E-commerce made easier

York Food and Drink Festival has been an important event in York’s gourmet calendar for years, and is rapidly extending its scope from York to the whole of Yorkshire. We have created a shopping cart system for them.

We have previously used Mal’s cart with several other clients, which is a great solution for small e-commerce websites. In this case, though, we needed some more advanced features. Therefore we have built an entirely bespoke system with the following features that are missing from third party carts like Mal’s.

Customer management Customers can create an account, subscribe to one or more mailing lists and get their purchases associated with their accounts. They may view their order history and print confirmations after logging in, simply by typing in their email address and password.

The customer management system was crucial for York Food Festival as they wished to provide discounted tickets to the supporters, ‘friends’ of the Festival, and at the same time they wanted to enable their customers to become a ‘friend’ by buying a special ticket.

Stock management As with all booking systems we had to make sure that if a customer puts a ticket in their virtual shopping basket they will actually be able to buy it on check out without having to fear that someone might have been quicker. This feature is essential for tickets, however, you might want to take control of your stock even if you are not selling tickets.

As a customer adds an item to their basket the system puts it in ‘hold’ for 30 minutes. For that time no one else can buy it. So effectively the customer has half an hour to complete the payment.

We have also made the system able to handle event limits to make sure we don’t oversell tickets. This can certainly be useful with other kinds of products as well, where you may have a limited amount in stock – as you do in most cases. We have also added the facility to set up a cut-off limit. Over that limit tickets are not available online; they can only be purchased through the Ticket Line.

User experience A rock solid back-end is inevitable for building a reliable shopping cart, however, we have also put a great amount of work in user experience. A fully customized shopping cart can easily win customers’ confidence. Your customers are not transferred to third party carts, they will stay on your website while they are shopping.

Our system allows customers to put the desired item straight into the cart after clicking on ‘Add to basket’ without even having to load a new page. This technology is called AJAX. Your customer can continue shopping without having to click to an “add to cart page”, but can still view their cart at any time with a single click.

Someone who is using an older browser needn’t worry either: it will work in older browsers as well. Technically speaking: it degrades gracefully.

Administration area We have developed an administration system which allows manually entry of orders by the client. This means orders by customers who don’t have an internet connection or prefer to order via telephone, can still be inserted into the system and managed in the same way. The administrator takes orders and payments through telephone and enters the details in the administration system. Their purchases will appear alongside all other orders in one single system.

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