With a growing percentage of orders placed online, your web site shopping cart has an ever-increasing impact on your bottom line. You may think of a shopping cart as the back end of an e-commerce web site, but many include fully integrated web sites with customizable design templates and the ability to integrate with your accounting and inventory management systems.
If your current web site frustrates customers, if it limits your marketing options, and if doesn’t allow you to streamline your inventory management and accounting, then it’s time to consider a switch.
There are hundreds of shopping cart choices, and choosing the best for your company can be daunting. In addition to features, you’ll want to investigate the ease of use for both you and your customers, plus the technical support and documentation available.
Focus on Features. You’ll likely want to start by looking for a shopping cart that lets you fully customize the look and feel of your site without knowing programming code. Many offer a limited number of design templates, so make sure whatever you get fits your needs. Think through the different types of pages you’ll need, not just the product pages.
Visit a number of sites that use the carts you’re considering, and make sure they don’t all look alike. Try their search functions, buy a product, and browse by category to give them a good test drive.
Consider navigation, too. Virtually all carts can group products by categories, but if subcategories are important to you, take a look at that interface before you buy.
Pay close attention to the shipping features. Many carts offer limited options and have a cumbersome interface. In addition, for companies selling plants, the ability to offer delayed shipping and partial shipments, or to restrict shipping to specific geographic areas, may be important.
Other common differences include marketing capabilities, such as coupons, gift certificates, discounts, cross sells, and upsells. The availability and quality of search functions can also vary widely. Watch out for companies that charge extra for the ability to integrate with your accounting software. And there’s a remarkable difference in the quality of sales and traffic reports included with each program.
Watch out too that you’re not overpaying for features you’ll never use, such as live chat, or the ability to add multiple sizes and colors for a single product.
Is it Easy to Use? The best shopping carts are easy to set up, configure, and add products to. The interface is intuitive and gives you professional looking results without any special technical knowledge. But beware – that’s not the case with all shopping carts, and cumbersome ones can drain your time and profits. Ask your web designer if you’ll be able to update the site yourself, and read independent reviews to see how easy others find the program you’re considering.
How’s the Technical Support? Technical support can be a make or break component of your shopping cart experience. Check out what type of support is available: phone, email, tutorials, getting-started guides, knowledge-base guides, online forums.Visit the technical support area and make sure the documentation looks thorough and easy to understand.
Some of the best programs offer context-based help, where the answers offered are specific to what you’re working on at the time. If there’s an extra charge for customer support services, beware! That’s often an indication that the bare bones documentation offered with the program is lacking.
For More Help. A good place to start developing a short list is at www.shopping-cart-review.toptenreviews.com, where you’ll find reviews of the pros and cons of many popular carts. While not unbiased, you’ll also find useful information at http://www.goecart.com/shopping_cart_software_comparison.asp