Think of the last time you were at your local grocery store. You pick up the shopping basket. You stroll the aisles. New product promotion, Members Only. You read the product label and you put a couple into your basket. The store clerk helps you find pancetta. You take your basket to the checkout cashier. She calculates the total, takes your money, packs your groceries, and before letting you go, gives you a "come again" with a smile.
Depending on the sophistication of your shopping cart software, it will do all these for your online store.
A shopping cart:
- lets you build a website with interactive features, such as "buy now", "search" and "checkout"
- remembers which products your customer wants to purchase, and helps you calculate total costs, including shipping and tax, etc.
- helps you keep track of your inventory and generate sales reports
- helps you create marketing strategies, such as discounts and promotions
- helps you manage your customers and orders, including newsletters and order confirmation
A shopping cart typically consists of two components:
- Storefront - This is the area of your online store accessed by your visitors. This includes your product pages, categories, checkout and other pages (ie. bestseller, search)
- Administration - This is the area where you mange your online store. Here, you will be able to add and edit your products, categories, manage orders and customers, set discounts, shipping and payment settings, and more, depending on the sophistication of the shopping cart
Choosing the right shopping cart is very important. Here are some of the things you should look for:
- Easy to browse and navigate
- Presents product information in a way that is clean and useful
- A Members area where existing customers can update their information and view previous orders
- Special pages where customers can easily find products that are on sale, featured products, recommend products, etc.
- The Admin Area should include easy-to-use tools and functions to:
- setup storefront appearance
- create and manage product categories and products
- set shipping, payment, currency, tax settings
- manage orders and customers efficiently and effectively
There are many shopping cart software available, including the PayPal Cart, the Zen Cart, and the Doteasy Commerce. Whichever cart you choose depends on how well it fits your needs, your budget, and your experience with scripts and databases. Stay tuned as we will be examining a couple of the shopping cart systems later.
*Note: A common misconception is that the shopping cart handles the entire selling process, including the payment process. The shopping cart does not take care of the payment transactions.
We will look at how payment is processed in the next part.