you with a cost effective way to get your estore up and running fast. When you make your online store using Zencart, you have access to tomes of documentation and a community of users who will answer any questions you may have. Welcome to the Zencart family and sell, sell, sell!