Saturday, January 3, 2009

More on Shopping Carts

There are tons of shopping carts to choose from it can and will get confusing. You need to choose one that you'll be happy with because your gonna be stuck with it for a long time. When and if you decide to move off a shopping cart it can be a time consuming task so try to avoid that. Here are some important considerations when choosing a cart.

Payment Processors
The most important thing your cart will do is process transactions. Not all carts work with all payment processors or payment gateways, so you need to check your carts supported gateways page. If they dont' have this page or it is hard to find you need another cart. If you already have your processor you can check their supported carts page.

Some carts will let you make an add-on, or module to support a processor, but its generally a better idea to use one that is supported out of the box. The reason being when they update the cart you will have to update the module. If the cart software provider supports your processor out of the box they will generally update it along with the new version of the cart.

Hosted Carts
If you don't want to go through the hassle of getting a web host and maintaining the cart yourself you can use a hosted cart. A hosted cart will usually charge you both a monthly fee and a percentage of the transaction. Shopify, and ProStores, are good examples of hosted carts. Some of these carts also put limitations on the number of products in your store. A hosted cart can get pricey, but for some its the only way to go.

Non hosted Carts
The non hosted carts come in all shapes and sizes and have a wide range of prices. Some of the best carts are free believe it or not. ZenCart and osCommerce are two widely popular open source carts that won't cost you a dime. BV Commerce a non open source cart can cost upwards of $500.

Before you run out and get the free shopping carts there are some differences you need to know about. The free carts don't have a customer service department on standby ready to help you when something goes wrong. The better ones do have a forum or knowledge-base that can help, but it can get frustrating, especially if it is a new problem no one has experiened before. Paid carts will at least have an email you can use for support the better ones will have a phone number to call or even a support chat. If you going to pay money for a cart make sure they have responsive support department. Ask them some pre-sales questions and see how fast they get back to you. If they don't respond quickly to a pre-sales question chances are they are even slower post sale.

Server Technology
When going the non hosted route you'll need to get a web hosting account. It isn't as hard as it seems, but you will need to choose a server type based on the type of cart your going to install. ZenCart for example uses PHP. PHP is the language the cart is programed in. A linux server is the best environment for a PHP scripted cart. The shopping cart your interested in will have a requirements page that will detail the scripting language, database and other items that need to be installed for the cart to work correctly.

Which is best for me
Make sure your payment processor is supported first. Hosted carts work best for the beginner, but if you have some technical ability the non-hosted cart would be a good choice. If you really need to customize your cart you have to go with an open source version.

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