E-Commerce Software for SMBs: Why Your Shopping Cart Matters

Your company's Web shopping cart can have a big effect on whether or not customers actually buy from your site. Here's how to find an online shopping cart that's right for your business.
"Free" shopping cart tools (Google Checkout, PayPal) aren't really free: carts are often "bundled" with a gateway processing system, so you'll still pay a per-transaction charge (usually a percentage of the transaction amount plus a dollar amount). Most gateway processors and merchant accounts charge these fees, as well: a per-transaction cost structure is pretty standard when it comes to e-commerce retailing.

You can also choose a "free" open source cart if you have some programming knowledge. Of course, if you don't have the expertise to program the cart yourself, you'll need to rely on a Web designer to do it for you.

Technical Support
Once you've narrowed down your options on the type of cart that's right for your business, it's important to compare technical support options from various vendors. Support usually isn't free: vendors that advertise free support usually provide limited access in the form of a Web form or a limited-hour hotline. Double check to make sure.

For paid support, some vendors charge on a per-occurrence basis, while others request a flat fee for yearly access to help desk representatives. Paying for support via a contract agreement adds to the cost but may help ensure that someone will always be available to answer your questions when needed.

How To Get Started
You can use a cart comparison service like, or even compare features and options on a site like Wikipedia. Check out which carts your competitors are using, chances are your customers have made purchases from them and are familiar and comfortable with the software they use.

Make sure you choose a cart that is compatible with your Web host and your gateway processor. Most popular shopping cart brands (X-Cart, Zen Cart, etc.) are compatible with the most common gateway processors (Authorize.Net, WorldPay) and others are compatible with most carts. Some carts make you pay an "add on" fee if the gateway you use isn't supported.

Finally, compare costs realistically, taking into account per-transaction fees, web designer costs, tech support, and other expenses, such as outsourcing cart management functions.

And don't necessarily choose the cheapest. The goal is to make sure shoppers actually buy on your site, not just to contain costs. But don't worry, there's a shopping cart solution that fits within every need and budget, do your research and find the best one for your business.

Resource Nation provides how-to purchasing guides, tips for selecting business service providers, and a free quote-comparison service that allows business owners to compare price and service offerings in over 100 categories from credit card processing to Point-of-Sale (POS) systems.

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