Custom Shopping Carts can make the difference when creating an eCommerce website. If you don’t already know shopping carts are one of the keys to a successful ecommerce website. Custom shopping carts can help you fine tune the cart software to your site better than free shopping cart software can. This article provides the basics on custom shopping carts and how to find a custom shopping cart that will fit your needs.
What Is a Shopping Cart?
Before you can really understand the concept of custom shopping carts, you must understand what a shopping cart is. Looking at the big picture, there are several different types of shopping carts. Some are add-ons that you can use in addition to a separately designed website. In applications like WordPress, they may appear as plug-ins. But some so-called shopping carts are actually integrated with a website design. So when you’re looking for a custom shopping cart, make sure to seek out the kind that will fit with your plans. As with newer web templates, even pre-fab shopping carts may be customizable to a greater or lesser degree, even if they are embedded in a website design. So don’t automatically rule them out: look at their feature capability and the leeway you have to tweak them to fit your needs.
Another thing to note: Because they may be apps, add-ons, or plug-ins, custom shopping carts may be found in a variety of places. They may be a free feature that comes with a web hosting plan; an app that comes with free webhosting, or a plug-in found with the other plug-ins for the app they were made for.
Custom Shopping Carts
Basic cart functionality includes the ability of customers to add items to the cart; specify product features like color, size, or customization, such as a monogram; obtain a subtotal; edit the items in the cart, including deletion; and have all the items show up at checkout. In the checkout process, tax and shipping and handling charges are added as applicable, or arrangements are made for download or other type of delivery; coupons, gift cards, or other deductions are applied if appropriate; billing and shipping information are collected; and the customer proffers payment.
Beyond the basics, the shopping cart may offer a variety of features and attributes that are important to look at as you choose:
- Server OS and Language Requirements:Not every shopping cart is made for every server operating system. Some, for example, will only work with Microsoft Windows Servers, not Unix, Linux Intel, or others. In addition, shopping carts may have particular language requirements, like PERL. Check for other requirements to ensure compatibility.
- Price: Prices of custom shopping carts are radically different. Some are free, but you may have to do a lot of work and pay for hosting. Some have a purchase price that can run to at least $2000 on types you can customize yourself; hiring a programmer might be even more costly. Some have a monthly usage fee. Some may have an extra set-up fee.
- Website: If the shopping cart is embedded in a website design, check to see how customizable and flexible the design is. Specifically, it’s a good idea to check for limits on pages, categories, items, photographs, and product description text, as well as customization opportunities for checkout and shipping.
- Backend:Check for features such as a wizard to import data, a catalog manager, inventory control, and integrated accounting. Can the website be connected to inventory control?
- Shopping:Can the sale of physical products be directly linked to your shipper(s)? Are downloads an option? Are the options you need for promotions, such as sale prices, coupons, and gift cards available? Are order confirmation emails and live order-tracking possible?
- Payment:What types of payment are accepted? Is the software compatible with a merchant account and gateway integration? With PayPal? With payment in foreign currencies? With check? With phone orders?
- Delivery: Are their accommodations for the way you want to charge for shipping and handling? Can shipping types be linked to location?
- Marketing:Can the shopping cart link to an affiliate program? What types of sales and site traffic reports are available? Is it easy to send promotional email or snail mail, sign customers up for a newsletter, and obtain purchase/service reviews?
- Security:Are SSL certificates available to help protect purchases? Are there backup and restore functions to help safeguard all your data and records, including customer information? Is fraud protection provided?
- Customer Service:What support features for customers are available?
Free Shopping Carts
A lot of people are afraid to buy custom shopping carts so they look at free shopping carts. When you compare free shopping carts vs paid shopping carts, you see that there is a difference. The free shopping carts that are available include some well-known open-source software options. Free shopping carts in this category, such as AgoraCart and Zen Cart, can be highly tailored, but unlike the shopping carts that are partly pre-fabricated, may require more programming skill. If you are building a site from scratch or have very specific needs that are not address by the features listed above, free shopping carts may be a good option. Alternatively, a shopping cart can be designed from start to finish, if this is a more suitable choice. Because they are made to be optimized, such carts are free as far as monetary cost for the product, but may involve quite a bit of developer time. Purchased or monthly rental carts, on the other hand, if they have enough flexibility for your needs, may cost more up front, but less in developer’s time. Keep in mind that free shopping carts are likely to have limited or no support, whereas paid shopping carts are more likely to offer technical support and customer service to you. In the end when comparing free shopping carts vs custom shopping carts, you need to look at your budget, your website design, and your ultimate objective to decide if a free shopping cart is best for you or a custom shopping cart is best for you.