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Online Shopping Carts - Shopping Cart Programs

By Nick Hunter

Online Shopping Carts have become more dynamic and effective over the years. However, there are some that suffer from poor functionality, compatibility, and effectiveness.

There are sources of information on shopping cart programs, but this will break it down for you so you absolutely choose the right one. Once you install a shoppuing cart program into your website, it can be complicated and time consuming to switch it later.

If you can allow me to be "basic" here for a minute: A shopping cart program is installed on a secure server to work within your website or connected to your website using a secure link. The online shopping cart will allow customers to choose products that they wish to buy. Once the customer is ready to "Check Out" and buy, the shopping cart then sends the information to your merchant and processor, so the payment can be processed. Having an online Internet cart that is compatible with processors such as Versign or whoever you choose to process your credit card orders is vital.

Things to consider with online shopping carts:

  • The compatibility

    Do you want to offer an affiliate program, so other sites can send traffic to your website and you can pay them a commission? Not every shopping cart can handle that integration. You don't want an online shopping cart installed and "put live", only to realize later that it does not integrate with your favorite affiliate software program.

    Online credit card processors must be compatible to your shopping cart software. If you stick with the top companies, this should not be a problem - but you must ask: "Is your cart program compatible with xxxx processor?"

  • Who are their other customers?

    Most established shopping cart software companies will have a list of sample customers. This is very helpful in your decision making for several reasons.

    One: you want to see how the cart functions "live". Do you like the look of the screens (you can usually change the colors to suit your site), the speed - although that depends on the server, graphics, scripts and other things that may be slowing the site down, separate from the shopping cart.

    Two: Seeing the customer sites that use the online shopping cart can also tell you how successful the cart company is. You want to try to make sure this company has enough clients. It is very important that this company is established, successful and has a track record. This is a major integration and you don't want to have to do this all over again. If the shopping cart program company goes out of business for any reason, you'll have to do the whole thing over!

  • See a demo

    You want to be the customer when viewing an online demo of the shopping cart. You also want to see how easy it is to log in, make changes, add products, download orders and get reports. Never purchase a cart without seeing it live.

  • Features

    Do you get an email when an order is placed? Does the customer get a timely email? Can it be integrated with UPS or other shipping companies? Does it allow for state-by-state sales tax? Make a list of things you would need.

  • Live support

    Most companies have email support and that is good, but "live support", especially in the first 30 or 60 days is very important. Most established shopping cart companies will install the shopping cart software for you and test it. Before or after the installation, website owners will need assistance. Even the most experienced webmasters incur issues and being able to reach someone in those times of need is very helpful. It is a deal maker or breaker for me. I want human beings!

  • Price

    Always a factor, right? Well, don't let it be too big a factor here. Price is more of a concern when it includes monthly fees. Some companies will offer a cheaper sign up, but have monthly charges like a hosting company. I try to avoid these arrangements. I'd rather pay $400 and it's mine, than $100 set up and $25 or $50 a month. It is almost always better to buy the shopping cart outright. I'd also rather pay a little more, knowing some of that money is going towards support staff and upgrades.

  • Upgrades and enhancements

    Are they free? Does the cart license allow you to use it for other domains?

Like I said earlier, the choices have never been broader, but choices can bring confusion. The good part is almost all of the online cart programs have demos that you can play with and you'll know the right one for you. Don't be cheap and make sure you can call someone when you have problems.

Best of luck to you with your online business!

Nick Hunter is a marketing specialist and the President of American Investment Training (AIT). He also writes for - a website dedicated to operating an Internet business.

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