This post has been submitted by PixelCrayons. PixelCrayons is a creative web design and development agency that specializes in providing custom web design and development, PSD to HTML, Content Management System and ecommerce solutions.
An e-commerce solution has become the utmost requirement of every business website. It is rather indispensable. Without a good e-commerce shopping cart, an e-commerce website is incomplete and can’t expect good returns in terms of traffic, sales, ranking and ROI. There is plethora of e-commerce solutions available in the market. However, selecting the right e-commerce shopping cart software can be a daunting task. Planning for a shopping cart is very important. This is because e-commerce significantly affects your website’s layout and available features. Therefore, it is important to have an e-commerce shopping cart that not only offers the required features but also meets other important criteria. Here is a complete guide to selecting the right shopping cart for your e-commerce store.
If you are considering creating a shopping cart on your own, then mind it, it is very complicated, time consuming and a lengthy task. Also, it requires proper knowledge of various technologies. There are a number of viable shopping carts available commercially. Thus buying would be much better than spending both your time and resources on creating one on your own. The commercially available shopping carts range from free to price ones.
An important point to consider before buying a shopping cart is- do you want to integrate with an existing website or start from scratch. There are some shopping carts that are simple and handle only the check out process. Such shopping carts require you to simply add snippets of code to your existing pages. Thus this type of shopping cart is best for those who are looking for an e-commerce solution for their existing website. But if you are starting from the scratch, you may want to have a more complex and customized system. Shopping carts that can create your product pages are extremely useful when changing product information, adding new products or deleting products.
Next point to consider is- what all features do you need in a shopping cart? Just like every business operates differently, their requirements also vary. Every online store is unique. It has to be. Visitors prefer user friendly and attractive online stores. Although, depending on your business, you many need a shopping cart with only basic functions or you may need all the attention grabbing features of a big e-commerce website. This depends entirely on you to determine the type of features you want in your online store. This will help you utilize both time and resources. It is better to decide before hand than to repent later. It can be really frustrating to be half-way done integrating a cart into your website only to find that it does not support a necessary feature.
Some of the essential features an e-commerce store should have are
- It should support dynamic product/page creation.
- Ensure that it is database-driven
- It should provide options like user registration, coupon codes, product reviews, product options etc.
- It should provide affiliate tracking and inventory tracking
- It should have shipping integration
- It should be template driven
- It should have features like order management/editing and product categories and sub categories.
- It should support multiple currencies and multiple payment processors
The technical aspects also require some consideration. There are many shopping carts that require you to host the site on their servers. Hence, if you already have a website, it would not be a viable option for you especially if you have paid for a year of hosting in advance. Before installing the shopping cart, ensure that it is compatible with your hosting. An alternative is to get hosting that is compatible with your shopping cart. An ASP/MS SQL shopping cart will not work on a Linux web server (and vice versa). Make sure your web server meets all the listed requirements before purchasing the software. Ask the host service if they can install the missing components for you.
Price is also an important factor. The prices of shopping carts range from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is important to make sure that the solution you choose meets all your needs. However, refrain from going overboard. You may end up spending a hefty amount on a solution that you may not need so much. At the same time, do not go for the free solutions either. This is because most free of cost shopping carts are developed by programmers on part time basis and some of them are not updated for months or even years. If you plan to go with the free shopping cart, make sure that there is adequate support from either the developers or other users online. Also ensure that bugs or security issues are addressed immediately.
Scalability counts a lot. When one starts with an online store, one has plans to make it big and turn the store into an internationally recognized store. For this, it is mandatory that the shopping cart is scalable and can handle a large number of orders and visitors simultaneously. Also make sure that it has all the features you will need, or that you can upgrade to a more advanced version if needed.
Also look out for the technical support available. You will need assistance for either setting up or installing, configuring or maybe customizing the cart to fit your website. If an error appears, it also needs to be debugged. Therefore, ensure that there is quick support because a small delay can lead to a significant number of lost sales (and revenues).
From the above mentioned points, it is clear that it requires a lot of factors to be considered while looking for a shopping cart for your e-commerce site. It is important to analyze the requirements and then proceed with the process of searching for a shopping cart. Keeping the above mentioned points in mind will help you to select the right shopping cart for you website.
Image Credit: The Rocketeer