Web Hosting

Choose Your Shopping Cart (1 of 2)

Choose among turnkey, off-the-shelf, or do-it-yourself shopping cart solutions. If you're a whiz with Perl or have someone on staff who is, you can always download free, customizable Perl scripts for the ultimate in customizability for your shopping cart. But these days it's really not necessary to know the code to set up a shopping cart because many online services have sprung up offering ready-made shopping carts. Even buying customizable off-the-shelf software directly or through a reseller (such as your Internet service provider (ISP) or Web design firm) will take care of a lot of the back-end work for you.

Whatever type of solution best fits your online business strategy, be sure to choose a product that supports standard shopping cart features, such as secure servers and automatic shipping and tax calculation. Also, keep in mind that the shopping cart user interface needs to be very easy for customers to use, or they will give up mid-sale and make their purchases elsewhere. They should be able to easily remove items from the cart or change the quantity selected, and shipping and taxes should be calculated automatically. Further, the shopping cart should be reasonably attractive and allow for color and graphics customization to fit seamlessly with the rest of your site.

The Web Store Software Selector at About.com offers information on over 40 shopping cart services categorized by price and listed with key details, such as whether the service is suitable for beginners and whether the shopping cart runs on your server or the host's. This article is a great resource for researching the multitude of shopping cart services available for online small businesses. Before you start, get acquainted with the turnkey (such as online shopping cart services), off-the-shelf , and do-it-yourself (such as Perl scripts)shopping cart solutions.

Turnkey Solution: Online Shopping Cart Services

Using an online shopping cart service is a relatively inexpensive and rapid way to begin, especially if you don't yet have a Web site. Without being a programmer or hiring a programmer, you can add a shopping cart function by using one of these browser-based shopping cart services. If you're running a small operation and want to implement a shopping cart quickly and simply, this turnkey solution will certainly do the job.

Online shopping cart services host your retail site on their servers. You will be asked to complete a long form or to work from a control panel online in your browser to manage your store. Some services ask you to download the configuration software to set up your pages before uploading them to a server. Step-by-step setup features guide you through the store-building process quickly. Templates and choices for catalog design, however, restrict your ability to customize. As a result, your online store may look similar to other online stores that use the same service. Once completed, the catalog pages with cart functions reside on the shopping cart service's Web site. Service fees are paid monthly, quarterly, yearly, or per transaction. You're not locked into using any one Web host if you go this route. However, if you leave the service, you will need to redo your cart and catalog pages again elsewhere.

Numerous online shopping carts are available to choose from, and new ones are entering the market all the time. Americart, Bigstep.com, freemerchant.com, iCat Commerce Cart, VirtualCart, and Yahoo!Store are a few of the better-known options. Each site includes links to merchants who use these services. These example sites are the best resource for getting a feel for the form and functionality of the various shopping carts. For more information and in-depth reviews, visit Webmonkey's article "E-Storefront Options for Small Businesses."

When choosing an online shopping cart service, be sure it provides these essential features:

  • Browser-based setup and configuration.
  • Option to customize to your site design.
  • Secure server.
  • Ability to view orders by browser, e-mail, or fax.
  • Multiple payment options and support for multiple currencies.
  • Real-time payment processing.
  • Automated tax and shipping calculation.

In general, online shopping cart services aren't sophisticated, and their customizability is limited. If your business requires more back-end support and customizability, try solutions provided as part of an overall e-commerce package through a reseller, or purchase an off-the-shelf solution.

Turnkey Solution: Shopping Carts Purchased Through Resellers

You may utilize an online shopping cart service as part of a turnkey e-commerce package through your ISP or Web design firm, although some turnkey solution providers offer packages for sale directly to merchants. If you have your ISP or Web host build your store, you'll pay for the shopping cart feature as part of your payment plan for the overall e-commerce package.

These shopping carts have sophisticated features, such as Java- and XML-enabled customization capabilities, extensive back-end support for database management, and better scalability. In fact, they are often not just shopping carts but entire storefronts in themselves. As a standard, such services should include these features:
  • Browser-based configuration.
  • Templates for catalog customization.
  • Secure server.
  • Database importation.
  • Unlimited product listings.
  • Support for multiple currencies.
  • Support for multiple languages.
  • Real-time credit card processing.
  • Customizable customer receipts.
  • Statistical reports on site traffic.
  • Automated tax and shipping calculation.
Many storefront-building software packages were extensively reviewed by ecommerce-guide.com. There you'll find detailed information about server support, cost, and features on products such as INTERSHOP, Mercantec SoftCart, and ShopSite.

Read other web hosting Articles

Cheap Web Hosting