What to look for in your first online shopping cart
So you think you want to sell your products online? Making the leap from selling your goods and services locally to putting them online for the world to see can be confusing and scary. With myriad shopping cart software providers and online store builders to choose from, knowing where to get started is sometimes the hardest part.
Don’t worry. We’re here to help you navigate this tricky landscape so you can get your products on the web and earning money for you right away. Sound like a good deal?
Let’s get started with the basics…
What is an ecommerce shopping cart?
Have you ever purchased a pair of shoes or a new song or movie online? If so, you have participated in ecommerce. You have probably heard the term “ecommerce” before, and know it means commercial transactions that are conducted electronically on the Internet — but where it might get fuzzy is how this ties to your business and your website and what you need to do to sell online.
That’s where the shopping cart comes in.
The term “shopping cart” might bring to mind the basket where you store items at the supermarket until you’re ready to check out with the cashier. That’s exactly how an ecommerce shopping cart works as well. It’s a virtual shopping basket where your web visitors can select and store items for eventual purchase.
Ready to get those (virtual) wheels rolling? Let’s explore some of the top reasons having an online store can be a big boost for your business.
Benefits of selling online
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to start selling online, jump off and start selling! Kidding, but here are some major perks to consider:
Wide customer reach
Expand your sales beyond friends, family, and your local community. Taking your business online will allow you to grow your business by reaching customers across the globe.
Having your products and services online will allow you to quickly see how well your business is performing due to advanced tracking and analytics.
Low startup costs
While owning a brick-and-mortar store might be your end goal, it’s very costly to have a storefront these days. Putting your goods and services online is an inexpensive way to start making sales and getting your product in the hands of eager customers.
Easy, inventory management
With most shopping cart software on the web today, you’ll be able to easily track what sells and when, so you’ll always know your inventory — no need to manually count items anymore!
Think you’re ready? If you’re dreaming of making sales and shipping products now, your next big decision is deciding what tool or service you will use for your shopping cart and how it will integrate with your website. From third-party marketplaces to plugins on your existing website, there are a lot, and we mean a LOT, of options out there.
Let’s try to declutter the market with the three main buckets to consider…
Three types of ecommerce shopping cart software solutions
Now that you know you need a shopping cart solution, let’s explore the products and services available.
Tip: This is not a one-size-fits-all market, so it’s important to carefully consider your business and personal goals to determine which solution is best for you.
Marketplace ecommerce solutions
Ready to get your ecommerce feet wet, but not sure you need a full-fledged website? Or maybe you are concerned customers won’t find your website, so you want some customer acquisition assistance. Whatever the case, using a marketplace service can help you get your products online fast, while reaching a broad consumer audience.
Multi-vendor marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Amazon and Alibaba provide an easy entry into selling online.
Making a page and listing your products on a marketplace gives you a place to send customers online and enables you to tap into a vast user-base of thousands of potential customers.
Tip: Set up both a dedicated online store (see below) AND a page on a popular marketplace to make the most of your ecommerce opportunity.
Hosted, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions
Do you need a website in addition to a shopping cart solution? Do you want something easy and cost effective? If so, hosted, software-as-a-service ecommerce tools are probably for you.
Ecommerce solutions such as Shopify, Magento Small Business and GoDaddy’s Online Store are great for the small retailer who wants a professional, quick-to-implement shopping cart.
Hosted, software-as-a-service shopping carts typically require little technical knowledge and are inexpensive to launch. With thousands of templates and designs to choose from, you can easily build your website on these platforms without having to hire a designer or web professional.
Online payment services, apps and plugins
If you already have a website, chances are the thought of creating a new one doesn’t sound too exciting. If your website isn’t built to support an online store, there are various other solutions you can explore to maintain your existing site but also add an ecommerce component.
Ecommerce apps and plugins are an easy way to allow your website visitors to view and purchase your products and services without ever leaving your site.
As an integrated solution to an existing website and hosting provider, these shopping cart apps make it easy for you to go from website to online store in a snap. Examples of these easy-to-integrate solutions include PayPal, Stripe and WooCommerce. (We really like WooCommerce for WordPress sites.)
Top features to seek in a shopping cart
With so many products and services in each of the three spaces explored above, it can be tough to find the right tool for your business. One easy way to help determine if a tool is the right fit is to check out the features and pick what’s most important to you.
Here’s a list of some of the most valuable ecommerce features:
Simple setup and ecommerce design. If you are building your online store yourself, it’s important that whatever solution you select is user friendly. A good way to test this is to try a free trial or read customer reviews and testimonials.
Professional, customizable themes. The way your site looks is incredibly important in converting sales. If your site does not look professional and trustworthy, customers will not buy from you. Many online store site builders will showcase their available templates and designs on their website for you to check out before signing up.
Built-in payment processing. This is the bread and butter of online selling. Make sure you thoroughly understand the payment process — both how your customers will be billed and how you will receive payment. Many marketplace websites have additional fees for using their service, so make sure you grasp the details.
Easy shipping and mailing. Once you start selling products online, you have the pesky task of actually getting those products to your customers. Many ecommerce solutions remove the pain of shipping — from handling the mailings for you to providing easy-to-print shipping labels.
Customer support. Have a question or want assistance with your online store? Make sure whatever shopping cart solution you decide on offers the level of support you need.
Ready to get started?
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