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Shopping Cart for Your Website
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Over the last couple of decades, eCommerce has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, millions of people shop online, and many of them prefer it over visiting brick-and-mortar locations to purchase the products they want. Business owners everywhere are looking for the fastest way to get involved and start selling their own products online. You may be one of them!
Even if you already have a website, there’s no reason you have to start over to build an online store. You can create a store using an eCommerce platform and connect it to your existing website. Let’s get into the details of shopping cart software and how to choose the best.
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What is a Shopping Cart Software?
A shopping cart software is a type of software that allows customers to shop on a website, creating a list of products they want to buy by adding them to the virtual cart. The customer can view the online shopping cart to see what products have been added to it, and can choose to add more products or remove them.
When the customer is finished shopping, the shopping cart software provides a secure means of paying for the products in a virtual checkout. The owner of the eCommerce website is then informed of the purchase so they can start fulfilling the order through packing and shipping the items.
Types of Shopping Cart Software
There are three general types of shopping cart software. They’re differentiated by the ways they’re added to a website, how they’re distributed, and by who takes charge of updating the software.
Open-source software is released with an open license that allows any developer to access and edit the source code. An open-source shopping cart has both benefits and drawbacks. Usually, the software is free, and with its source code available to developers everywhere, addons, bug fixes, and modified versions are often readily available.
However, since an open-source shopping cart is not controlled by any one person or company, you may struggle to find help with it. A centralised customer support line may not exist, and if it does, they may only be able to offer support for an unmodified version of the software, or they may be unfamiliar with the specific customisations you use. In addition, you’ll be responsible for obtaining the software and installing it onto a web server, which will need to meet the software’s system requirements. You’ll also need to perform updates yourself by uploading the new version of the software onto the server.
Licensed software is much more straightforward than open-source. It’s developed by a single company and is available for your purchase and use. All development on the software is done by the company that created it, although they may provide a method for independent developers to create addons or plugins for it (through an API: application programming interface). Usually, there’s a one-time fee for use of the software, although some use a monthly or annual model. Some software licenses also don’t cover updates beyond a certain time limit, so you may need to pay again to get a new version. Tech support also may not be included in the license or may expire after a set time.
Licensed shopping cart software needs to be installed and maintained the same way as open-source: by uploading it to a web server that meets the software requirements and that is PCI compliant. You will also need to upload new versions yourself.
A hosted eCommerce platform, also know as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution, combines both shopping cart software and web hosting. Instead of needing to find your own web server that meets the requirements of the software, the whole package is provided as a service. This eliminates the need to download software and install it yourself. In addition, updates and maintenance are performed by the developers. Hosted eCommerce platforms also provide a web-based interface for you to manage your store, rather than requiring you to download software, so you can run your business directly from a web browser.
Hosted shopping cart software is generally the most hassle-free way of getting an eCommerce shopping cart for your website. Most charge a monthly fee which varies depending on the plan you sign up for, with more expensive plans providing more built-in features and other advantages. Many hosted eCommerce platforms offer a free trial, while others offer a free plan. However, remember you can’t sell products from a free trial store, so it’s only for learning to use the software. Platforms that offer a free plan are also usually extremely limited, preventing you from adding more than a few products or otherwise inadequate for growing your business. Shift4Shop is the only eCommerce platform with a full-featured free plan for an online store of any size.
Components of Shopping Cart Software
There are two main components of shopping cart software, both of which are made up of smaller parts that work together for the final result.
The storefront is the eCommerce website accessible to customers. It includes product pages, category navigation, and checkout pages in which the customer can enter their payment information to complete the purchase. It may also contain additional pages such as the “About Us” page with company information, a Contact page with related information and a contact form, Store Policy pages including shipping, return, and privacy policies, and more.
The storefront’s appearance can usually be altered by design themes or templates, which are often available from a variety of sources. Most eCommerce software has a theme store where merchants can choose from a selection of free and premium (paid) templates, and third-party designers often create their own templates for sale as well.
The Administration Panel
The administration area, also known as the backend of your website, is part of the shopping cart software used for store management and order processing. Other names for this part of the software include the dashboard, the backend, and the control panel. Administration can be either web-based, in which the store owner logs in to a website for access, or desktop-based, in which the merchant must use software downloaded onto a computer to make changes which are then sent to the online storefront.
What you find in the store administration strongly depends on the eCommerce software you use. At the very least, you’ll have product and category management in which you add products, edit their information and images, and assign them to categories. All shopping cart software also includes a list of recent orders and their status (such as “new,” “shipped,” and “complete”). The best shopping cart software also provides you with analytics and other information, tools for customising your store and marketing to customers, and more.