Choosing a shopping cart for your ecommerce venture is one of the most important decisions you will make and with hundreds to choose from, it’s a daunting prospect for the beginner. Here’s a rough guide to get you started.
Shopping cart options fall roughly into 3 categories:
Hosted ecommerce solution
You pay a monthly fee and everything you need is provided for you – the cart software, hosting, links to payment gateways.
This is the fastest way to launch your ecommerce store and is a low investment option for testing a new concept or product.
Many businesses choose this option and then move up to a more customised solution once they have learnt which features really matter to them.
Licensed and/or Open Source software
You purchase (or download free) an “off the shelf” shopping cart, configure it and host it where you like. In practice, unless you are very technical, you would employ a web developer to customise the site for you and organise the hosting.
Many are actually free to licence but do need some design work to make the shop fit your branding and not look like every other “out of the box” shopping cart.
Web developers offering ecommerce frequently use this model rather than building an ecommerce site completely from scratch – the established solutions are tried and tested so for the majority of stores, there is no need for something unique.
There are many options available. Just a few of the most popular are:
You can use a web development company to build a site which is completely bespoke. This will require a significant up-front investment and unless you have very specific and unique requirements it is not recommended for start-ups.
I’ve used all 3 options while running my ecommerce businesses. Wedding Crafter started as a very lightly customised oscommerce then was replaced by a bespoke site. Celebration Print used an open source solution called cs-cart which has strong personalisation options and Cool ‘n’ Crafty ran on hosted option Tiger Commerce. My preference? I’d go for a popular, well supported open source solution in most situations. Even many well known brands are now using this option (usually Magento) rather than creating bespoke in-house sites.