E-commerce is not just about an online cash register where a customer clicks, “Add to Cart” and that’s it. Online stores are undergoing a shift as “social commerce” starts to take hold and loyal customers have a chance to promote your brand and store. Your customers and prospects expect an easy-to-use shopping experience. These seven web-based applications offer a diverse set of tools and components to make your online store a success.
For this roundup, I chose only paid carts, no free offerings. There are a plethora of good, free, open source shopping carts out there, but this review is meant for the busy retailer or startup that needs a fast and simple option to set up a robust store that can scale. Open source scales, but is not always user-friendly for the non-tech business owner.
Of course, you can also keep it super simple and use Google Checkout, Paypal, or Amazon Checkout, too. All good solutions. These seven are strong contenders and market leaders.
BigCommerce is one of the leading e-commerce software solutions focused on the small business market. The software makes it easy to sell on eBay, Facebook, as well as from your iPhone or e-mail services like MailChimp. One of the things I like best about the company is its problem-solving approach. Right above the fold on the homepage is a box that reads: How Can We Help You. That proves their customer service philosophy of making it as easy as possible for the business owner.
Adobe Business Catalyst is targeted at website designers; however, it is very user-friendly for small business owners to build their own site. Its claim to fame is integrating content management (CMS), e-mail marketing, CRM database, e-commerce, and analytics in one platform. The others on this list do much of the same, but if you’re familiar with Dreamweaver and other website building tools, Adobe offers an elegant way to build an entire site and an entire online business with one tool.
3D Cart is a well-known and established brand in the e-commerce shopping cart space. They offer one of the lowest cost packages for the small store owner just starting out (if you have less than 50 products). They also offer lots of free training webinar type events. In addition to all the standard ecommerce bells and whistles, they have a special department that can help you design a customized storefront and premium templates for the user who doesn’t need full custom work.
Shopify has been around for a while, but they made a big splash last year when Tim Ferriss (of Four Hour Workweek fame) got involved and offered a $100,000 makeover type contest. They have very elegant storefronts with user-friendly tools so you can customize from scratch or buy a premium template. As a software-as-a-service platform (web-based), they promise to do just about everything except handle the money and ship your product.
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Miva Merchant is a powerful shopping cart with 300,000+ licenses sold since 1997 (right on their website), which tells you about their longevity. Did you even know there were online stores in 1997? From point and click design, to inventory management, to savvy SEO (search engine optimization) tools, Miva Merchant scales from small business to enterprises. I liked that they had a real-time shipping rate function. They also have a wholesale and retail option so you can sell to each audience, if that’s part of your business.
Volusion is probably the 800-pound gorilla, as the saying goes, in the e-commerce space. The company has been voted as one of the top places to work, which gives you an idea of how enthusiastic its employees are. The company understands that mobile commerce is huge and showcases that right on its homepage in addition to social commerce options.
Yahoo! Merchant Solutions (aka Yahoo! Stores) is a well-loved brand in the online shopping cart world. Many small business owners start and thrive with an online store based on Yahoo! Probably one of the standout features is the tie-in to Yahoo! Shopping network, which potentially gets your storefront noticed by more prospects. You don’t only find small businesses running on Yahoo’s platform, but bigger “small” companies like Simple Human and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. This division of Yahoo hase a strong developer channel, too, as I discovered Exclusive Concepts has built over 700 Yahoo! Stores and testifies to Yahoo’s reach.
As e-commerce continues to change and adapt to the new social landscape of always-on, hyper-connected customers and prospects, one of these carts should help you increase traffic and revenues. Most offer some sort of help for those switching from one platform to another, too. Share your favorite e-commerce platform in the comments.