Picking the Perfect Shopping Cart

Checkout these 11 features to consider when choosing a shopping cart.
E-commerce shopping cart software is necessary for anyone who does business on the Internet, and often, choosing the right one can be an overwhelming task. There are hosted solutions, software applications you install and host on your own, free ones and more.

And, because each online venture has its own needs and goals, no one but you can really know which option is best. So, while we can't tell you what cart to get, we can tell you what not to do, and provide you with a checklist of important factors to consider.

Joan Stewart, an Internet marketer who offers the free e-book "Internet Cash Machines: How to Pick a Shopping Cart System that Makes You Money," said the process of picking a cart doesn't have to be confusing — or expensive. Stewart sells CDs, reports and audio recordings of her seminars at her site www.publicityhound.com, which has been online for about 10 years.

"This is my biggest piece of advice to anyone doing e-commerce, and I learned it the hard way myself," said Stewart. "Do not let a Web development company talk you into getting a customized cart that's just for you, for two reasons. The first is because if you're cart goes down and you can't fix it, or you simply want help making adjustments, and you can't reach your developer, you're sunk. The second is because it will cost you several thousand dollars, and that's totally unnecessary."

Depending on your business, you may not need each of the 27 functions listed in the e-book, but you should definitely consider each one before making a decision. We've highlighted several to get you going.
  • A Web-based administrative page: If your electronic shopping cart software has a Web-based managers' administration page, then you can work on your shopping cart (add products, change prices, and so on) from anywhere.

  • Associate/affiliate program compatible: Someone else should be able to put your link on their Web site and sell your products and services for a commission.

  • Up-sell module: E-commerce shopping cart software should give you the capability to "up-sell" your customer to a related product or service.

  • Broadcast capability: The cart should have integrated e-mail capabilities that can allow you to sort customers, and e-mail them immediately.

  • Integrated auto-responders: Sequential auto-responders are one of the most powerful sales tools on the Internet today, and your shopping cart software should let you send e-mails to customers and prospects automatically. Only the most advanced carts would have this function integrated.

  • Hard and soft products: A good cart will let a customer buy a hard product, that you have to ship, on the same order form as a soft product, such as an electronic e-book that the customer can download as soon as the order has been approved.

  • Calculate shipping and tax: Make sure your cart has several options on how to calculate basic shipping charges.

  • Customizable "return to shopping" pages: The capability to send your customers after they add a particular item to their cart can mean a big difference in the amount of money they spend with you. Sophisticated shopping cart software allows you to customize the "return to shopping cart" button so it takes the customer to a related product of their choice.

  • Promotion functionality: Be sure there's a way to offer discounts for multiple purchases or to offer "one free when you buy three" or similar special offers.

  • E-mail confirmation: The shopping cart should be able to send an e-mail confirmation automatically to the customer and automatically generate a receipt for you to put in the package if you are shipping a product.

  • Multiple order and drop-ship e-mail capability: You should be able to e-mail suppliers who ship directly to your customer (drop-ship) without including the customer's credit card information.

Learn about the 16 other "must have" features in cart software by downloading the e-book "Internet Cash Machines: How to Pick a Shopping Cart System That Makes You Money."

Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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