E-commerce has exploded on the internet and many successful businesses exist solely on the web. And why not? With a virtual storefront, the overhead costs of running a business are greatly reduced. Therefore, with effective marketing, these businesses can hang on during the difficult early stages of a new business and are less dominated by cash flow while trying to stay afloat.
One of the major reasons for the surge in online purchasing has been the convenience and security of the shopping cart feature on e-commerce sites. The virtual interface of putting things into a 'cart' has, at once, a comfortable familiarity and whimsy. It really is an elegant system that has won the confidence of the online shopper through its proven security.
There are many different vendors of shopping cart services. So how does one go about choosing the right one for their e-commerce site?
The very first thing you have to do is to decide exactly what, and how much product you are going to be selling. Are you selling 1 item? A line of similar items? A catalog full of many different products, and if so, then how will your site present this catalog?
What will be your volume of sales this year? Next year? In five years? Some shopping cart services are great for lower volume sales with less product variety and no catalog. Other shopping cart services allow for complex, high volume sales and catalog features.
In terms of cost of the cart service, you need to find the shopping cart option that matches your selling volume.
PayPal offers a fantastic, free-to-set-up shopping cart that is great for lower volume sales. Your fees to them are a percentage of each of your sales. In addition, you can automatically take major credit card payments without setting up credit card merchant services. This saves you $300-$400 right off the bat.
For high volume sales you may pay less going with a shopping cart vendor that charges you a monthly fee rather than a percentage of your sales.
You also need to look at the purchase process the shopping cart service offers. Potential customers abandoning the purchase because they weren't shown the shipping costs before they were required to give their credit card information, for example, can be devastating to sales. The simpler, clearer and shorter the process from cart to sale, the better. At no point should the potential ciustomer feel that there is a surprise ahead.
Finally, the look of the shopping cart needs to fit the visual theme of your site. Most shopping cart services have several variations on a basic look. Make sure one of those variations works.
Basic services will range anywhere from $10 to $30 per month. Remember to add in the cost of credit card merchant services if you want to accept credit card customers. And this is highly recommended. The downside of online purchases is that the customer must wait for the item to be shipped. Having to wait even longer for a money order to be received, or worse, a check to clear, on top of shipping time reduces the convenience of online shopping to the point where sales could be lost.