Choosing an Online
Shopping Cart for your Online Business
Online Shopping Carts -
Shopping Cart Programs
By Nick Hunter
Carts have become more dynamic and effective over the years. However,
there are some that suffer from poor functionality, compatibility, and
There are sources
of information on cart programs, but this will break it down for you so
you absolutely choose the right one. Once you install a cart program
into your website, it can be complicated and time consuming to switch it
If you can allow
me to be "basic" here for a minute: A shopping cart program is installed
on a secure server to work within your website or connected to your
website using a secure link.
The online cart will allow customers to
choose products that they wish to buy. Once the customer is ready to
"Check Out" and buy, the cart then sends the information to your
merchant and processor, so the payment can be processed. Having an
online Internet cart that is compatible with processors such as Versign
or whoever you choose to process your credit card orders is vital.
consider with online shopping carts:
Do you want to
offer an affiliate program, so other sites can send traffic to your
website and you can pay them a commission? Not every shopping cart can
handle that integration. You don't want an online cart installed and
"put live", only to realize later that it does not integrate with your
favorite affiliate software program.
card processors must be compatible to your cart software. If you stick
with the top companies, this should not be a problem - but you must
ask: "Is your cart program compatible with xxxx processor?"
- Who are
their other customers?
cart software companies will have a list of sample customers. This is
very helpful in your decision making for several reasons.
One: you want to
see how the cart functions "live". Do you like the look of the screens
(you can usually change the colors to suit your site), the speed -
although that depends on the server, graphics, scripts and other things
that may be slowing the site down, separate from the cart.
Two: Seeing the
customer sites that use the online cart can also tell you how
successful the cart company is. You want to try to make sure this
company has enough clients. It is very important that this company is
established, successful and has a track record. This is a major
integration and you don't want to have to do this all over again. If
the cart program company goes out of business for any reason, you'll
have to do the whole thing over!
- See a demo
You want to be
the customer when viewing an online demo of the cart. You also want to
see how easy it is to log in, make changes, add products, download
orders and get reports. Never purchase a cart without seeing it live.
Do you get an
email when an order is placed? Does the customer get a timely email?
Can it be integrated with UPS or other shipping companies? Does it
allow for state-by-state sales tax? Make a list of things you would
- Live support
have email support and that is good, but "live support", especially in
the first 30 or 60 days is very important. Most established shopping
cart companies will install the cart software for you and test it.
Before or after the installation, website owners will need assistance.
Even the most experienced webmasters incur issues and being able to
reach someone in those times of need is very helpful. It is a deal
maker or breaker for me. I want human beings!
Always a factor,
right? Well, don't let it be too big a factor here. Price is more of a
concern when it includes monthly fees. Some companies will offer a
cheaper sign up, but have monthly charges like a hosting company. I try
to avoid these arrangements. I'd rather pay $400 and it's mine, than
$100 set up and $25 or $50 a month. It is almost always better to buy
the cart outright. I'd also rather pay a little more, knowing some of
that money is going towards support staff and upgrades.
- Upgrades and
Are they free?
Does the cart license allow you to use it for other domains?
Like I said
earlier, the choices have never been broader, but choices can bring
confusion. The good part is almost all of the online cart programs have
demos that you can play with and you'll know the right one for you.
Don't be cheap and make sure you can call someone when you have
Best of luck to
you with your online business!
About The Author
Nick Hunter is a
marketing specialist and the President of American Investment Training (AIT).
He also writes for runawebbusiness.com - a website dedicated to
operating an Internet business.
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