The advent of the internet as a commercial medium has generated boundless business opportunities through eCommerce, allowing local customers to find you through a website search and customers around the world to purchase your products with a click of the mouse. The foundation of any functional – let alone successful – eCommerce website is shopping cart software.
Shopping cart software has evolved beyond the basic online store. Most now offer the essential tools you need to manage all the facets of an eCommerce website. It provides you with tools for website design, inventory control, customer management, and tax and shipping calculations. Additionally, most shopping cart applications help you market your site with integrated features for affiliate programs, social network marketing and sales through other venues, as well as online sales features that attract and retain customers.
There are dozens of shopping cart applications on the market, but Volusion, Shopify and Bigcommerce are among the best. Each scores high marks in the criteria we established for our side-by-side comparison and review of top-notch shopping cart software. Read on for what we looked for in shopping cart software, and check out our articles on shopping cart software and eCommerce for tips to accelerate your business on the information superhighway.
Choosing the right webshop software is one of the most crucial steps to making your online business a success. Your customers need to be able to purchase your products as easily as possible, with a sense of security. For business owners, the software should be simple to use and replete with useful features, and provide great customer support.
Because some shopping cart software packages, especially those that sell a one-time license, expect you to have your own website hosting, we did not consider bandwidth or storage space in our reviews. If you need website hosting as well, look at the eCommerce solutions with monthly plans and keep in mind that we've reviewed the top-end plans here. These services generally have lower-priced plans with reduced features.
The following are the criteria we used to evaluate the best shopping cart software on the market.
If you want to create an eCommerce website that prospective customers will enjoy using and want to visit repeatedly, you need a site with polished, professional and intuitive webpages. Shopping cart software should include an array of design and customization options that enable you to create the perfect site for your business.
The best shopping cart software applications allow you to upload an unlimited number of products and sell downloadable goods like software or eBooks as well as physical goods. If you have a lot of inventory, you should look for bulk editing as well. This allows you to make changes to a group of products at once, rather than having to change each product individually.
Smart phones and tablets have changed how we do business, so look for software that creates an online store that is mobile-friendly for you customers and has an administrative section that's easy for you to work from your cell phone or tablet. If you have a physical store, consider eCommerce software with a point-of-sale system that will work as your cash register and track physical as well as online sales.
Naturally, you should be able to run sales reports and manage your orders. Most eCommerce software offers detailed reporting, so look for those that also integrate with your accounting software for greater efficiency.
Shopping cart eCommerce software should include robust marketing tools to help you generate more traffic to your site and thus increase sales. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features and social media connectivity have become industry standard and are important for getting your eCommerce site noticed. Facebook stores and the ability to sell products on Amazon or eBay expand your marketing base, as do affiliate programs. Promotional emails and abandoned cart notices bring customers back, while upsell and cross-sell features encourage them to buy more while on your site.
A pleasant online shopping experience breeds customer loyalty, so look for shopping cart software that helps your customer feel they are getting the most for their money in terms of product and service. Features like daily deals, coupons and product comparisons help your customer decide to buy. Just like in physical businesses, extras like gift certificates and wishlists help the undecided shopper and encourage gift shopping.
On the customer service side, look for live order tracking and automated email confirmations, the ability to handle back-orders or partial shipments, and cookie enabling. If you have an international business, the ability to accept payment in multiple currencies is a must.
Security & Payments
The easier it is for your customers to pay for their purchases, the more likely it is that you will close the sale. Look for shopping cart software that works with a variety of payment gateways, as well as checks or cash-on-delivery.
Security is a chief concern for online shoppers, so it's crucial to make sure that the shopping cart you use offers standard security features. These should include fraud protection and SSL secure checkouts that encrypt customers' payment information, as well as data backup and restoration to protect your business records.
It's important to note, however, that some of the shopping cart software reviewed simply adds an online store to your existing website, and as a result, expects you to purchase these features elsewhere if they are not already a part of your existing website or business.
Help & Support
Whether you are a seasoned online merchant or new to eCommerce, it's likely that you'll need technical assistance with your site at one time or another. Any company should provide direct technical assistance via email, telephone or live chat. The manufacturers of the best shopping cart software provide comprehensive support resources that you can reference, including a knowledgebase, user guides and video tutorials. Some services go a step further with education centers and forums where you can learn more about eCommerce in general.
Shopping cart software is not the only component of a successful internet business, but it is one of the most crucial. Regardless of whether you are expanding your business to the World Wide Web or are unhappy with your current online shopping cart, our side-by-side comparison and comprehensive reviews can help you select the webshop software that is best suited for your eCommerce website.
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