Shopping Cart Software: What to Look For
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Finding the Right Shopping Cart Solutions for your E-commerce Store

Whether you are a small business selling handmade produce or a multi-million dollar corporation shipping to customers around the world, the underlying concept behind your E-Commerce site is the same: To create a transaction experience that easy, convenient and safe for everyone involved. It’s accessible and it brings your product to your market wherever they are, letting them pay in multiple ways, and helping you make sales.

For that to happen, you need shopping cart software on your website that is reliable, simple to use, and accessible to the vast majority of consumers (through their payment institutions and the software they are connecting with).

Regardless of whether you are buying software or choosing free shopping cart software, these are the three main features you should focus on when making a choice: Security, Design, and Compatibility.

Shopping Cart Software Security

Ensuring that the software which handles your customer’s money is secure is of paramount importance. You have to make sure that the shopping cart software provider you decide on has a spotless track record, is well established and preferably has plenty of great reviews.

Shoppers will not make a purchase if they don’t feel safe. They are more likely to cancel the entire checkout process than take a chance with a shopping cart that doesn’t look secure to them. However, if they feel like their credit card details are safe with you, and they have a good experience the first time, they will be more likely to become return customers.

You have an obligation to protect your customers.

What are you protecting against? Hackers want the sensitive authentication data from your client’s credit cards so that they can impersonate them, steal their money, and in some cases even their identities. It’s easy to see how a poorly protected shopping cart would be the perfect place for hackers to get everything they need, from your credit card details to the delivery address provided.

“But my company is small, do I really need to worry about hackers?” Well, yes. You do.

According to the entrepreneur, 80 percent of card data compromises investigated by Visa affect merchants that process fewer than 20,000 transactions a year. That means small business enterprises are at the highest risk of being hacked. So don’t think that you can upscale your security when you get big. You need to be safe from day one.

 shopping cart security

If the worst happens and your accounts are hacked, or someone’s credit card information is somehow leaked through your website, it could put you out of business, or worse.

A single hack could destroy your company’s reputation. You will quickly find yourself dealing with angry customers, bad publicity, and potentially fines and law suits.

You will also get you into a lot of trouble with the credit card companies, who could bar you from ever receiving a credit card payment again!

What to look for in Shopping Cart Security:

Look for a shopping cart solution that doesn’t store your customers credit card information anywhere.

They should provide defenses against hacking and encryption of sensitive data.

The shopping cart you choose should boast a locked down security system.

Look for a shopping Cart provider who takes legal responsibility for your customer’s data, as well as yours!

It’s a good idea to retain a third party credit card processor, so that you never have to take responsibility for sensitive data. Usually this entails the customer being temporarily redirected away from your website to make the payment.


The next thing to bear in mind when choosing a shopping cart provider is compatibility. The customers who buy from your online store use different banks and different payment options. Your shopping cart has to be compatible with a vast variety of payment gateways. Imagine losing sales because your customers have no way of paying you. It’s essential to make sure that the software you choose works with any gateway.

Your customers also connect with your online store from all kinds of different devices. Your shopping cart software needs to be versatile enough to be used from a MAC, a PC, a table or even a phone. In the US alone there are 125 million Smart Phone users. According to statistics published by OuterBox, 62% of these users make purchases from their phones. That’s 77.5 million people making purchases from their phones in the US alone. So it’s easy to see the value in a shopping cart software that’s synonymous with mobile UX.

The point of e-stores is that they are accessible any time and anywhere. Make sure that your shopping cart logo can be clicked and used from any kind of device.

Shopping Cart Design & Features

Once you have your safety and compatibility under control, it’s time to look at design and features. These are the little aspects of your shopping cart that make it unique, user friendly and personalised to your specific business needs. There are hundreds of different options and modifications which either improve the purchase experience for your customers, or make life easier for the merchant, or both. Below is a list of basic design features that any good cart software should offer. What you choose over and above these is up you and your business.

Seven Essential Shopping Cart features for your e-commerce Site:

Search Feature

This may sound like something that should be automatically included in any website, and yet this is not always the case. Make sure that the software you launch your product with allows customers to search for what they want, easily. The search feature should be easy to find and use.

Functional Product Images

This could be the only opportunity you have to present a visual representation of your product to the customer. No matter how great your product is, if the image quality is poor it’s going to make your product look tacky.

The image also needs to be functional. Depending on what your product is, the customer should be able to zoom in on the product, and view it from different angles.

Real-time Inventory

It’s very frustrating to go through the entire process of finding what you want, placing an order and trying to checkout, only to discover that the item is out of stock. A good feature to include is a real time inventory that lets customers know what’s really in stock and how long it will take to ship to them.

Product Reviews

Your shopping cart software should either provide support for product reviews or offer an easy way to implement third party product reviews. According to a survey conducted in 2009 by the Nielsen Company, 70% of e-commerce shoppers refer to the product reviews posted online by other consumers before making the decision to purchase, making product reviews an important feature for your e-commerce site.

Layered and Faceted Navigation

When it comes to closing the sales funnel through e-commerce UX is everything. Shoppers should be able to find their way around the site easily and quickly. Layered and faceted navigation allows you to divide products into rational sub-categories and product filters. These filters could include price, colour, or other attributes. This should be a fairly automated feature, the site administrator should be able to set up the filter parameters and the shopping cart software should do the rest.

Wish List / Gift Registry

Shoppers are often buying gifts for others, or “window shopping”. By allowing them to save items they like in a wish list or registry you are making the shopping process easier for them and anyone who wants to buy something for them. They can then share their wish list with their friends and family. To create a wish list the customer must register on your site with their e-mail address. This gives you the opportunity to re-market to them, and even alert them when items on their wish list are on sale. Lastly it allows them to come back and find items that they want easily when they are ready to make a purchase.

Single Page Checkout

The final checkout is the last step of your customer’s purchasing journey, and also the place where most would-be buyers abandon their shopping carts and leave without ever closing the purchase. That’s why it’s fitally important that you make this part of the shopping experience pleasant, easy and user orientated. If your customer has to go through multiple pages and too many fields to checkout, you are going to lose them.

Instead try to get put pf their way and make this part of the process as painless as possible. If they must go through multiple steps to check out make sure that those steps are clearly marked in the navigation so that they know exactly how much further they still have to go.

Final Thoughts on Choosing a Shopping Cart

It’s important to note that many shopping cart software providers also provide you with web hosting for your e-commerce site. For smaller start-ups this is an important thing to factor into the cost of set-up and transaction fees. It’s also a good idea to check out whether your software allows for both novice and advanced administration options, especially if you will be managing the site yourself.

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