How To Choose An E-commerce
Shopping Cart
All about shopping carts
Best E-commerce Shopping Cart Systems
Tips on selecting an online shopping cart
Types of ecommerce payment and credit card systems.

Web Designers' Choice Top Shopping Cart Ecommerce Systems:

(the order is not indicative of rank or quality)

Open Source Customizable Carts (requires transaction gateway service):

  • Zencart
  • osCommerce (not recommended)
  • Agoracart
Simplified Basic Free (or Low Cost) Carts and payment systems
  • Google Checkoutâ„¢ (NOTE: Google Checkout is going away in Sept 2013)
  • Paypalâ„¢ Payment Systems1
Commercial (Paid) Shopping Cart Services2
  • Americart Services
  • KingCart Services

NOTE 1: Customers do not have to be members of Paypal to use common credit cards.

NOTE 2: Each company has its' own strengths for certain applications. Consult an expert web designer webmaster for help in choosing which best suits your needs. For example, paid services start getting expensive to maintain when you have about 30 items or more if items change.

Why have a shopping cart? Many reasons.

  • Google gives a higher ranking to companies with their own shopping cart and buy buttons.
  • Customers expect them from real companies.
  • Carts handle the many functions involved in building a "basket" and variations, discounts, shipping, taxes and totals.
  • Carts enable a familiar and uniform presentation.
  • Carts allow organization of products into catagories.
  • Better carts have some promotion capabilities.
  • The process of setting up a cart helps to establish categories and product numbering.
  • Carts provide useful management reports, and even inventory control in some cases.
  • Global or category coupons and discounts and notices can be applied from a Control Panel.
  • They are relatively easy to add products to or remove from offerings via a consistent interface.
What else do I need to know about installing a shopping cart?

Your own cart can be rather expensive, but has many advantages. Mostly that you control it and own it, and are not stuck with monthly fees and risks of being in a shared service system.

Done right, an owned cart has some promotion advantages possible, and much more flexibility on customizing and keeping looking nice. Reliability is important, and these tend to be more reliable than services.

Install and customization is done by a web designer. They can help with more ideas and making it fit your needs.

If you only have a few products, less than 20 or so, you can probably simulate a cart at much less expense. Talk to a professional web developer who does this kind of work often. They can give you good ideas and answer questions about having a really nice, reliable, faster shopping cart or payment system you can depend on.

All about shopping carts - Tips on Choosing an E-commerce and Payment system:

1) First you need to understand the types of e-commerce shopping carts and online payment systems and their costs and relevant factors. Understand that customized sophisticated shopping carts with scores of items in the catalog cost at least one to three thousand dollars to install, setup, customize, test and connect to the payment gateway. Carts vary from very simple manual checkout process with a catalog listing with no pictures or item options and no shipping cost lookups to sophisticated layouts customized to match the look of your website with pictures, category landing pages, and options.

Shopping cart services which charge a monthly fee and require you or your webmaster to update can be customized and very sophisticated but are very labor intensive to upkeep which can be costly if you have frequent item changes. Be cautious that some services charge extra for each template level choices and may only allow their own designers to customize. Remember that you are usually locked in to that service provider. If you choose to move or need to migrate to your own shopping, you will have to start from scratch. (See How to Choose A Hosting Company for similar cautions.) If your needs are simple, read all this but focus on item number 9 below for alternatives.

2) Most important are factors like how many products you will have, how often they might change, whether people will typically buy more than one, are there options for each item, whether your customers are consumers or businesses, whether you have the budget (about $2000 to $5000 or much more) for an elaborate customized shopping cart installed as part of a custom web site including the hassles of setting up secure online payment gateway credit card processing. A sophisticated script-driven shopping cart like you often use or see online requires a good web designer/developer/webmaster experienced with shopping carts, trusted and within your own country (many web design companies outsource to foreign countries). You are dealing with serious security, liability and privacy law compliance issues when you allow access to your server from a foreign country with different laws.

3) Understand that hosting companies do not usually offer tech support for your shopping cart, and put all security matters on you. Some hackers specialize in shopping carts and attempt to put scripts to also capture the credit card data that your customer is entering. You are dependent on a good web development and maintenance company to help you monitor performance and security issues. Ideally the scripts should be visually checked periodically for changes. Because these are script driven page generators, they do not use HTML code to produce pages. The scripts have many files and programs, some in the thousands, therefore the programmer web designer charges more than for basic HTML, typically about 50% more per hour.

4) Even if you don't have security problems from hackers or script incompatibilities and script destruction by sloppy web hosting companies, you still have to upgrade shopping cart systems about each year to two years, to accommodate security, functional and compatibility updates, partly because hosting server software and security are upgraded about yearly. If you notice how often software on your PC's is updated almost daily, you understand that updates are necessary, but it is not automatic on your shopping cart. It requires elaborate patches and transfers of data and testing, typically requiring about 8 to 20 hours at about $60 per hour. Understand also that you assume the risks of such work which may not always function right or not 100% on the first update conversion. There are chances it might not work at all due to a conflict incompatibility with a peculiar server. Some hosting companies use unusual configurations. In such rare case, you have to cover the costs of your web developer either re-installing the old system or attempting to move your entire web site which could cost $1000 to $3000 for a mid-size website. This happens rarely, but you should understand that you're the owner of a partly customized complex business software system running remotely on servers configured in ways you can't be sure.

5) Likewise, understand that often a hosting company will do patches, updates or restores of backed up servers which over-write your recent changes or could make custom scripts malfunction. They typically don't tell anyone. If you want high reliability, you or your webmaster site maintainer or some other service would test your site and shopping cart daily or every few days. This requires real credit cards and real test charges of $1. Obviously you need to have a trusted web developer and close working friendly relationship. Changing web designers on such systems can be hazardous and expensive, so choose wisely from the beginning.

6) On selecting the actual type of E-commerce shopping cart or "catalogue", like all your website and internet marketing, the choices are dictated by your budget, the requirements and your marketing plan and image. Is it important to look sophisticated like a "real business" and to offer options on multiple items, like an Amazon or major company? Do you require pictures of items and nice descriptions with possible links or additional hover information? Do you need a consistent "look" and style background and layout of the top banner and side columns? If so, you may need a better quality shopping cart. If you have 10 to 20 items, figure on at least $1000 to $2000 for a medium cart installed with moderate customization and you enter your own product information. If more elaborate and 20-60 items, allow closer to $3000 - $5000 or more for the cart including costs of the secure gateway and certificate setup and installation, and about $500 to $1500 per year including programmer time for shopping cart maintenance and upgrades.

7) By this point, you realize that the shopping cart script source company must be a real company with serious programmers for support, updates, improvements and security issues patches and corrections. No software with thousands of files is ever 100.00% perfect. The company constantly searches for ways to improve reliability and fix rare program "bugs". Obviously, when you choose a shopping cart, you should choose only from the top two or three shopping cart or e-commerce sources.

8) Just as important as the quality and permanence of your cart software source is whether your web maintenance webmaster is knowledgeable and comfortable with such cart provider. Once again, choosing a top web designer webmaster is your most important step in building a successful web site.

9) If you now decide that you might want to cut back a little on your goals for your initial online payment system, or that you don't quite need the elaborate options and layouts of a full blown e-commerce customizable shopping cart, then you now have some options with Paypal and Google free cart systems. These free services allow you to build product pages on your website customized to your website design using "add to cart" code or "buy now" code that is simpler and much cheaper to utilize than your own system if you have a small number of products. The advantage is their much higher sophistication on maintaining security systems and precautions. The disadvantage could be that they will attract more hackers because they know that big providers are where the volume of transactions will be. Like your own system, it is unlikely they will cover major losses of your customer. Fortunately credit cards usually have loss limits. In all these credit card and privacy matters, we suggest you get some good legal advice or at least study and be aware of risks.

10) Either way you go, you should work with your web designer webmaster in the overall design of your site to meet most of your requirements at reasonable long term cost and reliability. Understand that even the best designers can not predict all the problems which can occur, so you should choose the best designer possible in your area or country and accept your responsibilities and risks as owner knowing that even if a site developer works with skill in good faith for your interests, ultimately you assume the risks for owning a complex computer software and transaction processing system. It's a big responsibility, but if you want to compete with the big boys, that's the way it is.

Beware too many Optional Modules:

Fancy functions can be added to carts, when available. But use sparingly, because updates and new versions of the cart require typically starting over! It is difficult and expensive to update modules. Sometimes the main cart is updated, the old modules don't work, but the new modules are not ready yet. These scripts are purchased from developers. We don't write these. Some of their programming sources may be offshore. That is just the way it is.

High Demand Products - People will find a way to buy and pay

Of course, if you have unique high demand products, all that doesn't matter. Customers will find a way to pay you. Now that's a real business... a virtual monopoly on high demand proprietary superior items or services. That's what overcomes problems and there is no substitute for that. Don't go into business as just a "me too" wanna-be against serious hungry global competition.

And don't start a web business unless you read the rest of our Web-Success and BG Design helpful info pages for your "Web Success" !

Conclusions about Shopping Carts and Payment Systems:

This is real business, how they compete and meet growing expectations of customers. If you can afford it, usually owning your own semi-custom cart or simulated cart gives you more control, reliability and robustness than a service, and you are not locked in to a service.

The most important choice you make is a good affordable trusted web designer in your own country experienced in shopping carts, like BG Design div. Buyers' Group MG. Regardless, there is no charge to just discuss what might be best for your business.

For marketing and website design for promotion questions, use our Web-Success div Contact Form

Good Luck

Note: If you would like more helpful information about starting a website or a web business, then browse our other information guides and tips on our menu above: 11 Web Business Success Tips, Starting a Web Business Checklist, How to Choose a Domain Name, How to Choose a Domain Registration Company, How to Choose a Hosting Company, Tips for Designing a Website, How to Get My Website Working, How to Promote Your Website, 10 Website Improvement Tips

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