The goal of this article is to help better understand how 'payments' operate within the Exponent eCommerce system. 'Payments' are used to virtualize an online cash transaction for goods (products) or services (event registration or donation). There are basically two (2) types of payment systems called 'billing calculators' within Exponent:
- Those which handle the entire transaction online through a 3rd party which charges for their service (such as Authorize.net, WorldPay, and PayPal)
- Those which record a payment due where the transaction must be accomplished outside of Exponent...which may or may not charge for their service (such as cash/check, credit card, and bill me)
In most cases, we would only want to offer one (1) online payment option if we conduct all our business online, or perhaps a 2nd option if we also handle business directly with a customer at a brick-and-mortar location where the customer can pay when they arrive at the location for the event or to pick up the product.
Though no explanation should be necessary for handling and processing cash or checks, the 'cash/check' and 'pass-thru' payment options are designed for 'point of sale' type transactions by an employee of the merchant. Perhaps the best method to allow customers to pay by cash or check possibly by mail, or to use a credit card when they show up is to use the 'bill me later' payment option. If we wish to allow payment online by credit card and already have a service for processing credit card transactions, we could use the 'credit card' payment option.
If we want to have the entire payment not only recorded but processed online, we'd need to use one of the other payment options. All of those options charge a fee for their services, though PayPal Express only charges per transaction instead of a monthly fee like the others. ALL types of credit card or bank debit payments are transacted using several steps:
- Authorization - places a hold on a specified amount of funds, usually the total cost of the order (+- 15%) for 3 days. However, the money is not transferred from the customer to the merchant. You may have seen this occur when you make a purchase which initially appears as a $1 charge, but later changes to the full amount.
- Void - cancels out the remainder of a funds 'authorization'. If the authorization has already be partially 'captured' (or paid out), the 'void' action will simply close the authorization out.
- Capture - moves a specified amount of funds from the customer to the merchant. This amount may or may not be the total of the entire order, such as a segmented shipment of an order due to some items being out of stock requiring two shipments. Each 'capture' must usually be specifically authorized, and in most cases, the amount captured may or may not equal the amount originally authorized. E.g., the shipping cost of the order was slightly more/less than what appeared at checkout and the exact cost was charged to the customer.
- Refund - transfers previously 'captured' funds from the merchant back to the customer
- Others - there are some other actions which can take place such as:
- Order - simply earmarks a future 'Authorization' by collecting the customer information, no 'hold' is placed on the funds and they may not exists.
- Reauthorization - allows extending an 'Authorization' by 3 days (to a maximum of 30 days) or allowing a 2nd 'Capture' against the 'Authorization.
We'll primarily use the PayPal Express (PPE) payment option as an example here since it's the easiest full-featured one to use, which offers a good place to start. PPE offers three (3) 'Processing Modes'. 1) Sale, 2) Authorization, and 3) Order.
The recommended mode is 'Sale' which automatically authorizes and immediately captures the entire amount of the order when it is submitted. This works well since it doesn't require additional actions or monitoring on the part of the merchant, but it also implies the merchandise is 'in stock' and will be shipped very quickly. However in larger companies, it might be more prudent to only charge the customer (capture funds) once the merchandise is shipped, and then only for those items actually shipped. The 'Sale' mode doesn't allow for this although you could simulate it by issuing a partial refund. When managing the order, you'll note the 'Refund' button with an area to enter the amount on the invoice 'Billing' area.
A better approach might be to use the 'Authorization' or 'Order' modes where the funds are manually 'captured' when the items are shipped. Since we can't initiate an 'Authorization' from within Exponent (in the current release), we don't currently recommend using the 'Order' mode (Though this can be accomplished on the PayPal site). In 'Authorization' mode, the amount is 'authorized' when the order is submitted. If you pull up the order, you note a 'Capture' button with an area to enter the amount and 'Void' button on the invoice 'Billing' area. The order processing sequence would work like:
- new order submitted/received (funds are 'authorized' and placed on hold for 3 day)
- order review begins (status set to 'processing' with a optional email sent to the customer)
- order is sent to 'warehouse' for packaging, order items are retrieved and boxed, and the box weighed (status set to 'sent to warehouse')
- package data used to create/purchase shipping label and get a shipment tracking id
- shipping label applied to package, then picked up by carrier
- total cost of the order is 'captured' from the order invoice, since the funds were previously authorized (placed on hold)
- shipping date & tracking id entered into the invoice (status set to 'order has been shipped' with an optional email set to the customer)
- the order has been 'fulfilled' at this point
- if a 'return' is required, a full or partial 'refund' can be issued from the order invoice (once the returned item is received?)
Though perhaps not a full-fledged 'how to conduct e-commerce article, this information may help you better understand how ecommerce billing works and encourage you to 'take the plunge' into the icy waters of e-commerce.
Exponent CMS Developer
Exponent provides an excellent environment for writing and sharing articles or 'blogs'. A site where the 'back-end' is on the front-end and a variety of what-you-see-is-what-you-get WYSIWYG editors take away some of the creative hassles with writing. Another nice convenience for writing articles which is found on other blog applications (like WP), is editing the articles offline by using an application to manage and edit multiple blog articles. Though there was preliminary support for this feature in the v0.99beta1 release (before v2.x), it has not been available to the v2.x code line...until now.
Why would you want to use a desktop application to edit articles instead of simply using the browser?
- Submitting the same or similar articles to multiple blogs or sites
- Simultaneously working on many draft articles (beginning a new article while have several unfinished articles)
- Not having immediate, unrestricted access to a reliable high-speed internet connection, but you have your PC
The new offline blog editing feature will be available in the next release (currently at v2.3.4patch1). It will be turned OFF by default, but can be turned on using 'Site Configuration' under the 'Security' tab. It has been tested with several offline blog applications (mostly Windows based) such as Windows Live Writer, Zoundry Raven, Blog2Post, Windows 2007+, and ScrybeFire running in the Chrome browser. Most of these interface with the blog site by adding an account. This account creation process attempts to determine the type of blog, but all require the following information.
- user logon name (with create/edit permission to a blog module)
- user password
- url to the blog web page - www.mysite.org/my-blog
- url to the blog xmlrpc interface (blog post url) - www.mysite.org/xmlrpc.php
- type of blog - Metaweblog API (NOT WordPress, nor Blogger, etc...)
- image/picture uploading handled by - the blog provider
During the process, the offline application attempt to determine the type of blog, but will likely need some assistance in completing the process. You should be shown the list of all the blog modules on the site. Most applications will require a separate account be created for each blog module on the site, where others may only display the first blog module listed from the site.
Many of these applications provide support for publishing the article or posting it as a draft, tags (adding new tags or selecting from existing tags), categories (adding new categories or selecting from existing ones), setting the article publish date, inserting graphics, boilerplate templates, downloading the site 'theme' for better offline previews, and turning off user comments. Some of these features require they be turned on within that blog module. You may even be able to pull down recent or all blog posts from that blog to edit or archive.
All-in-all, another tool in the Exponent CMS arsenal to assist you in maintaining and managing your web site.
Exponent CMS Developer