The emergence of the internet as a commercial medium has generated boundless business opportunities through eCommerce, encouraging local customers to find you through a website search and consumers around the world to purchase your products with the click of a mouse. The foundation of any functional – let alone successful – eCommerce website is shopping cart software.
Shopping cart software has evolved beyond the basic online space to corral virtual products and take customer payment information. Most now offer the essential tools you need to manage all the facets of a webshop, with tools for website design, inventory control and customer management, plus 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 to learn about 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.
Your customers need to be able to purchase your products as easily as possible but only with a strong sense of security. For business owners, the software should be simple to use and replete with useful features.
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 eCommerce solutions that include hosting plans; keep in mind that the plans we reviewed were at the top end, but these services generally offer lower-priced plans with reduced features as well.
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 pages. 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 such as software or eBooks as well as physical goods. If you have a lot of inventory, you should look for bulk editing tools as well so you can make changes to a group of products all 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 your customers and that has an administrative section you can work on from your cell phone or tablet. If you have a physical store, consider shopping cart 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 shopping cart software offers detailed reporting, so look for an application that also integrates 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, and upsell and cross-sell features encourage them to buy more while they’re on your site.
A pleasant online shopping experience breeds customer loyalty, so look for shopping cart software that helps your customers feel they are getting the most for their money in terms of product and service. Features such daily deals, coupons and product comparisons help customers decide to buy. And just like in physical businesses, extras such as gift certificates and wish lists help the undecided shopper and encourage gift shopping.
On the customer service side, look for live order tracking, automated email confirmations, the ability to handle back-orders or partial shipments, and cookie enabling. Enabling cookies lets your site remember customer information, so customers don't need to retype it every time they visit. If you have an international business, the ability to accept payment in multiple currencies is necessary.
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. They 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 those 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 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 solution, our side-by-side comparison and comprehensive reviews can help you select the software that is best suited for your eCommerce website.
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