Comparing Shopping Cart Solutions

A Few Resources to Help You Choose

eCommerce is an evergrowing industry, and the need for a website is as important as ever. Arnie Kuenn offered his top five in an article here at SmallBusinessNewz before, but Sean P. Aune at Mashable has put together a nice list of over 35 shopping cart solutions for you to choose from. He’s got them broken down into categories: Hosted Carts, Free Self-Hosted Carts, Purchasable Self-Hosted Carts, and WordPress Shopping Carts.

Gas prices are enough to make people want to shop online, and if you’re not selling your product online now, what are you waiting for?

If you are looking to break into ecommerce or are still in the early stages, Aune’s  list might be just what the doctor ordered to help you compare solutions and decide which is right for you.

Once you get a shopping cart up and running, you just have to figure out how to keep customers from abandoning it, well that and get people to use it in the first place. Joost de Valk offered some shopping cart optimizing tips in this article we ran last year. You also need to lead your customers to the checkout once they’re at your site.

For another great shopping cart comparison tool, check out "Shopping Cart Software Review" at Top Ten Reviews. You can also peruse the eCommerce Shopping Carts category of the WebProNews eBusiness Directory (there’s currently 91 listings there).

What shopping cart solution do you use? Are you happy with it? Why would you suggest it to others?

There are 2 Comments. Add Yours.
  1. Personally I have made a complete and permanent switch to zen cart. It’s a free open source solution that gives you huge quatities of built in features with  add-ons to take care of just about anything else that you could possibly want your site to do.

    Initially I started with the hosted solutions like the ones reviewed in the linked to article. The cart i was using was network solutions/monster commerce. Lets just say that it took me many months to recover from the nightmares that i encountered there and I think the bronze rating is an absolute joke. They obviously haven’t had a live site with them for an extended period of time.

    Anyway I initally had reservations about using an open source system because the code is available for all to see. I could just picture some script kiddy spending long nights slurping energy drinks plotting on how to hack this system. After doing some investigating I decided to try it. I am very glad I did.

    First of all the main group that runs the project test the system for all kinds of potential security problems. They also have outside auditors that do the same. If any issues are found then patches come out very, very quickly. Second a big part of security is how the server you’re on is set up. The best way to find out if it’s secure or not is to sign up for one of the testing options like hackersafe, contrloscan or others. Once the server passes those tests your site is secure. I also recommend using one of these services if you have a hosted solution as well. Just because someone else is hosting/handling the site don’t assume the server is secure. Control scan was testing the site I had with network solutions and  found a big issue that they refused to fix. Remember your sites security is up to you. It’s your ass on the line and nobody else. So make sure and test it!

    One of the best things about zen cart is the fact that you have full control of the code to add functionality that’s not built in. I can’t code my way out of a paper bag but there are plenty of coders out there that can really make your site sing and will put together whatever you need at good prices. After I had been working with NS for a while there where things I wanted to do that just couldn’t be implemented. They just would not let me do it. I couldn’t do any split testing because there was no way for me to install the code. I hate being told I can’t do something when I’m paying for it. Especially when it’s something as important as testing.

    Install is easy and straight forward. set up the database, upload the files browse to the site and follow the instructions. In many cases you can install the latest version of zen cart straight from the cpanel of your hosting account. This makes it just as easy as the carts you pay for.

    Support is forum based which can be annoying to some people. But so is call, find out that they can’t do anything over the phone so you have to submit a ticket and wait as well. what makes that worse is the fact that you’re paying for this support. The community forums for zencart are great and very, very active. They have lots and lots of people that are more than willing to help and generally answer questions within a few hours. They also have a huge library of online documentation that covers pretty much everything.

    Something huge is having control over back ups. When you have control over everything you can back up your site whenever you want. I found out the hard way that just because they say they’re backing your site up doesn’t mean it’s the truth. I back everything up nightly, including the database. Might seem a bit anal but when you’ve been adding products all day and have a bunch of new orders you want to keep everything as current as possible just in case.

    As with all shopping cart systems there is a learning curve and zen cart is no different. I have found the time spent learning ZC is much more rewarding. After I used it for a while I found I wanted extra functionality all I had to do was find the add-on or have someone code it for me. This is something you can’t do with a hosted cart. You get what you’ve got and that’s it! I out grew NS very quickly but I was stuck because I didn’t want to deal with the hassles of moving it. ZC is something that is pretty much impossible to outgrow. If you need it and someone hasn’t already coded the add-on get it coded.

    The built in functionality is amazing. There are so many things you can do right out of the box that most people wont need to change anything except the look of the site. I have only had 3 custom add-ons coded: a site wide mark up module so i can control site wide pricing in one place and 2 for marketing purposes that I have never seen even offered by any other cart system. 

    For price (free), functionality, extensibility, control and ease of use I have not found anything better than zen cart

     

  2. The problem with third party shopping cart solutions is that you have no idea whether the company is going to be around for long enough to provide support or keep the system running.

    I used a shopping cart solution for about three years (no names here) with no problems only to get an email one day saying that they were shutting down the system at the end of the month. Promises to re-emburse me for the 3 months owing were not honoured, support messages were not answered. I’m not sure whether they were closing down the software platform to start up another company or what but I thought they were totally un-professional and I would NEVER use another out of the box solution again!

    E-Commerce site owners should be aware that the long term reputation of a shopping cart is important, try to imagine what happens if your cart goes belly up? Be wary of shopping cart solutions where you have to rely on a third party, if you manage/create the system yourself then there is less risk but it can be a real inconvenience and affect your sales until you can get yourself back up and running again.

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