If you're starting an e-commerce business, you need an online shopping cart. Learn what this is, who needs it and which features to look for.
If you're one of the 1.8 billion people worldwide who purchase goods online, you've used an online shopping cart – which is the software that makes buying products online possible. Shopping cart software can be added to existing websites, or, if you're starting an online business from scratch and want an easier way to get your online store set up, you can use an e-commerce platform that has a built-in shopping cart. Here's what you need to know about this technology.
Benefits of an online shopping cart
In addition to facilitating online purchases, shopping carts control how the checkout process looks and how easy it is for customers to use, said Jonathan Frey, chief marketing officer of Urban Bikes Direct.
“Sure, shopping cart software takes customers through the checkout process from the moment they click on the cart icon all the way to payment. But it's also the engine behind pretty much every part of the customer experience that distinguishes online stores from other websites,” he said.
Frey explained that shopping carts do the heavy lifting of rendering product images and descriptions on each product page.
“Third-party solutions like Shopify offer their own store themes, which can help you reduce or eliminate UI and web design costs if you're building on a budget. In that sense, you can think of shopping carts as alternatives to website-building platforms like Wix and Squarespace. They help you set up an entire storefront or e-commerce website, even if you have no coding experience.”
Here are three more things online shopping carts can do.
1. Generate new and repeat business
Shopping cart software makes online shopping possible, which can help you acquire new customers who would otherwise miss out on your products if you were limited to selling from a brick-and-mortar location. Once customers see how easy it is to purchase your products online and your products prove to be worthy, there’s the potential to generate repeat business. As noted by the e-commerce marketing platform Yotpo, 14.77% of all e-commerce customers are returning shoppers who spend three times more than one-time shoppers, on average.
2. Easily accept multiple types of payments
Some of the older payment processing equipment that’s used in brick-and-mortar stores is restrictive. For example, not every merchant is able to accept PayPal, Amazon Pay or Apple Pay. With shopping cart software, you can accept these payment methods.
This is important because just over the past few years the number of people using these payment methods has dramatically increased. Statista reported that in September 2016 Apple Pay had 67 million users and, as of September 2019, had 441 million users. The data also shows that 48% of iPhone users had enabled Apple Pay.
These additional payment processing offerings provide consumers with the flexibility to choose how to pay and can further entice them to buy because they offer fast, convenient and easy online checkout.
3. Reengage prospects
It's easy for people to visit a website, put some items in their shopping cart, and then leave the site without making a purchase. Consumers abandon shopping carts for these reasons, among many others:
- The site or webpage loads slowly.
- The checkout process is long or confusing.
- They get busy or distracted.
- They don't like the product pricing.
Using digital marketing with your shopping cart, you can reengage prospects who started shopping on your website but did not make a purchase. Reengagement is done through remarketing with Facebook advertising, Google Ads and Bing Ads. Remarketing keeps your brand top of mind for customers.
Who benefits from shopping cart software?
Any type of business that wants to sell products online can benefit from shopping cart software. These are some of the many business types that might benefit from it:
- Clothing shops
- Skincare companies
- Pet supply stores
- Makeup shops
- Home goods businesses
- Office supply shops
Does your website need a shopping cart?
Yes. If you want to sell products easily and efficiently online, your website does need a shopping cart. The shopping cart is what your customers will use to check out with and how you'll get paid. Online shopping carts also come with helpful features that streamline selling products online.
What shopping cart features should you look for?
There are dozens of companies that offer online shopping carts. Some offer features that are unique to their company, and others offer features that are similar to their competitors'. The features you should look for will come down to the needs of your business. [Read related article: How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Platform]
Here are eight features to look for when you're choosing an online shopping cart.
1. PCI-DSS compliant security
Keep your information and your customers’ information secure with a shopping cart that has PCI-DSS compliant security – an industry-wide norm.
PCI-DSS is the abbreviation for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, which is a set of security guidelines that have been designed to ensure all companies that accept payments do so securely. Businesses that are not PCI compliant are taking these risks:
- Paying fines and penalties to their payment processors
- Losing their information and their customers' information to hackers
- Being banned from the card companies so that they no longer can accept card payments
- Losing money as a result of fraud
2. Flexible shipping rates
This feature lets you choose how much to charge your customers for shipping. For example, you may want to offer local customers, or customers who are located in your country, free or cheaper shipping since you'll pay less on shipping. With a flexible shipping feature, the choice is yours. A good shopping cart will offer features to set up custom shipping, such as these:
- Fixed pricing
- Tiered pricing
- Weight-based pricing
- Location-based pricing
3. Automatic tax deduction
Manually calculating tax prices will be a giant headache. Look for an online shopping cart that automatically calculates and sets taxes based on the customer's location.
4. Customer profiles
A customer profile feature tracks customer contact information so you can easily send follow-up communications and marketing. Thanks to this feature, businesses have seen repeat sales. Frey said that it gives him insights into customer preferences and buying habits, so he can deliver targeted, highly relevant emails and special offers to his customers' inboxes.
"Once they find what they like, e-bike riders tend to be loyal to their favorite brands and often appreciate specific updates about accessories and new models," he said.
5. Multilanguage integration
If you plan to sell products internationally, you should look for an online shopping cart that can automatically translate your site to the languages of your choosing.
6. Choice of various payment gateways
A payment gateway is the financial technology that processes card payments. Costs and service quality varies between payment gateway providers, so look for a shopping cart that lets you choose your payment provider.
7. Abandoned cart recovery
Customers often put items in their carts and then leave your site before checking out. It's useful to have a shopping cart with tools that you can use to reach out to those customers and remind them of their interest in your products.
"The ability to track abandoned carts in Shopify has helped us reduce our abandonment rate," Frey said. "With Shopify's advanced plan, we can automatically send follow-up emails to any shopper who's left their cart. If you opt for the standard plan, you can still use the abandoned checkouts tracking data to manually send out gentle reminders to shoppers who haven't completed their purchases."
8. Data and analytics
Being able to analyze shopping cart data can help you improve your customers' online shopping experience and run retargeting marketing campaigns to prospects who abandoned their shopping carts. Look for features that show you which products are most popular, what your customers want to buy and your customers' latest cart activities. Also look for the ability to automatically generate and email reports, which can save you the time it would take to run them manually.
How do you create a shopping cart for your website?
Exactly how you create a shopping cart for your website depends on the shopping cart software you choose and the platform your website is on. It's best to contact your shopping cart company for detailed instructions. If you're adding a shopping cart to an existing website, the process may look similar to this:
- Log in to your account.
- Identify the store settings dashboard.
- Identify the shopping cart embed options.
- Select the Buy Now code.
- Set up a shopping cart page on your website.
- Paste the Buy Now code onto the dedicated page you created.
This process could be a bit more complex; in some cases, you may need the help of a web developer.
How does an online shopping cart work?
While the content will look different from website to website, the overall process for how an online shopping cart works is as follows.
1. Customers add products to their carts.
Your customers browse your website for products that interest them and select the Add to Cart button to add the products they want to buy to their cart.
2. Customers review their order.
As your customers add products to their carts, their carts update. They will be able to view their order, adjust it as needed, and choose their payment method.
3. The software calculates tax and shipping.
Your online shopping cart software will automatically calculate shipping and tax costs along with any applicable discounts. This is the final step before checkout.
4. Customers complete the checkout process.
Your customers will be prompted to add their payment details:
- Full name
- ZIP code
- Phone number (optional)
- Email address
- Billing information (if it's different from their shipping information)
- Payment information (or any automatic checkout options you offer, such as PayPal or Apple Pay)
Depending on the features that your shopping cart offers, you may be able to offer additional checkout options such as these:
- Express checkout
- Guest checkout
- Customer checkout (customers will make their payment with an account they previously created)
Shopping cart creation tips
Here are some tips to help you find success with your online shopping cart.
1. Add a mini shopping cart pop-up that your shoppers can view while browsing your catalog.
According to Stephen Light, co-owner and CMO of Nolah Mattress, a mini shopping cart allows shoppers to see their cart's content without going to the dedicated cart page.
"Doing so saves them the hassle of going back and forth between pages," he said. "The absence of a mini shopping cart might aggravate online shoppers and trigger a feeling of frustration. When this happens, they might shop at another store."
2. Keep it simple.
Make your shopping cart as easy as possible to use. If you require your customers to take too many steps to check out, you can bet you are going to lose sales.
3. Factor in the mobile experience.
Keeping mobile shoppers in mind is a must. According to Oberlo, mobile commerce sales are projected to reach $2.91 trillion in 2020, which is 25.4% above the $2.32 trillion it registered in 2019.
"When shopping online, consumers seek convenience, cost-effective delivery, and a quick and easy purchase process," said Alexandra Zelenko, a senior marketing/technical writer at DDI Development. "They also expect a superior, personalized, and frictionless omnichannel experience that both facilitates online sales and encourages boutique visits."
As part of enhancing the mobile experience, Zelenko suggestd offering hassle-free payment processing.
"Offering expedited payment options such as Amazon Pay or PayPal at checkout allows customers to quickly move through the checkout process; they can complete their purchase with one or two clicks. Online customers want to get their shopping finished quickly and easily and with a wide range of alternative payment methods to choose from."