You’ve already built a solid business. You’ve got prospective customers, and you’ve canvassed them and confirmed your initial suspicions: they’re interested in your product. The time has come to launch your website and, very importantly, let your customers buy your product.
To facilitate the purchase of your product or service, you will likely be relying on a shopping cart. This software accepts your customer’s payment and then forwards it to all important parties, just like the register at most any physical store. However, it also serves another purpose: it relays with far more than just the register. It can reconcile your inventory totals with an integrated fulfillment center, serve as a customer management touchpoint, and much more.
The Big Question: Hosted or Licensed?
Without question, the single most important question you will want to ask yourself regarding the best shopping cart for your business is whether you want a hosted solution or a licensed solution.
Hosted shopping carts, of which Shopify is undoubtedly the most famous, provides a turnkey operation. It is a shopping cart solution that is hosted by a third party (in the aforementioned case, that party is Shopify). They will handle the hosting of your website and provide you with templates you need to start your own eCommerce store, or you can elect to utilize their graphic assets to add buttons or other payment icons to your pre-existing website.
Licensed shopping carts, which are also sometimes referred to as self-hosted carts, place far more responsibility on the licensee (in this case, that would be you). The advantage here is that you aren’t taking a shopping cart “off the shelf”. You will be able to customize it and tailor it to precisely your needs and specifications. The downside of this, however, is that it will require significantly more technical expertise to set up properly or to identify and resolve any issues that may arise. One very famous licensed shopping cart is Magento.
Big Names in Shopping Carts
As your business grows, so too will your logistics and technology needs. You will likely have your shopping cart integrated with numerous other entities as you grow, so you will likely want to go with a scalable solution right out of the gate. Here is a rundown of some of the most popular shopping carts. The advantage of going with a popular shopping cart is that it will likely be around for several years and thus able to provide support in the likely event you need it.
Shopify: This product is the most popular hosted shopping cart for a reason. It has hundreds of eCommerce templates to choose from, all-inclusive plan offerings, multi-channel eCommerce solutions, and it can back up your website as well! If you are looking for a turnkey solution with a passionate user base and a large network of fellow eCommerce enthusiasts, this is a great choice.
Magento: The king of licensed shopping carts, Magento will provide all the necessary tools for the eCommerce entrepreneur with customization on her mind. Every feature you could dream of is available in some iteration of Magento. While there is a free package available, the best version – if your company can justify it – is the enterprise edition, which runs $13,000 per year and includes tech support and all features.
WooCommerce: Did you build your website on a WordPress platform? Then WooCommerce is very likely the best solution for you. WooCommerce offers thousands of extensions like table-rate shipping and is built to integrate perfectly with the WordPress platform. There is a large community, so you will be supported, and the price is comparatively very low – slightly over $100, which is excellent for a hosted shopping cart.
Lemon Stand: Suppose you want a licensed shopping cart, but you prioritize ease-of-use and efficiency. In that case, you might want to eschew Magento in favor of Lemon Stand. For under $300, you can get a very user-friendly licensed platform that will give you the customizability you want. Take heart, however: this, like all licensed shopping carts, require a reasonable amount of tech expertise to operate correctly.
3D Cart: 3D cart’s free trial and built in Facebook store make it an appealing option for entrepreneurs. There is also a robust support structure, advanced SEO tools, and it even offers Visa Checkout! Like Shopify, it is a terrific one-stop solution.
One of the most vital considerations to make before choosing a shopping cart is how well it will integrate with your other solutions. Do you have an order fulfillment company that you use to handle the fulfilment and logistics side of your business? If so, you will want to contact them about integration with your chosen shopping cart to make sure that they can accommodate the request. Other services you might use, such as an inventory management system or an order management system, may be integrated with your shopping cart.
The simplest solution is perhaps a populist one: you should go with the shopping cart solution that gives you the greatest likelihood of long-term success, and that is usually one of the most popular and well-supported options. Shopify and Magento are two great places to start, depending on your needs, but other popular and well-supported carts like WooCommerce, Lemon Stand, and 3D Cart should be considered as well if they fit your needs more closely.
Remember shopping carts, like all eCommerce solutions, are never “one size fits all”.