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Using a well-designed shopping cart system is crucial to the success of an online store. The easier a shopping cart is to use, the greater the number of customers who will complete their purchases. Conversely, if the shopping and checkout processes are too complicated or confusing, customers will leave your site without buying anything.
When you set up a shopping cart system, you will need to choose what kind of hosting you will use. Each option has advantages and disadvantages. The one you choose will depend on your budget and technical expertise as well as on what features you want in your shopping cart system.
When a vendor hosts your cart it means that there's an administrator that can bring the cart back online in the event of a crash or other emergency. This ensures that there's not a big loss in sales as a result. Also, the cart itself will be constantly updated with the latest security and bug fixes.
Another benefit of hosted carts is that they usually include good customer service. This means you have qualified, knowledgeable staff at the end of a phone or e-mail ready to help you out should any problems occur.
Purchasing your own cart license can initially be expensive, but in the long run can be a much better investment. When you own the cart you have complete control over the application and database which makes it more flexible. If you wish to move your cart to a different server it's much easier to do than if you used a hosted cart. There can be compatibility issues between carts that are much easier to overcome if you own the license.
Because you're sharing a server with other businesses or users the rental costs are far more competitive than with hosted shopping cart software. They also offer a lot of features that come with the particular Web host such as e-mail accounts and templates for your store front. This means that opening up your online store is quick and simple because nearly everything you need at start-up is ready.
Some recent studies have shown that around 70 percent of people who wish to buy fail because the cart software is too complex. The simple, cookie-cutter nature of these store fronts reduces this complexity for the customer and can then increase sales. Also, the functionality and ease of the site allows the business to focus more on adding products to the store, and not the intricacies of hosting.
Limited Admin Access
Although some servers that are sold have full admin access through the use of a command prompt or shell, most will not allow you to run commands that only server hardware administrators can. This means that most shared servers are limited to only being able to restart your part of the server if something goes wrong. To update or change any of the current features and settings (i.e. PHP, MySQL, etc.) you will have to contact server support and ask them to update or change the needed features. This can be a major hassle when changes that are needed immediately can be delayed for hours by the use of the server customer support.
When at all possible, avoid the cheap shared servers that are advertised like hotcakes. While these servers are great for introducing people to the world of web hosting, they will quickly be outgrown and their limitations will be brightly shown. A much better and still cheaper solution then a dedicated server is a virtual dedicated or cloud server. Unlike shared servers, where you can have hundreds of users on a single machine at once, virtual dedicated servers limit how many users can use the hardware, and usually to single digit amounts. This means you will have solid performance and money left in your wallet.
If you have never dealt with hosting or running a Web site, then purchasing any type of server can be a very confusing process. Many companies have to hire out the management of their servers to server professionals due to the knowledge and certifications needed to maintain such hardware. Without a properly trained technician, your newly purchased server can be out of commission very quickly due to the dangerous world that is the Internet.
UNIX versus Windows
Depending on your needs and the software that you plan on running on your server, make sure to avoid a costly purchase. To do this, research which type of operating system will satisfy the needs of your server the best. If stability is the goal (like it is with most configurations), a UNIX system is generally the best option. While this is the standard, some will prefer a Windows-based environment due to the need of compatibility with web programs.
Shopping cart software allows you to list products on your website and collect payment automatically when a customer decides to buy something. Once you have basic shopping cart software setup on your website, you can customize it to suit your specific business needs. A staggering $165.4 billion was spent via online retail sales in 2010, according to statistics provided by the U.S Department of Commerce.
Installation and Design
Both PayPal and Google offer free shopping carts that are suitable for a basic business website. To buy shopping cart software with no extras or support will cost you around $149 and you have to install it yourself. A shopping cart package including installation, web design and support will cost you around $449.
There are many extra features you can add to your software to make your website easier to use and more pleasant to visit. Features such as a newsletter function, which allows customers to subscribe to product updates and a search tool so they can look for an exact product are all useful to have on your site. A shopping cart package including installation, technical support and up to five extra features costs around $899.
Shared hosting is easy to use and inexpensive, and it is an attractive choice for businesses that are just getting started in online commerce. Businesses that need more than shared hosting can provide should consider using a virtual dedicated server or, for the best performance and highest degree of control, purchasing their own servers.
If you choose one of the simpler options, you can probably take care of your shopping cart system yourself, even if your technical expertise is limited. However, if you run your own server, you will likely need to have a server professional perform maintenance.
Before making any decisions, you should do sufficient research to understand what your options are and how they will work for you.
Add shopping cart software to your company's website to enhance the shopping experience for customers. This type of functionality makes it easier for return customers to complete purchases at a later date, and so they are able to review the products and make necessary changes before the final purchase.
X-Cart is one option to choose for your website. This software is SEO-friendly, easy to customize for your company's needs and is fast and secure, which eliminates the need for a dedicated server. Additionally, this software allows you to accept credit card payments directly on your website. Customize the appearance of your storefront without programming skills, or opt to use one of the professionally designed templates.
Volusion is another option for your ecommerce site. This site offers a range of free templates to begin with, as well as customer support that is available 24 hours a day. One of the many features this software provides you with is the ability for your customers to compare products. Other features include the ability to change the color and texture of the item the customer is interested in purchasing, comprehensive order processing, full reporting capabilities and automated inventory management.
For more information on shopping cart software, refer to the links on this Business.com page.
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