Are you giving a bit of thought to opening your own online ecommerce store? Maybe you’ve got wicked skills when it comes to crocheting, or perhaps you’ve got a passion for pets that’s spurring your desire. No matter what your reasoning is, one of the most important aspects of your online store will be your shopping cart. Here are five essential things to look for when choosing the cart you’ll provide your customers:
It doesn’t matter how fantastic a shopping cart touts itself to be if you can’t afford it. You can easily find shopping carts ranging in price for $10 per month and those that run over $100 a month. This isn’t always a case of you get what you pay for. Some of the best online shopping carts won’t cost you a thing. What you need to be aware of, however, is that free shopping carts often require that you install them onto your site yourself. If you have little to no knowledge of programming, this can be an incredibly challenging task. It may be worth your time and money to buy an online cart that you can afford.
Along with expense, as has been mentioned, you’ll need to decide if you will use an open source shopping cart or one that is hosted for you. Each has its benefits and your customers will have little knowledge of which you choose. Open source software is typically free and is available in a wide variety of templates. Hosted carts also have templates that you can choose from, but costs can vary greatly. If you choose to use open source software, you’ll also have to find a domain, a merchant vendor and your own web host. If you choose a hosted cart, these items will be included in your package. Merchant Maverick can help you choose the best option for your storefront.
As a store owner, your customers’ security is in your hands; treat it well. The only shopping carts you should consider are those that use 128-bit encryption and support SSLs, or secure socket layers. If you website is hacked, you’ll not only have to deal with the headache of getting your store back up and running, you could be held legally liable for any identity theft issues that your customers face. If you need to scrimp on something, don’t make it the security of your cart. If the carts that you are looking at don’t clearly state how they offer customer protection, don’t hesitate for one second to ask. Software makers are well aware that people are concerned about security in today’s virtual marketplaces; the support team should be more than happy to clearly explain the company’s security protocols to you.
4. Support When You Need It
Unless you have a wealth of experience running a virtual store, you’re going to need technical help from time to time. Make sure that you choose to purchase a shopping cart that comes with technical support. Should you site crash or your shopping cart system go belly-up, having the right support will ensure that you experience as little down-time as possible. Remember this: The long your site is down, the more money you lose. The support you pay for should include real-time help, membership to a newsletter or forum, and alerts to software updates.
Did you know that you can purchase shopping cart software that will provide you with shipping options? Many carts integrate these options with major carriers like UPS, DHL and USPS. Your customers can also view their order status and track their shipments from around the globe. You can also find shopping carts that will ship digital products without any effort on your part. While you may think that you don’t need these options now, your store could take off in the future and you’ll wish you’d have gone with one of these carts.
Before reading this article, you may not have been aware that there could be so much to choosing something as simple as a virtual shopping cart. Trust us when we tell you, if your cart isn’t easy to use and secure, your potential customers won’t buy a single item from your store. Follow the tips above to ensure that you install a virtual shopping cart that is both cost effective for you and user-friendly for your customers.
Amy Nielson is an avid blogger. You can follow her on twitter @NielsonAmy.