How Creating an Online Business Works

E-commerce Tools: Shopping Cart Software

Shopping cart software allows website viewers to select their items, add shipping and credit card information and purchase.
Shopping cart software allows website viewers to select their items, add shipping and credit card information and purchase.
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Let's assume you now have a merchant account, or an alternate method of processing payments. Next up is creating a way your customers can select the products they want from your website, preview the sale amount, edit their selections and enter in payment and shipping info -- or cancel the order completely. (Hopefully they won't do the latter!) These functions come via shopping cart software. You want something good; the easier and more intuitive you make it for your shoppers, the more sales and repeat business you may have.

Most shopping cart programs offer features like inventory control, tax and shipping calculations, and social network marketing options. Quality shopping cart programs also offer professional templates with customization options so you can set up the ordering functions the way you want them, and/or design the ordering pages to have the same look and feel as the rest of your site. In addition, look for programs with these features [source: Top Ten Reviews]:

  • Bulk editing, if you have a large inventory
  • Built-in blogging capability (blogging is important for marketing, and for your site to be easily found by search engines)
  • Live chat for customers' questions
  • Customer reviews
  • Marketing tools such as promotional emails and abandoned-cart notices
  • Order management tools; look for programs that easily integrate with your accounting software
  • Comprehensive support for you, since everyone needs technical support at some point

Before you plunk down any money, test-drive a few programs by visiting sites that use them. Watch for products or services that take the shopper away from your site. And make sure you know which payment services a program is compatible with (e.g., To get started, check out 3dcart and Shopify, two programs that received positive reviews in 2015 [source: Top Ten Reviews].

If this seems all too complicated, there are companies out there that will not just create your website, but register your domain name(s) and even host your site if you'd like.

If you go this route, do your due diligence by checking out several vendors and asking about any hidden fees. Make sure to look at several of the sites the vendors have developed for other companies to see if you like what they've done. Go through an ordering process to see how it works, and assess its level of intuitiveness. Before you sign a contract, show your preferred vendor your list of site functions to make sure the company can accommodate your wants and needs.

Two vendors you can visit to get a sense of what's out there are Blue Fountain Media and Web Intellects.