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A Free Guide to Choosing The Right Shopping Cart Platform

It’s the dreaded question, the one every starting eCommerce tries to avoid and leaves till the last minute. Which is the right shopping cart platform for my business? Lucky for you, we’re here to make your life easier. We’ve decided to make a research on shopping carts to help you make an informed decision. So we’ve gathered as much information as we could find on the most used platforms and created a list of pros and cons. But before getting into that, you need to understand the forms of modern shopping carts.

Shopping Cart Types:

A) Hosted Shopping Carts: Also known as SaaS (Software as a service). Easy-to-use, but limited in functionality because it’s hosted by your vendor. That’s why it’s recommended for eCommerce beginners. You might not be able to customize your site as preferred. Monthly fees include access to the software, hosting, and security.

B) Self-Hosted Shopping Carts: These are Open-Source solutions, they’re free to download and use. But you’ll need to find your own hosting and buy your own SSL certificate each year. On top of that, they’re much more difficult to operate than hosted solutions. Therefore, they’re not highly recommended for beginners. However, your developers can access every line of code in the software which gives you total freedom customizing your site. You can also use pre-paid add-ons and themes.

Top Shopping Cart Platforms…Our Own Views And Comparison

Shopify

The number one hosted shopping cart with over 100,000 online stores. It’s ideal for small or medium-sized businesses and eCommerce.

Pros: This platform is extremely easy to setup with well-designed templates to choose from. It includes an iOS App for updating your store, managing inventory, orders, and contacting customers. POS system is available allowing you to sync both online and offline inventory and sales.

Cons: It’s not cheap and as you have more sales, your monthly plan becomes more and more expensive. Not to mention that you have limited control over your checkout page design. On top of that, the built-in blog is weak compared to WordPress.

Magento

It’s a self-hosted platform owned by eBay. Best for an enterprise-class eCommerce, due to its long experience in the field.

Pros: It offers customer support features to help handle millions of customer queries. It also includes an extension marketplace where users can integrate a number of third-party tools such as WordPress, Zendesk, and others. Another benefit is that its customizing charges vary as per your developer.

Cons: It’s difficult to customize with an unfriendly user interface. But perhaps the biggest issue with Magento is low speed. Even though slow performance is a problem you can fix, you shouldn’t have to. Moreover, you need to install an extension for blogging.

Woo-Commerce

A self-hosted platform owned by WordPress now. Known best for its plug-ins and ideal for average and smaller stores that just need a store to sell a few things right.

Pros: Free and easy to install with an unlimited customizing ability and resources. If you already have a WordPress site, all you need to do is to install the free plug-in. You can access millions of free and prepaid themes. You can also enjoy all WordPress features, like the blog which is very well-organized.

Cons: Security is a huge issue as WordPress is a highly hacked platform. Plugin updates can break other plugins, or the shopping cart altogether. You have limited credit card gateway choices with a very weak support system which may take more than 24 hours to respond. So unless you have a full-time developer to maintain your website, don’t take the risk.

Big Commerce

A hosted platform with clients like CNN, the Food Network, ABC News, GQ and others.

Pros: It integrates with eBay, Facebook, Shopzilla, and PriceGrabber. It accepts payments from a variety of gateways including PayPal and Google Checkout. It offers a fully-loaded package that includes a secure shopping cart, product catalogs, payment gateway, marketing tools, and a mobile-optimized store. The user interface of the admin panel looks clean and easy to navigate.

Cons: It starts considerably cheap, then increases its fees over time without you noticing. It’s fairly customizable but without total control and has terrible customer service.

OsCommerce

A self-hosted platform with a growing community of store owners, developers, and service providers.

Pros: It integrates with a variety of payment processors like Amazon, eBay, and Sagepay. Over 7,000 add-ons that enable you to customize and add new functionalities to your online storefronts. Price varies per developer.

Cons: Difficult to edit with many security issues.

Pinnacle Cart

A self-hosted shopping cart.

Pros: Easy one-click upgrades. Always on top of the latest trends and technology. Search-engine friendly and integrates with many of the third-party applications. Multilingual capabilities.

Cons: No built-in POS system. Considered expensive.

OpenCart

This is a self-hosted platform on the rise.

Pros: It has one of the cleanest interfaces of all default themes with a good set of features. In addition, it’s easy to edit and has many integrated payment and shipping options.

Cons: Limited features with no customization. It has SEO issues and it’s not suitable for large scale businesses.

Let’s recap…

No matter what shopping cart you choose, you’ll never start with one that fits all your needs. Narrow down your top priorities and pick the shopping cart that addresses at least 75% of your needs. Consider your budget and take your time before finally making your decision. But most importantly, understand what your business needs out of a shopping cart. Watch demos of your short-listed shopping carts, ask a lot of questions, and test before using.

Critical Factors To Consider Before Making The Final Decision

Why are you creating an online store? Are you looking to sell a few items or are you hoping to build the next eCommerce empire? Is the shopping cart easy to set-up and use? Is it customizable? Does it have a built-in SEO feature? Does it support multi-currencies and multilingual? Is it compatible with third-party applications like my merchant account and payment gateway? Does this shopping cart have a timely support and maintenance service? What payment methods does it support? Are there any transaction limitations? Is it possible to integrate it with a physical store’s data, operations, and resources?

Your success depends on having the right tools at your disposal. This includes a suitable shopping cart and a trustworthy payment gateway. Have you made your decision yet? Which is your favorite shopping cart? Let us know in the comments section. Also read about What makes a payment gateway constant, contemporary and credible.

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