By November 15, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

Get the Right Shopping Cart

Get the Right Shopping CartYour shopping cart is software that allows visitors to select the items they want to purchase, calculates shipping and tax, and communicates the costs to your payment gateway so that customers are charged the correct fees.

The shopping cart also provides reports to help you manage your inventory, keep your financial books, and perform other important tasks.

A shopping cart typically takes one of the following forms.

  1. Probably the easiest way to accept payments on your website is to sign up for a service like PayPal Standard* that combines a basic, hosted cart with a payment gateway. You can quickly turn almost any website into an online store by pasting a few lines of HTML code onto a page, following instructions on the PayPal website.
  2. The PayPal Standard cart doesn’t give you accurate shipping calculated by the carriers, the ability to accept coupons, cart pages that look like part of your website, or a consistent checkout flow so you can track the effectiveness of your online advertising. For these types of features you can combine PayPal (or another payment gateway) with a hosted shopping cart. A hosted cart I’ve tested is Ecwid*, which I think provides good features and a nice customer experience, at reasonable cost.
  3. If your store needs more advanced features you can buy shopping cart software to install and maintain on your website. Our web store uses shopping cart software called Ecommerce Templates* that we installed on the shared Linux host that runs our site. This software gives us the features of other carts, plus unlimited logins with different permissions for our staff, support for drop shippers and affiliates, the option to collect and publish product reviews, more control over the cart appearance, extensive reporting, and so on. The software takes a bit more effort to maintain than a hosted cart, but we like its flexibility.

Note that if you use a hosted eCommerce solution for your website, you’ll also be using the provider’s own shopping cart. More about this approach is discussed in part two of our article about how to set up your website.

Test for Yourself

Just as with any other paid services, you should always set up and thoroughly test your shopping cart options before making a commitment.

It’s also a good idea to treat websites that offer reviews and comparisons of different shopping carts with great suspicion, since I’ve found that they often provide unreliable information.

NoteI’ve tested several shopping carts that claim to make it easy to download every transaction into QuickBooks accounting software. I thought that the QuickBooks-integrated carts I tested were overpriced, difficult to use, and inferior to the alternatives in just about every other way. And, as noted in my article about QuickBooks Hell, you’ll probably want to avoid importing every sales transaction into QuickBooks anyway.

Next: Choose How to Get Paid

* This is not a paid endorsement.

Posted in: Your Money, Your Website

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