For any serious online business, a shopping cart system is not only a great way to facilitate the purchasing process, but it’s absolutely necessary. However, before choosing the right system, you first need to determine if you even need a shopping cart system at all. If you are selling only a couple of products and do a relatively low volume of sales, a free ecommerce from http://www.PayPal.com may suffice just fine. Alternatively there are also options available from http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com and http://www.froogle.google.com. Though, if you do more than a few hundred dollars of sales a month or have multiple products, a good shopping cart system can actually make you more money - and do it seamlessly and automatically.
Choosing the right shopping cart system for your online business is absolutely critical, and it’s not something that you want to even consider skimping on. You might notice that I call it a “shopping cart system” and not just a “shopping cart.” The reason is simple: a good shopping cart system usually has a truckload of other features integrated right into it, such as autoresponders, affiliate management and ad trackers just to name a few.
There are a couple of ways to go about getting a shopping cart:
1. You can buy the software license outright and install it on your server.
2. You can use free software found on the web, or software that comes included with your web hosting.
3. Or, you can sign up for a third party service.
For simplicity sake, we’re going to concentrate on option 3, signing up for a third party service. Purchasing and installing software on your server is expensive and technical and not a viable option for most people, and free anything on the Internet is generally a bad idea, especially when it’s the size of your bank account on the line.
If you are unsure of what the key features of a good shopping cart application are, here are some tips which are likely to come in handy when comparing various shopping cart options:
The number one thing you should look for, and which any decent cart should have, is the ease of use. If the shopping cart system is difficult for your sites visitors to use and make purchases, they will abandon you at the checkout and you’ll loose a ton of sales. One of the best ways to evaluate a shopping cart for its ease of use is to use it yourself and try it first hand. The simpler, more foolproof and user friendly it is, the better.
Not only does a good shopping cart complete the sales process for you, but it also has the ability to upsell customers, distribute electronic products, calculate shipping and taxes, send info to credit card processing companies, and even send order info to a fulfillment house among many other things.
If you can, try before you buy – most carts come with a free or heavily discounted trial. What other features/benefits does it offer? Does it have an integrated sequential autoresponder built in? Are you able to track ads and sales data? Does it have an upsell and cross-sell module available to make you more money? Some of the better carts even have built in affiliate management which allows you to run and track your own affiliate program seamlessly. I shouldn’t need to tell you how important all of these features are to have, and how much extra money they can make you.
Another important aspect is the level of flexibility the cart offers. This is not only for your customers, but for you as well. Does it allow them to calculate several different shipping options, and will it calculate taxes appropriately based on their location and purchase. Does it have built in instant digital delivery available? Also, while shopping a user might want to change various parameters at any stage, such as quantity of products, shipping information and any other instructions relating to their shopping process. Make sure they can do it easily.
Easy connectivity to payment options is something else that you should strongly consider, since different online users may prefer different methods of payments, which you’ll want to make sure your cart can accommodate. One the Internet, credit card is king, so make sure Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the minimum you have available. And if you currently have a merchant account, you will also want to check and make sure they cart you choose is compatible with your payment gateway.
All reporting functions offered should be relevant and elaborate. As an online retailer you need all the information that you can get about your users including their preferences and pattern of usage. Good shopping cart software should provide you with a good set of reports which provide valuable data which can be mined for business purposes. Reports tend to provide you with a road map on how you should proceed in making the shopping experience smoother for your user.
Above all the shopping cart system you select should be helpful from the point of view of the customer, and it should also help you towards planning and managing certain aspects of your e-business and automating them as much as possible. In addition, a system that will help analyze your website’s effectiveness, your sales records etc. with most of the other components mentioned above would be an ideal shopping cart system for your business.
Many of the points discussed above will not only affect your site technically, but they will also influence the revenue generation potential of your ecommerce business. That’s why I can’t emphasize how extremely important it is to choose the right system.
The shopping cart system that I use, and strongly recommend, along with most of the top Internet Marketers, is 1StartCart.com (http://www.1StartCart.com). This system also features a full featured integrated autoresponder with email broadcast capability, complete affiliate management, ad trackers, custom forms, upsell modules, and the ability to calculate shipping and taxes in every way possible, and a free 30 day trial.
If you want to install the software directly on your own web server, something like VP-ASP (http://www.vpasp.com) can do the trick. It comes with an affiliate module, tax and shipping calculation, digital delivery and tons of custom formatting options available. And since you’re purchasing a software license, there are no monthly fees.
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Justin Michie is a well respected Internet Marketer and author of the brand new Internet Marketing book “Street Smart Internet Marketing. To download his FREE introductory ebook titled “99 Internet Marketing Tips – That You’ll Want to Know” go to 99InternetMarketingTips.com. For more free articles or to sign up for Justin’s newsletter check out JustinMichie.com