Shopping Cart Options for Online Stores
If you’re looking to turn your website or blog into a fully-fledged online store, you can do so by adding a shopping cart to extend the functionality of your site. Shopping carts implement several features, including a place for your customers to hold the products they’d like to purchase and a checkout process. There are several different kinds of shopping carts, so regardless of what your needs are, you’re sure to find one that works with your existing site.
Is it hard to set up a shopping cart?
Yes and no. Some options are better for those with limited technical experience, and some options are for those who want control over every aspect of the software suite (including the underlying codebase). Learn about your options below.
Types of Shopping Carts
There are several different types of shopping cart software available, so which one is the best one for you? Here’s a quick summary of what each option does well and why it might be a good option for you.
All-in-One E-Commerce Builders
All-in-one e-commerce builders (we’ll refer to them simply as site builders for brevity’s sake) are those where you get everything you need to get a website and online store up and running. These packages typically include a web hosting package, website building tools, the shopping cart itself, and a fully-developed checkout process that you don’t have to implement yourself.
The biggest perk to using an e-commerce builder is that you get everything you need and you know that all of the tools you’re using for your site will work together. Furthermore, some have such advanced UX/UI that getting started is easy, even if you don’t have extensive technical knowledge. If you ever run into any issues, either during the setup process or after your site has gone live, you only have to contact your vendor for assistance (no matter what the issue).
The downside to an e-commerce builder is that these tend to be among the most expensive way to set up an online store — you’re paying for the convenience and ease offered by such bundles. Additionally, if you already have a website or blog and the hosting to go with it, you may not need everything that comes with an all-in-one package (though you can certainly take advantage of migration services to make the setup process easier).
The following is a small sample of the e-commerce builders available to you:
Stand-Alone Shopping Carts for Self-Installation
Stand-alone shopping carts for self-installation are very similar to the all-in-one e-commerce builders we mentioned above. However, these types of shopping carts typically do not come with web hosting packages, so you’re responsible for installing the software onto the server yourself. The functionality and feature set of such shopping carts vary — sometimes, you get everything you need to set up a store, implement shopping cart/checkout processes, and even manage your store/inventory, and sometimes, you get a one-step checkout process.
If you don’t need everything offered by an all-in-one package, and you have sufficient technical knowledge to manage the setup and configuration process of your shopping cart on your own, these options might be a good way for you to save money (some are open source, which means they are completely free to use).
Some of the more popular stand-alone shopping carts available include:
Shopping Cart Plug-Ins for WordPress
If you’re using WordPress, you have a lot of options when it comes to adding e-commerce functionality to your site — because WordPress is so widely used, there are a lot of developers creating products you might find helpful.
Depending on your needs, you might install one or more plugins to meet the needs of your online store. Some plugins are great for those selling digital downloads like eBooks or streaming media files, while others are better for those selling physical goods.
You can also find plugins that help you manage your store, integrate with third-party services like shipping providers, and so on. In some cases, such as with WooCommerce, you can add extensions to your plugins, further customizing your experience.
What is a payment processor?
Because there tend to be a lot of regulations rearding financial transactions, working with a payment processor means that you don’t have to worry about compliance. You’ll also be able to accept multiple forms of payment with ease — for example, partnering with PayPal allows you to accept direct transfers from a bank account, credit cards, and debit cards.
Why do I need shopping cart software in addition to a payment processor?
Technically, you don’t need shopping cart software to turn your website or blog into an online store, since you can easily create your own product pages, code a shopping cart, and put a PayPal button on your site.
However, such software suites make it so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and implement all the necessary e-commerce functionality on your own. Furthermore, many of the tools we mentioned include extra features you might find helpful, such as inventory management and accounting.
What can I sell online?
When we say e-commerce, you’re probably envisioning the sale of physical goods. However, you can easily sell digital downloads, as well as services. The tools you use for selling physical goods can easily be leveraged to sell digital goods and services.
What’s the cost of using shopping cart software?
It depends. All-in-one e-commerce packages tend to be the most expensive option since they are the most feature rich and tend to come backed by robust customer service.
However, if you choose an option you install and configure on your own (or simply a plugin for your WordPress site), you’ll probably spend significantly less. In some cases, the tool itself might be free. The downside, however, is that you’re on your own if you run into issues, and you have to have the necessary technical knowledge to get things set up.