While setting up an e-commerce site involves a lot of intricate details, one of the important but most taken-for-granted elements is the shopping cart, which is crucial to the success of your store.
Let’s start at the very beginning. What does an e-commerce shopping cart entail?
It is just like a shopping cart in a regular brick-and-mortar store, but it is electronic in nature and allows users to shop online. It is a series of scripts that tracks when users put items in the cart until they reach “checkout.”
These carts keep track of the items placed in the cart and pass this information to a payment gateway. Then the payment gateway passes on these requests to the relevant banks or financial networks; and then sends its response back to the shopping cart, with either a positive confirmation of payment having been made or a denial.
There are hundreds of different shopping cart packages available today, and this is what makes it difficult to find the best. For someone with no experience, all the packages seem good, going by the claims made by the companies. This is where a little a little information on shopping carts goes a long way.
Free and Paid Shopping Carts
You must have seen many web hosts offering free shopping carts. But you must remember these free shopping carts come with limited features, which may work well in the initial stages. But in the future, once your store picks up some traffic and is doing well, you will have to shift to better carts. But it can be a hassle changing packages in the middle, so based on your future plans; it helps to go with a paid shopping cart with just the bare essentials without all the unnecessary extras offered by the more expensive packages. A decent mid-line package may cost anywhere above $200 and it is well worth it.
Paypal is one of the best e-commerce solutions offered free with only a small percentage taken for each sale. It integrates the basic shopping cart functions with a payment gateway and merchant account. Since Paypal is accepted in most countries around the world, it can be the perfect solution. The best part is that you are protected against fraud.
Today’s shopping carts are so advanced that with some of them you actually get an entire website.
Here are some of the excellent features that shopping carts come with:
They act as salesmen – Just as a salesman shows the customers different products, shopping carts also suggest products that are related to the one chosen by the customer. Sometimes the second product is offered at a discounted rate, making it a hugely successful selling tactic, as most online buyers are prone to impulse buying.
Discount calculation and coupons – Shopping carts allow customers to calculate the total discount they are getting based on the number of items they are purchasing. Some cart software supports coupons that allow you to give special offers and this is yet another powerful marketing gimmick.
Autoresponder – It is a good idea to let your customers know when you have new products and towards helping you do this, many shopping carts come with autoresponder facilities. You don’t have to buy this software separately as it comes with the shopping cart.
Affiliate program – Affiliate programs are the best way of advertising your products and generating more sales, as so many others are going to be promoting your store. Shopping carts with affiliate modules take care of everything from the affiliate sign ups, statistic recording, communications and keeping track of payments to affiliates.
Several shopping carts also have other features, such as sales tax calculation, wish lists, stationery creation and management.
You will also have to make sure what type of shopping cart your host supports, as they come in various scripts in different programming languages, such as ASP, PHP, PERL etc. If you’re going to go with a remotely hosted service, then the programming language doesn’t matter.
As you can see, understanding your shopping cart and deciding on the features you need is the only way to find the best one to suit your needs. A shopping cart is an important part of your e-commerce store. Make sure to take your time and understand it better.
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