Choosing the best shopping cart is very important to the success of your online e-commerce venture. Many businesses are now using shopping carts combined with automated payment acceptance gateways, giving both them and their customers more ease of use and flexibility.
So what is a shopping cart? A shopping cart is a tool used by internet marketers to help buyers select various products from different pages of their website, before proceeding to a virtual ‘checkout’. The term “shopping cart” is a metaphor webmasters use to describe their sales process that customers can relate to, especially if they have been shopping in any supermarkets. A good shopping cart will incorporate the following:
1) An unlimited number of products which can be grouped by categories or displayed in one long list. You should also be able to set the maximum number of items listed per web page.
2) Shipping costs are displayed per unit or bulk. When goods are sent individually, the shipping costs are more expensive, so your shopping cart should automatically use the correct shipping cost based on the number of items ordered.
3) Additional shipping options should be available to the customer based on whether they want standard, 2 day or overnight shipping.
4) For international customers, the shopping cart should be able to store and display international shipping costs.
5) Many countries require sales tax to be charged on any sales made in that country so the shopping cart must be able to calculates local sales tax.
6) There’s little point to installing a shopping cart if it does not support most of the credit card processing gateways which must be able to accept credit cards, checks and PayPal
7) Once a customer has paid, the shopping cart must send an automatic order confirmation email to customer.
Behind the scenes, the shopping cart doesn’t handle the actual transaction, but acts as a front-end to gather data on customer selections. It then passes on its information to a payment gateway via a secure web page. The customer’s credit card is verified, and the payment directed to your account. Once the payment is made, the transaction details are relayed back to the shopping cart, which then tells the buyers how their order will be fulfilled if their payment was accepted.
One of the ‘free’ payment solutions available is the one offered PayPal, which integrates basic shopping cart functions (the PayPal shopping cart is very basic and does not offer feature like shipping options) without the need for a separate merchant account or payment gateway. There are no setup fees, monthly fees, or gateway fees but you will pay a low fee on each sale you make. This fee will vary according to the volume of sales you make through your PayPal shopping cart.
When it comes to paying for their products, your customers have the choice of paying by major credit card, debit card, instant bank transfer, eCheck or through their own PayPal account balance. They don’t have to own a PayPal account to make a payment as they would have in the past.
From a security point of view, PayPal offers free fraud protection services and there are no chargeback fees. They also offer web developers a wide variety of easy-to-use tools to help things run more smoothly.
One of the biggest drawbacks to using PayPal is that link highjackers can easily divert the funds from your sale into their own account. Your customers won’t know this has happened because the funds leave their account and they get their goods, as far as they are concerned the transaction was successful.
Another good free shopping cart is the one offered by AgoraCart.com, and most website hosting companies offer this as part of their service. If you have a merchant account, you can link Agoracart to any major payment gateway. Agoracart can also be linked to third party credit card processors such as 2CheckOut.
A third free shopping cart available online is the “Light” version offered by eMartCart.com which is free as long as you have less than 45 orders per month and less than 25 products, thereafter you have to upgrade. It is however a full featured shopping cart and well worth investigating.
Before choosing a shopping cart do some investigation, find out exactly which features are available with each shopping cart and only choose the one that best suits your business needs.
To Your Success