When we first set out to build this site, we had all kinds of lofty goals. Some of them we've achieved, others we've adapted, and a few we've abandoned.
There was one goal (or, rather, two related goals), however, that we steadfastly refused to compromise:
We wanted an intuitive, functional and good-looking e-commerce platform
We wanted to not spend all kinds of money getting it
It's not that we're too cheap to invest in our business or anything, it's just that we don't really think e-commerce will ever be the major focus of our business. We're pretty sure that the vast majority of our sales will always come from face-to-face interactions with our clients - but the future is a murky, confusing place so we want our online store to be good enough that, if people do want to buy from us online, they won't pull out their hair in the process.
We started by checking out some of the major players (Etsy, Shopify, etc.) and, while they were all appealing for different reasons, we still felt like we could do something equivalent (or maybe better) without paying big fees. So we did some boring research and, to our delight, discovered that a personal Paypal account can be upgraded (for free!) to a Business account.
With our new Paypal Business account set up and ready to go, we started building our shop, happily creating and embedding a unique 'Add to Cart' button for each product. As we went along, we tested every few buttons to make sure we were doing it right and everything seemed smooth and functional *cue foreboding trombone music*.
After the whole shop was built, we ran a more rigorous test and found, to our horror, that the 'Add to Cart' buttons were generating two distinct Paypal carts that could not be amalgamated. For example, say I have three products: Product A adds to the cart. Great! Product B adds to the same cart. Still good. Then, Product C adds to the cart too, only it's a completely different cart than the other two. Aaagh!
There is a happy ending to this story, though. After much reading and a few e-mails exchanged with Paypal Technical Support (who are great, by the way!), we figured out the fix and now having a totally free, easy-to-use and awesome-looking shop powered by Paypal and controlled by us.
In case there are any artisans/ makers/ entrepreneurs reading this, here is a step-by-step guide to creating Paypal 'Add to Cart' buttons that will embed properly in your site & will function as they should:
Once you've set up your Merchant account, go to "Create Button" under "Merchant Services"
Under the "Step 1" heading:
Enter your button parameters (button type, price, name, etc.)
Don't forget tax & shipping, if you haven't already standardized these in your profile!)
Under the "Step 2" heading:
REMOVE the checkmark on 'Save Button at Paypal' (this will always be checked off automatically, so make sure you uncheck it each time you create a new button)
Select 'Create Button'
Now you will see the code that Paypal generated for you. Above it, you'll see an option to 'Remove Code Protection'.
Select this to remove the encryption on your code.
Click 'Select Code'
Now you can simply Paste the code into your site's HTML
If you're using a website builder like Wix, they may not allow you to edit the source code directly but there's usually a workaround
With Wix (my builder of choice), it's one of their 'Apps' called 'HTML Embed'
One last tip:
The first line of code in a generated button will read something like this: form target="paypal"
If you leave it as is, your clients will be directed to the Paypal homepage when they select 'Keep Shopping' after adding something to their cart
You can change it so it will collapse the Cart window and go back to your store. Change the code so it reads this instead: form target="self"
Like the other changes, this must be done with each and every button.
So, to my fellow artists and entrepreneurs I say: Happy Website Building!