Best Shopping Carts

Getting the best shopping cart is one of the key elements in building your eCommerce site. You need to match the shopping cart software operating system, functionality, and integration with the rest of your site. This article will help you choose the best shopping cart for you.
Related article: Build an eCommerce Site

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Building a Site From Scratch

If you are building an ecommerce site from scratch, there are two likely scenarios. One is that you or a programmer you've contracted with, is building a customized system to fit your particular needs. If this is the case, finding and building up a free open source shopping cart to suit your particular needs may be the best option. Pros of this choice:

  • It may save you a lot of time over starting an app from scratch.
  • It puts no limits on how you tailor it.
  • With your skill set, not having full support and a manual aren't likely to be an issue
  • Why pay for something when you can make it?

Contracting for an eCommerce Solution

If you are just starting your eCommerce business but—for whatever reason—are not doing the programming, an integrated eCommerce solution may be your best choice. Pros for this choice:

  • You'll have no worries about compatibility of the various site features with each other or have to consider if the languages and operating systems match up.
  • You can find a web host with 24/7 support.
  • You can find a web host with 99.9% uptime guaranteed.
  • If you choose carefully, the growth of your company won't cause issues because you'll be able to simply upgrade your current site into a more suitable configuration.

Adding Shopping Carts to an Existing Site

If you already have a site that you've put thought and effort into designing, you're not likely going to want to start over from scratch just to make finetune it for etailing. You're more likely to want to add a shopping cart that will integrate flawlessly with what you already have. Pros for this choice:

  • Building on what you have doesn't throw away your existing investment.
  • Additional functionality but other elements remain the same to make the change as easy as possible for customers.

What You Need to Know About Shopping Carts

Shopping cart means different things in different contexts. If you search for "shopping cart software," you are likely to find two things:

  • freestanding open source shopping carts that you can integrate into your system if (and only if) they are compatible; these may make you pay for some services which, in effect, negates the "free" part.
  • ecommerce solutions that contain shopping carts and other products as well. This kind of shopping cart may be free or have an associated cost,  or it may be free but have fees associated with support, analytics, manuals, or other elements that—in most cases—will prove essential to your business.

Example 1: AgoraCart Shopping Cart Software Free (does not run on Windows; requires Perl; must pay for extra features)

Example 2: Ecommerce Templates Shopping Cart Software Free (links to Frontpage, Dreamweaver, Expression Web, GoLive, CSS templates; upgrades and support for only 6 months – must be paid after that; also analytics incur a charge)

Example 3: GoDaddy's Quick Shopping Cart, in 3 versions: Economy (20 products) $9.99/month; Deluxe (100 products) $19.99/month; Premium (unlimited # of products) $39.99/month.

Example 4: Mercantec E-Commerce Express ("instant storefront" or add shopping cart to existing site) Free, but hosted on a sub-domain; E-Commerce Express + Support Plan – one-time $295.00; E-Commerce Enterprise one-time (set-up, config, and 1 month) $2495.00 additional solutions available, most at $295@.

Shopping Cart Requirements

As you're choosing a shopping carts, you should keep a careful eye on the following to ensure compatibility with your web host:

Server operating system requirements (likely to be a selection of Windows, Unix, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Linux)

  • Language requirements
  • Modules that must be installed on the server
  • FTP or other file manager
  • Ability to run cgi scripts using your own ID and/or wrapper installation ability

To summarize, the best shopping cart is not a particular product: it depends on what's right for you.

Related article: Build an eCommerce Site