A good shopping cart software is the foundation of any successful e-commerce store; hence you should take some time to decide which solution is right for your site. And while these types of software used to simply provide a virtual shopping cart that your customers could put products into, these days they evolved to become comprehensive tools for managing every aspect of your online sales. A good shopping cart solution will provide you with tools for customer management, inventory control, and shipping and tax calculation.
Some carts come with affiliate program management, SEO and social media marketing options. Decide what exactly you want your shopping cart software to provide before you start looking around for the best solution. To help you choose, below is a comparison of some of the most popular shopping cart programs out there.
Self-Hosted vs Managed
First thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want to go with a self-hosted or hosted solution. Self-hosting is a great option as it gives you a lot of flexibility and full control over what you do with your shopping cart, most of which come as open-source software packages.
Self-Hosted Shopping Carts
First, let’s review shopping carts you have to install and manage yourself.
If you have the right skills, you can customize it any way you like, and all you have to pay in most cases is a one-time fee, plus what you normally pay to host your site. Hosted solutions have their own advantages – you don’t need to be knowledgeable in PHP or another language that the software was written in, and customer support is usually available any time you need it. You do have to pay a price, though, in most cases as a monthly fee and sometimes as a share of your sales. The cost can rise at any time and switching to a new cart if that happens could be a headache. These types of shopping carts are better for beginners, while more advanced users are better off with self-hosted options.
If you have the right technical skills, Magento is a great shopping cart solution packed with e-commerce and marketing options. It has a wide range of solutions for different business sizes and needs. You can go with a full-featured Enterprise Edition for $15,550 a year, providing hundreds of extensions, tailor-built back-end and a network of developers to support you every step of the way. The Community Edition is a free alternative, which provides open-source software for tech-savvy users who can handle the cart on their own or rely on a community support when help is needed. And lastly, Magento Go is a hosted option of this popular shopping cart, and has several plans ranging from $15 to $125 a month.
OpenCart is another open-source shopping cart software package loaded with features, but it’s somewhat easier to use than Magento and doesn’t involve such a steep learning curve. It can be a great option for mid-level users or beginners who are ready to transition from a hosted cart to something more customizable and flexible. The software has a clean interface and a good amount of features. It was built to be very light, ensuring fast loading times for your online store. While the cart itself is free to download, you will need to budget for extensions if you want added functionality. Most of these come at a cost and provide a lot of additional features you might want for your e-commerce site.
Similarly to OpenCart, PrestaShop is an open-source, free shopping cart solution, but a multitude of its templates and modules come at a price. Still, for a small to mid-size online store, the software provides a good amount of features out of the box, and you might not need to spend all that much to add things on. PrestaShop comes with a wide range of inventory management tools, as well as features for customer management, loyalty programs, newsletters, special offers and more.
Hosted / Managed Shopping Carts
Of course, if you don’t want the trouble of managing a shopping cart yourself, which is understandable there are quite a few options you can choose from:
Shopify is one of the most widely used hosted shopping cart solutions out there, and for a good reason. Its clean design and ease of use add to the cart’s popularity, and so do the great help and support options. Shopify provides powerful inventory control and security features, and ability to access and edit your admin panel from a mobile browser. The software charges users a monthly fee, ranging from $29 to $179, as well as a per-transaction price for credit card payments.
Volusion is a hosted shopping cart solution known for its strong fraud protection and security features. It also provides great customer support, lots of useful out-of-the-box features and user-friendly interface. The software is highly customizable, has multiple inventory options, bulk product editing ability and various marketing features. Volusion’s pricing is reasonable compared to a lot of its competitors. The cost partially depends on the amount of products you want to list, with $15 a month for 100 items and $195 a month for an unlimited amount.
6 Shopping Cart Elite
Shopping Cart Elite promises its users to automate their entire e-commerce process in 30 days. The software comes with a variety of options such as cross-platform marketing, SEO tools and analytics reports. The cart comes with a single master e-commerce site template and different customization options for it, to ensure users of any level are off to a quick start. Shopping Cart Elite has a range of tools, including customer relationship and financial information management, as well as features for managing inventory and returns. The cost is higher compared to other hosted solutions, ranging from $299 to $899 a month. Subscription to the service also requires an annual commitment, so it’s best to take advantage of the cart’s free 15-day trial and make 100% sure that the software meets your needs before you commit to it.
Bigcommerce comes with powerful SEO features, as well as marketing and promotional tools that will help drive traffic to your online store. This hosted shopping cart software also has great inventory control features, customization options and analytics reporting. It costs from $25 per month to be able to list 100 products and up to $300 a month for unlimited product listings and storage.