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Shopping Carts - Online Shopping Cart
By: Nick Hunter, Wed Nov 16th, 2005
Online Shopping Carts have become more dynamic and effective
over the years. However, there are some that suffer from poor
functionality, compatibility, and effectiveness.
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 later.
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
Things to 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
Online credit 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?
Most established 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
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 need.
Most companies 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 enhancements
Are they free? Does the cart license allow you to use it for
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 problems.
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 www.runawebbusiness.com
- a website dedicated to operating an Internet business.