What to Look For in Your Shopping Cart Solution

Ensure your target audience and loyal customers a smooth check-out process by using a shopping cart solution with the right features!

As an online merchant, you are faced with the business decisions around how to best market and manage your product through your shopping cart solution. In today’s market there are several options available, but how do you go about evaluating which one is best for you and your market?

Before beginning your research on shopping cart solutions, you should have a full understanding of how you plan to manage your online store. Basic questions around how you handle payments, the presentation of your products, inventory tracking, and external bookkeeping software should all be answered before proceeding, allowing you to understand what features are absolutely required to move business forward. Shopping cart software should never dictate your processes – it should always help improve them. Once you have that basic understanding, use that information to inform your decisions around the actual functionality of the shopping cart you are researching.

Features to Keep in Mind When Searching for a Shopping Cart

1. Inventory Tracking & Payment Management Capabilities

What good is your site if you can’t accurately track your inventory, or collect payments through a shopping cart? At a minimum, shopping cart solutions provide powerful inventory tracking and payment management functionality, allowing you to better report on and manage your product. The tool will also grow with you, with some systems allowing for unlimited tracking of items. Although the basic tools do also offer payment management capabilities, sometimes the business rules will not work with your business practices. If that is the case, some shopping cart solutions partner with larger third party vendors for the payment management piece.

When considering payment management, you should also keep in mind that a PCI Compliant shopping cart is your best option. PCI (or PA-DSS) compliance means that the shopping cart software company underwent a stringent process to ensure that their ecommerce solution is secure from fraud and identity theft. Visa will fine merchants that are accepting payments from a non-PCI Compliant shopping cart, so when looking for an eCommerce solution, be sure to find one that is PCI Compliant.

2. Shopping Cart Usability, Both Internally and Externally

Ultimately you want users driven to your site, and for them to have a positive experience. A good shopping cart solution will do a couple of things to help with this:
— Provide you with an easy interface to manage the content of your site
— Allow for as few steps as possible for the end user to check out of the shopping cart
— Allow for the creation of static pages, helping drive organic traffic to your site by increased rankings on the various search engines

3. Price 

shopping cart
A good shopping cart provides smooth customer transactions.

What you spend is truly what you get in this market. Although there are many free shopping carts, the level of service and usability will often times match that price tag. Service and usability aren’t the only factors when considering prices for your shopping cart though. There are some systems that offer remote hosting, which many times come with a monthly fee beyond the initial price. On the other hand, there are systems allowing you to purchase the product, and install to then manage in house.

If you’re searching for a eCommerce Solution, make sure the price of that eCommerce solution includes the price of hosting as well. This is generally a monthly price and the ecommerce solution is usually broken up into different packages based on bandwidth, number of products, and server space you expect to use. Beyond these subtle differences, almost all ecommerce solutions offer the same feature set in their various hosted shopping cart packages.

In the end your system should work for you and your business processes. Not one of the aspects above are more important than the other, as each individual will weigh the components differently. However, when considered in combination can help you think through that process with a bit more direction, hopefully resulting in a shopping cart solution you can use for years to come.

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