Do you need a shopping cart for your website? There are plenty of options, but how do you narrow the scope on which is the best shopping cart? Here are some facts to help you with your decision …
1.0 Types Of Shopping Carts
1.1 ____ Shopping Cart Installed On Your Hosting Server
This type requires a lot of knowledge about databases, software installation, and setup. If something goes wrong, most of the responsibility falls on you, or someone you would have to hire. Support MIGHT be available, but not without a fee. OUCH! Customer data is stored in a database on your server. From a security standpoint, that’s not wise.
1.2 ____ Shopping Cart Plugins (Such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, etc.)
This kind of shopping cart requires that you install a shopping cart plugin specifically designed to work with your website content management system, such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Installation takes only a few minutes. Then you must customize the cart inside your website’s dashboard, which takes about 30-60 minutes. This is required for any cart you choose. Customer data is stored in a database on your server. From a security standpoint, this is not recommended, per se, unless the credit card information is stored offsite, through your payment processing company like PayPal.com, Stripe.com, etc.
1.3 ____ Third-Party/Off-Site Shopping Carts
No installation is required AND customer/order information is stored on their servers and not yours. That’s a big plus, from a security standpoint. The downside for those starting out is that these shopping cart systems typically charge a monthly fee of $50-$350 per month.
Which system is best for you will depend on your comfort level with the technology, your budget and a desire for built-in shopping cart features, bells and whistles.
Most people opt for the third-party shopping cart solution or a plugin type shopping cart solution. Another determining factor is pricing, which I discuss in more detail in my checklist.
2.0 Pricing, Fees & Cost
Shopping carts come in a variety of pricing options:
2.1 ____ Some are FREE, except for a one-time fee for support and/or extra features/benefits/plugins to enhance the cart.
2.2 ____ You pay a one-time fee for the shopping cart that is moderately priced fee at $50-$2,500.
2.3 ____ You pay an on-going/monthly or annual fee. This can run from $50-$250 per month depending on the number of extra features you need, or $97 per year for some I’ve seen.
What’s your budget? Can you afford a $50-$250 monthly fee for a shopping cart? Do you have enough sales coming in to justify that cost? You might opt for a lower-cost, perhaps free, shopping cart in the beginning. Let’s look at basic functionality so you can better access your immediate needs.
You could start out with one cart, which is more affordable, then leap to a better one as sales come in. Up to you!
3.0 Functionality (Bare Essentials)
These are the bare essentials you should expect from any shopping cart:
3.1 ____ Ability to add products to the cart is simple, easy and be able to quickly display products on your website. Generate simple product buy-me links, which can be placed on your website or blog (or in an eMail), and provide links for customers to “view cart” or “checkout” when they’re ready to buy.
3.2 ____ Calculates sales tax, country tax, and any other taxes.
3.5 ____ Calculates shipping costs based on weight, item count, selection, and/or geographic location.
3.6 ____ Offers coupons and discounts.
3.7 ____ Prints customer order packing slips (without pricing on them) or invoices (with prices included) that are then inserted into the customer’s order.
3.8 ____ Accumulates customer information and allows you to eMail those customers directly when you need to within the shopping cart system without having to link up to a 3rd party eMail/autoresponder system.
3.9 ____ Option to export customer’s order information so you can use it offline for your use such as printing reports to fulfill product, printing postage labels, etc.
3.10 ____ Provides sales reports that show sales by customer, product, day, week, month, year, sales tax collected, etc.
3.11 ____ Gives you the ability to search/add/edit clients when the need arises. This helps when you want to take a customer’s order over the phone or in person.
3.12 ____ Point of sale transaction capabilities would be nice too, similar to in-store customer order-taking on your tablet.
If some of the last few features don’t come with the shopping cart you’re looking at using, but gives you the option to add them via a plugin with little to no extra cost, no problem. However, if these features don’t come with your shopping cart and they cost to add them to the cart, think again. At least you know the minimum requirements for your needs.
There are additional features that can enhance your shopping cart under a single login account, but don’t overdo it. Having to piece together all the different components of a full-blown, feature-rich shopping cart can be time-consuming and costly.
4.0 Extra Features, Bells & Whistles
What’s a worthwhile enhancement to add to a shopping cart?
4.1 ____ Digital Product Delivery
4.2 ____ Email Broadcasting
4.3 ____ eZine/Newsletter Broadcasting
4.4 ____ Opt-In Form Creation
4.5 ____ Autoresponders
4.6 ____ Affiliate Program
4.7 ____ Ad Tracking & A/B Testing Tools
4.8 ____ Fulfillment Notification
4.9 ____ Membership Site/Management Functions
If these features aren’t built into your shopping cart, in most cases, you’ll need to track down an app or plugin compatible with that shopping cart. You may need to use a third party service to accept some of these enhancements that will charge a monthly fee (or one-time purchase) based on usage.
5.0 Pros & Cons For Built-In Features vs. Additional Plugins
5.1 ____ BUILT-IN FEATURES:
• The PROS: You have one account and numerous features to help grow your business.
• The CONS: The cost ranges from $50-$250 per month.
5.2 ____ ADDITIONAL PLUGINS:
• The PROS: These plugins can be added as needed.
• The CONS: Some are fee-based, one time fees, and generally affordable.
What kind of cart do you need and what features do you need with that shopping cart? If you’re making enough sales to pay the monthly fee for the shopping cart that has virtually everything you need to run your business under one login, that’s the one I recommend!
On the other hand, if you’re just starting out, sales are guarded, go with free shopping cart plugins, and then add feature plugins as needed.
Once you start making sales, upgrade your shopping cart. Don’t rush when it comes to changing shopping carts either. You don’t want to upset the flow of orders. Study the new shopping cart system and plan how you’ll make a smooth transition.
6.0 Have You Decided?
6.1 ____ FREE SHOPPING CART
If this is the route you’re taking, then you might choose WooCommerce if you have a WordPress website. Connect it to your PayPal or Stripe account for payment collection, and install any of the FREE or pay-for plugins related to what you need in addition to the shopping cart from the list Checklist #4 to upgrade your cart. Within 24 hours, you should be selling online from your website/blog. Save your money, and add more robust features later.
6.2 ____ FEE-BASED, THIRD-PARTY HOSTED SHOPPING CART
If this type of shopping cart is for you, and if you know what features you’re looking for, here are some shopping cart solutions to look at:
… among others!