Choosing the Right Shopping Cart for Your Online Business

For online business owners, choosing the right shopping cart may be one of the most important steps in getting your website up and running. Similar to traditional shopping carts, online shopping carts provide a way for customers to view, store, and purchase goods or services from your website. There are hundreds of shopping carts readily available, and trying to figure out which is best may be overwhelming. Follow this helpful guide to select and customize the ideal shopping cart for your business.

1. Before choosing a shopping cart, find an Internet Payment Service Provider (IPSP) that best fits the needs of your online business. All your work selecting and setting up a shopping cart could be wasted if you don’t find an IPSP first. Why? Your IPSP will be providing the payment gateway that performs the magic of taking your customers’ payment information and depositing the approved funds into your merchant account. Not all shopping carts are compatible with every payment gateway. If you choose a shopping cart first, you may find the perfect IPSP for your business with a payment gateway that doesn’t work with your shopping cart. Save yourself the time and hassle–find an IPSP first.

2. Ask your IPSP what shopping carts are compatible with their payment gateway. Ask about free and open source shopping carts, such as Magento, OsCommerce, and Zencart. An open source shopping cart will allow you to modify the program’s code for free. But before you jump in too deep, ask if they have any shopping cart modules available–this will save you a lot of time when it comes to integrating.

Why do shopping cart modules make integration easy? Think of it like this: If you’re an American traveling to Europe, you’ll need an adapter to plug in your electronics. Without the adapter, getting an electrical charge isn’t impossible, but you’ll have to strip and re-wire your cords. Having a shopping cart module is just like having an electrical adapter–plug it in and you’re ready to go!

3. Decide what features in a shopping cart are most important to your website and customers. Different shopping carts come equipped with different built-in features. Make a list of all of the features you will need, and decide which are crucial, important, would be nice to have, or are not very important at all.

• Payment options: debit/credit cards, electronic checks • Gift certificates • Promotional codes • Shipping options: USPS, UPS, FedEx, pick up in store • Multiple images per item description • Items available in multiple colors • Multi-currency processing • Allow customers to review products or services • Sales reports • Printable invoices

4. Consider the free, built-in layout designs provided by the shopping cart software. Is the shopping cart open source or closed source? Can you change the design? If so, to what extent? If not, are you satisfied with the available layouts? Your website represents your company’s brand, so don’t settle for something that doesn’t make you happy. If you don’t like it, your customers probably won’t like it either.

5. Narrow your results down to three or four shopping carts. Now it’s time to get serious. Out of all of the shopping cart solutions you’ve studied, which three or four best fit your needs?

6. If you have a web developer, ask him or her what shopping carts, from your results, they are most comfortable working with. While developers understand how programming works, they may not know what works best for your business. Their input is valuable when it comes time to choose, but don’t let them make the decision for you.

Instabill is an online payment processor specializing in high risk merchant accounts.