How to Choose an Online Shopping Cart

This guest post was brought to you by Stitch Labs, an online application for simple inventory management, order fulfillment, invoicing, expense reporting and business analytics.

If you’re looking for an online shopping cart, you’ve realized there are lots of options.

It’s easy to get lost in search results for software and applications built for businesses much different than your own. Even anecdotal recommendations can miss the mark as you face your own unique mix of needs and preferences.

So, to better aid you in your search, let’s focus on seven questions you should be asking to make the best decision for your business:

1) Do you want to host your own software?

All shopping cart applications can be divided into two basic categories:

●     Licensed software is downloaded and hosted on the seller’s web server.

○     Pros: Expect to pay a one-time fee; may allow for greater customization.

○     Cons: You are required to install and maintain; updates may require purchase of new version.

●     Hosted applications are web-based and the software is hosted by the company that provides the application. You may seem them called “cloud-based applications.”

○     Pros: Application is maintained and updated for you; can be accessed by any machine connected to the Web without installation.

○     Cons: Expect to pay a subscription-based fee, sometimes in addition to a small fee per transaction; customization may be limited.

The biggest strength of hosted applications over licensed software is that updates are part of the package you’re already paying for and you don’t have to worry about the techie side that comes with hosting yourself. This can be a big time saver, allowing you to focus on your business and avoid wearing the IT hat too often.

While a hosted application may require a monthly subscription, it’s worth comparing this regular cost to the hourly rate of a web professional would require to make updates to a licensed option. However, If you know your way around hosting and web design, you may find more freedom to customize your shopping cart and reduce cost with a licensed option.

2) How much is it going to cost?

Much of your cost will depend on whether you go with licensed software or a hosted application.

For hosted applications, the subscription price tends to rise with details like the number of products you display, data storage size, and special features. For example, Shopify adds additional functionality, like a discount code engine, to all packages above Basic.

Transaction fees may also be part of the service and can vary by percentage points based on the the tier of your subscription package.

3) How easy is it to use?

A good shopping cart application will have a clear design that both your customers and you understand.

Purchase shouldn’t be an irritating process for your customers. If it is, your cart abandonment rate will be unnecessarily high. Does the software require an excessive degree of information or account creation before a customer can make it through the purchase process? If so, you might want to look elsewhere to decrease cart abandonment.

Ease of use should also extend to the seller side of the application. The shopping cart should have a clear design that doesn’t leave you wondering how to go about adding products and making final purchases. Is adding products and updating descriptions a straightforward process? Look for shopping cart applications that take pride in their backend design and make it easy for you.

4) How secure is it?

Security is a foundational component to shopping cart software. It should be a given, but any application that raises red flags when it comes to the security of customer information should be a deal breaker in your search.

Bonus Points: Look for accountability features that let you control permissions among staff and track staff actions.

5) Does it offer reliable support?

Reliable technical support is an important concern as you run into the sometimes inevitable list of questions, quirks, and errors bound to arise with any application setup.

Take time to look at the support page during your search to see if the application knowledge base is thorough and if there’s quick turnaround time on questions submitted by users.

Bonus Points: Look for an application with an active user community that helps each other on support questions.

6) Does it track and organize your data?

It’s important to know how people move through your shopping cart experience, when they abandon their purchases, and when they return to buy later.

Any good contemporary shopping cart should provide this insight with tangible data to help you make data-driven decisions about optimizing the experience for your users to increase sales.

Bonus Points: Look for shopping carts that visualize this data and make it exportable so you can do more creative number crunching yourself.

7) Can it grow with you?

You may find a shopping cart that fits your current needs, but what happens if your product catalogue grows or your sales dramatically increase?

Look for a shopping cart that has clear costs and outlines for upgrading your package. Some options look good at the basic level, but jump in cost with just mild growth. Also, added transaction fees should go down with growth, not up.

In addition to this, look for a shopping cart that offers integration with other small business applications that you may use. Shipping, point of sale, and inventory management applications can integrate with your online shopping cart and streamline your business when they all work together well.


Your business is unique and a one-size-fits-all solution may miss the mark when it comes to your particular needs. Evaluate each option step-by-step with the criteria here and the best shopping cart options will rise to the top.

Using the right online shopping cart is crucial to an ecommerce business. Check out these tips to select the best one. tweet this
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