Online Shopping Carts
Whether you are a fan or not, it is undeniable that online shopping carts, and e-commerce in general, has revolutionized the way we do business. It used to be that setting up an online store or business was tedious and difficult. It was something left to people who read huge, boring technical manuals for fun—the same guys who are first to have the latest technology on the street and are just as likely to still have an old Betamax machine lying around somewhere.
All of that has changed, though. More and more people have gotten online. Putting a website online can be done in less than an hour versus the days and weeks it once took. Online retailers are now able to accept credit cards online where once, they might get an email and then call someone to provide credit card information over the phone or wait for a check to be mailed from consumer to retailer. That was then. This is now. There are a lot of options when you’re out there trying to launch your own website, and wanting to have an online shopping cart only adds more options rather than narrows it down.
Free Online Shopping Carts
There are a number of free online shopping carts out there that you might consider using for your online business. Most of these are what they call open source. Open source is huge these days. Open source essentially means that the code that the shopping cart is built on and that makes it work is accessible by everyone and therefore able to be modified by anyone with the proper skill, experience, and knowledge.
One of the excellent aspects of open source websites or open source shopping carts is what are called plugins or add-on. These are additional pieces of software that enhance the capabilities of the online store. There are literally thousands of free plugins or add-on for the various free online shopping carts. There are also many premium plugins—ones that cost a relatively small fee for adding a great new tool to your e-commerce store arsenal.
With open source, people can (and do) continually work toward enhancing the capabilities of shopping carts. There is an undeniable power of having so many people around the world working on bettering a tool you can use to enhance your business. The downside is, not all plugins work well together, and there may be some tweaks that will need to be done to get them to work well with your free online shopping cart or other add-ons. There is also little support for open source. Your web developer will be responsible for supporting the software. If they get stuck, however, there are forums and wikis all over the web with like-minded individuals ready to help. We are also happy to answer a quick question when we can, even if you are not currently a client.
Premium Online Shopping Carts
Where open source shopping carts are readily available, premium online shopping carts may be more appealing to larger businesses. These options can be costly. Rather than a free piece of software and free updates, premium shopping carts typically cost several thousand dollars upfront or even several hundreds of dollars a month.
Unlike open source, premium shopping carts do not have various plugins and add-on for you to find and download. Typically, everything is included. If you need something more, you have a few options. You can choose a different online shopping cart, of course. Otherwise, you may need to speak with the shopping cart company and purchase additional functionality. There are times when the functionality simply does not exist, but the online shopping cart provider will custom code a solution just for your business.
Support for premium online shopping carts does vary. Some are stellar whereas others are lacking. In particular, if you are purchasing a premium shopping cart solution through a web hosting company, be sure to verify who supports the online shopping cart software and if there is an additional cost for this before entering into any sort of agreement.