“The selection will make a huge difference on the amount of business, customer retention, and follow-through on the order process,” says David O’Leary, chief executive of Efficion Consulting, a web design and development company.
As e-commerce has evolved over the years, so has the software, also commonly referred to as “e-commerce solutions.” Now, there are thousands of solutions that address everything from basic checkout to complex operations, such as discount codes, product reviews, or managing catalog databases. And the costs are just as wide-ranging: some are thousands of dollars and some are…free.
There are three types of ecommerce shopping carts.
Software as a Service
Web-based shopping carts are full-service e-commerce solutions that business owners pay for on a monthly basis. Also called hosting shopping carts, they include everything a person needs to start an online store.
“Hosted shopping cart solutions are perfect for small business owners who are not technical,” says Aliza Risdahl, author of Streetwise eCommerce. Plus, since it’s pay-as-you-use, it alleviates the burden of high starting capital.
“The limitations are you have lack of control and how much you can customize it,” says O’Leary.
For those who want more customization or would rather not pay a monthly fee, there are loads of software with different features to choose from. Businesses pay once to purchase the program (and in some cases, there’s no charge at all) and it’s theirs to use and bend to their needs.
But this comes at a cost—even the ones that are free, cautions software engineer Julio Ramirez of Computol, which specializes in developing IT solutions for small businesses. Most of these solutions require a lot of technical knowledge to install and integrate with the existing web site.
“For a small business owner, it’s easier to pay $50 a month and a transaction fee than to pay $1000 [to hire someone to set the program up], which can be crippling,” says Risdahl.
Built to Order
If you want full customization, you can have one built from scratch, but Efficion’s O’Leary thinks merchants should only do this if there’s something unique about their site that none of the thousands of options can’t address.
When evaluating different solutions, Risdahl recommends these four considerations: cost, how flexible it is with branding, its ability to grow with your business, and ease of use for the business and the customer.
- Aliza Risdahl, author of Streetwise eCommerce
- Julio Ramirez, Computol, Inc.
- David O’Leary, Efficion Consulting