Small Business Resource Power Point Series Shopping Carts and Your Website
An important consideration When designing your website, shopping carts probably were not foremost in your mind. However, these pieces of software can make a big difference to your volume of sales. Why? Because an unsuitable cart will put customers off if it is slow to load, too long or complicated, or they cannot quickly find the merchandise or costing information they want.
Types of Shopping Cart There are basically three types of shopping cart you can use, these are: Commercially available shopping cart software A package – provided by an Application Service Provider DIY – Build your own cart
Commercially Available Software Like any other software package, this software is bought and licensed by you. Installation and hosting are also down to you. You will need to address any compatibility issues, such as ensuring the software works with your payment gateway and business account.
Application Service Provider Hosted on their server, the ASP offers you a full package as a paid for service, which means you do not have to worry about compatibility issues. However, these packages can be limiting if your business suddenly expands, and the level of customisation available to you could be restricted.
Bespoke Carts If you have a very large company, with frequently changing products and sufficient resources, you could consider a custom written shopping cart. For the more modest business however, this solution is rather over the top. So lets concentrate on the more realistic options!
What does a cart do? At the very least a shopping cart will: Keep a note of merchandise selected by the customer Add up the bill, including VAT and postage Add and delete products Adjust prices and special offers Take the customers name, address, and payment option
Customisation It is important that your shopping cart looks the same as the rest of your site, or your customers will become confused and your company image will suffer. Both APS and software offer wizards, templates, and ready made HTML pages you may alter to assist you in this. However, software is the better option if a great deal of customisation is needed.
Make it user-friendly Show product and price details before getting to the cart. Lead the customer through step by step – don’t assume any prior knowledge of on-line buying. Keep graphics to a minimum – they will slow down page loading, and so frustrate customers. Reassure the customer by keeping in touch, e-mail order confirmation, delivery times etc.
Security Before deciding on your ASP package or software, check out the security it provides for your customers. If a customer is to enter their credit card details into a cart, the cart needs to be on a secure server. A Payment Gateway however is always secure and details may be entered directly into this.
Freeware Carts At first glance a freeware cart looks like a very attractive option. However, who do you turn to when something goes wrong? Programmers are expensive and you may find yourself paying more to have your freeware cart fixed or adapted than it would have cost to buy. Also, with purchased software you will get regular upgrades and updates.
Shop Around Having thought about what your business needs from a shopping cart it’s time to have a look around and see what solution best fits your requirements. Here are some suggestions to get you started. www.miva.com www.sitemakers.co.uk www.quikstore.com www.actinic.co.uk www.securenetshop.com www.goemerchant.com
Payment Gateways You also need to be able to take payments from customers. There are many payment gateway providers. To find our more check our resources section.
In Conclusion Your shopping cart is your salesperson on the shop floor of the Internet. You must therefore ensure it is warm, welcoming, easily understood and accessible to your customers. Make your customers shopping experience an enjoyable one and they will return to you time and time again.
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