Shopping carts are not essential but they do make your website look more professional. You can always use company like pay pal, create buttons and add them next to the product on your website.
Shopping carts are definitely wanted if you have a wide range of inventory or your products change periodically. If you have 1 or 2 products you can go without using a shopping cart. Shopping carts can simplify your life tremendously with large product catalogs.
The Variety Of Shopping Carts
There is a huge variety of shopping carts available to you. Each shopping cart application can have 100s of features. You have to know exactly what you want before getting a shopping cart and you’ll have to do some research to find one that’s right for you.
The shopping cart can be split into 4 sections:
- Back end
- Front end
The back end (or back of house) is what you see and deal with as the administrator.
You want a shopping cart that gives you a ton of control from the back end. You should be able to change the colors, fonts, and images, and import and export inventory lists.
You want a shopping cart that offers as much control as possible.
This is what the customer sees when viewing your site.
The most important thing for the customer is being able to go through the process of purchasing your item quickly and easily.
The front end should have a good amount of options for the customer. There should be buttons to view their order, review your product, leave and read comments.
Test out the front end yourself and imagine being a customer. You want to make it easy yet appealing.
Integration refers to the coding side of things. You want a shopping cart that is compatible with your site and is easy to install.
The shopping cart should be stable and not have errors pop up and your shopping cart should be able to connect with your accounting software.
Find a shopping cart company that offers good customer support. Dealing with money issues with clients can be a real head ache.
A shopping cart that supports marketing functions is extremely important and makes a good bonus. Marketing functions for your shopping cart include such items as:
- Recommending similar products to customers
- Data feeds that can communicate with websites like Froogle, Shopping.com Yahoo shopping, Shop.com, and Shopzilla.com.
- Sales and Specials
- Send out email regarding sales to your email list.
- Gift certificates
- Search tool
- SEO friendly (SEO = Search Engine Optimization)
- Product ratings and reviews
- Product commenting
- Polls and surveys
- Social bookmarking/networking
- Incentives (buy one, get one free)
You want a shopping cart that fits your needs and then some. You want options and control with your shopping cart.
Hosted Shopping Carts
An alternative to hosting, installing and programming your own shopping cart is to hire a company to host it and deal with it for you.
Outsourcing your shopping cart can be cost effective since you won’t have to deal with the problems.
Although you’ll have to pay a small fee, you won’t have to deal with the technical issues. You just have to worry about keeping the inventory and store up to date.
If you decide to go down this route be sure to get an outsourced shopping cart company that offers round the clock support.
Even thought the shopping cart is hosted on a different server you integrate it into your own website.
Here are the best hosting shopping cart companies we recommend:
Hosted shopping carts can be expensive so make sure it’s worth it for you. They can run you $25 to $200 per month.
Purchasing Shopping Cart Software
Shopping cart software has been around for a long time and it’s become quite developed.
It will cost you anywhere between $300 and $5000. There are free and cheaper options but you get what you pay for and so the cheaper options are not recommended… they’ll give you and your customers a lot of head ache.
Even though good software is expensive you’ll save money in the long run. You won’t be tied down by limitations and you’ll have more control of your own store.
Many companies don’t sell you’re the software but instead lease it out to you in which you only own the license to use it.
Here’s a list of the best shopping cart programs on the market:
Make sure your payment gateway is compatible with the software you use otherwise you’ll have to pay a specialist to program it for you.
Customely Made Shopping Cart
This is not recommended as it would be very expensive. It can cost you easily over $10,000.
Because it would be customely coded you’ll have problems with integrating it with your payment gateway and other programs.
A custom shopping cart should only be considered if absolutely necessary or if the cost is not an issue for you.
Down the line when your company starts making large amount of money, you can consider this as a viable option.
Not only is this approach expensive but it’s also time consuming. It can take month or more to developed and test out.