Getting Started: Website Shopping Carts

You have your products, now it’s time to put them out there for the online consumers.  For many new E-Commerce businesses, the website shopping cart can be one of the more perplexing steps in getting your online store up and running.  Choosing a web cart can be difficult due to the extensive variety of quality web designers and established web carts available.

Where do you begin?  With an endless list of widgets, tools, and capabilities out there, it is easy to get sidetracked with fun and interesting options you may never use.  Take a moment to assess your business model and decide what key tools you will need in a web cart (continuity, database management, SEO marketing, discounts, multi-level pricing, etc…) Use that list as your first criteria to narrow down the field.  Once you have the designers or web carts that can handle your list of needs, you can weigh their qualifications.

I wouldn’t recommend interrogating potential shopping cart providers, but you should ask some questions.  The more you understand their organization, the easier it will be to make an educated decision.  Here are 5 essential questions to ask your potential shopping cart provider:

First and foremost, does their experience fit with your type of business?

     1.  Is there anything unique about your business or product?  Do they have experience with anything similar?

     2.  Do they use a standard shopping cart program or did they design their own?  If they use a standard shopping cart, research its features and reviews.  If they design their own from the ground up, ask if you can see a live example of their work.

Will they integrate with the other parts of your company?

     3.  What types of imports/exports can they handle (XML, CSV, Web Services, etc…)?  Is it compatible with your accounting and fulfillment programs?

Do you have a schedule that requires being live by a specific date?

     4.  What kind of time frame do they estimate for setup?  Are they comfortable with your deadline?

Are you comfortable with the application?

     5.  Could you and your staff effectively utilize the shopping cart tools and settings?

Some of you may have noticed that cart cost has not come up yet. Cost is, of course, always a significant factor, from set-up to hosting fees.  From our experience, there is often a direct relationship between hosting fees and support availability and response time.  Many times, lower fees can be charged due to a smaller staff and/or a more extensive customer base.  If either is the case, you could be waiting in a queue for any issues to be addressed.  If you, or a person on your staff, is very comfortable with IT, then you could be ok with a lower hosting fee, because you will need less outside support.  On the other hand, you may feel it worth while to pay a little extra for a company with additional personnel available to help when something does happen.

Lastly, we will not suggest what carts or designers to use; there are many good ones out there. However, we will strongly recommend that you do your homework.  There are a number of online resources available, http://ecommerce-software-review.toptenreviews.com  and http://www.digitalspinner.com for starters.  These can be great resources to find quality web designers and shopping carts and see what is being said about them.  If you have a good relationship with a company that has experience working with web carts, they can be great resource for recommendations.  Graphic designers and web designers, even if they don’t do shopping carts, could possibly point you in the right direction.  If you have a fulfillment company, there is a strong chance they have worked with outside shopping carts, if they don’t already offer a cart themselves.

Knowing what to look for and the right questions to ask should help you turn a perplexing step into an educated decision. That should put you in the position to launch on time with a shopping cart that will work for your business and not against it.

Best of success