The advent of the internet as a commercial medium has generated boundless business opportunities through an online store, allowing local customers to find your business through a web search and customers around the world to purchase your products with a click of the mouse. In fact, online commerce is expected to account for over $370 billion in sales in the U.S. alone by 2017. Shopping cart software helps you tap into that market.
Shopping cart software has evolved beyond the basic online store. Most programs now offer the tools you need to manage all the facets of a shopping cart website, including website design, inventory control, customer management, and tax and shipping calculations. Additionally, most shopping cart applications help you market your site with integrated features for affiliate programs, social network marketing and sales through other venues, as well as online sales features that attract and retain customers.
Most shopping cart services offer a variety of plans, so we chose plans that provided for at least 100 products, 3GB of storage and 1GB of bandwidth for transactions. Keep in mind that plans vary widely, so we then looked at the best plan each service had to offer that met those requirements but cost less than $60. We found 3dcart, Volusion and BigCommerce rank the best. Check out our articles on shopping cart software and eCommerce for tips to accelerate your business on the information superhighway.
Webshop software can make your online business a success or a headache. The software should be simple to work and replete with features that help customers purchase your products with ease, confidence and security. The shopping cart company should also provide you great customer support.
Whether you are purchasing independent software to add a shopping cart to your existing website, or software as a service that gives you hosting, cart and support, you deserve the same breadth of features and quality of service. We used the following criteria to determine the best shopping cart software on the market.
Plans, Hosting & Website Tools
Because different companies reach different clientele, their ranges of plans vary. Look at the range of storage space, bandwidth, products and price to get a feel for what a company offers. Storage space refers to the amount of information you can store on your website, such as product information, blog posts and images. Bandwidth controls how many transactions you can have and includes customers clicking around your website as well as employees loading a new product to the inventory. Some shopping cart services limit the number of products you can load.
If you want to create a shopping cart website that prospective customers will enjoy using and want to visit repeatedly, you need a site with polished, professional and intuitive webpages. Shopping cart software should include an array of design and customization options that enable you to create the perfect site for your business.
If you have a lot of inventory, you should look for bulk editing as well. This allows you to make changes to a group of products at once, rather than having to change each product individually. If your site contains a lot of high-density images or large files that need to be uploaded or downloaded for the customer, being on a content delivery network makes those transactions faster for them.
Blogging helps keep your website on the radar of search engines, can increase customer loyalty and promote your brand. We think having built-in blogging capability is a plus, as it adds convenience to you and synchronization to your site. If you like WordPress, an increasingly popular blogging and website-building service, look for software that integrates with it to sell products as well.
Shopping & Marketing Features
Customers who feel they are getting the best products, service and price come back. Being able to read other customers' reviews and compare products side by side make consumers confident in their choices. Online shoppers prefer live chat to customer phone support when they have a question, so check for this feature, especially if you have a service-oriented business. If you have an international business, the ability to host your store in multiple languages imparts respect to your foreign clientele.
Smartphones and tablets have changed how we do business, so look for software that creates a mobile-friendly online store for your customers and has an administrative section that's easy for you to work from your cell phone or tablet.
Shopping cart software should include robust marketing tools to generate more traffic to your site and thus increase sales. Search engine optimization features and social media connectivity have become industry standard; you'll find them in all the software we reviewed. However, not all offer the ability to sell products on Amazon or eBay or run affiliate programs. Promotional emails and abandoned cart notices bring customers back, while daily deals encourage impulse buys.
Back Office & Security
Naturally, you should be able to run sales reports and manage your orders. Most shopping cart solutions offer detailed reporting, so look for those that also integrate with your accounting software for greater efficiency. If you have a physical store, consider software with a point-of-sale system that works as your cash register for your brick-and-mortar store and tracks physical sales as well as online sales.
While all the shopping cart software programs we looked at offer payment gateways, which enable you to take credit card or other payments, they do vary in security. All are PCI compliant and SSL encrypted so you can feel secure along with your customers. Some require you to pay for the SSL certificate. Fraud protection tools differ but are available. Some shopping cart solutions go a step further and provide fraud scoring, which alerts you to customers who are a risk and gives you the option to deny them the sale.
Help & Support
Whether you are a seasoned online merchant or new to the medium, it's likely that you'll need technical assistance with your site at one time or another. Any company should provide direct technical assistance via email, telephone or live chat. The manufacturers of the best shopping cart software provide comprehensive support resources that you can reference, including knowledgebases, user guides and video tutorials. Some services go a step further with education centers and forums where you can learn more about eCommerce in general.
Shopping cart software is not the only component of a successful internet business, but it is one of the most crucial. Regardless of whether you are expanding your business online for the first time or are just unhappy with your current online shopping cart, our side-by-side comparison and comprehensive reviews can help you select the webshop software that is best suited for your online store.