Five-finger approach to ecommerce shopping carts

Raise that right hand (or left, whatever you use for writing, typing, or well, anything!) as we count down to the things you should look for in an ecommerce shopping cart using only the 5 fingers of your right/left hand!

But first...

What's a shopping cart?

Just like in your local grocery stores, an ecommerce shopping cart allows shoppers to choose browse and decide what items to buy from your online store.

As a merchant, why would you need a shopping cart? If you've done some shopping yourself, you'd know the importance of a shopping cart so you can carefully choose and weigh what products you'll buy. It also helps instead of lugging all those items in just one hand eh?

Should it be online/hosted or should you buy a license for a shopping cart software? Merchants are torn between the two and if you don't have one yet, you have two options: get a shopping cart software and integrate it with the web server and start tinkering with it, or get a hosted shopping cart where merchants with no prior programming experience can easily set up their online stores. Cost is minimal as compared to the financial benefits you can get from acquiring a shopping cart. You can get a license for a software or pay monthly dues to your shopping cart host.

What should you look for in a shopping cart? Start raising those fingers...

  • Cross selling function
Leverage impulse buying. If you have a certain product, say a shampoo to thicken hair, then it is inevitable that the shopper might be looking for a.. conditioner, or a brush. Cross selling allows you to offer other products to complement the current product selected. Cross selling function also works well with recommendations from other shoppers, most bought item, related items, etc. You can also offer discounts to customers when complementary items are bought as well as special coupons and other promotional possibilities to enhance customer loyalty.

  • Payment Gateway Integration
Payment gateways manage the transfer of credit card details/information of your customers from your website/shopping cart, securely, in real time. Your shopping cart should be compatible with most payment gateways, and integration should be a breeze. This also goes for your merchant account - not all merchant accounts work with your chosen shopping cart and this will pose as a problem. Ask your provider what payment gateways and merchant accounts they work with and if they provide 3 in 1 services (payment gateway, merchant account and shopping cart).
  • Inventory/Product Management
Every merchant should know when a particular stock is no longer available long before IT IS out of stock - if not, you might end up with irate customers who are waiting.. waiting ... waiting for deliveries. Undelivered products, destroyed customer relationships.

  • Tax Calculations/Shipping tracking
Your shopping cart should calculate the total amount for each customer including tax and shipping charges. If you're shipping actual physical products, look for a shopping cart affiliated with major shipping companies like UPS or FEDEX, and provides merchants with tracking functions to properly document where the product is and if delivery has been made.

  • Security Functions
This is a no brainer. If you're selling online(or you have a physical store), security is important. For online merchants, your shopping cart should have security features aside from the ones your merchant account & payment gateway have installed, in order to protect all data coming in and out of your website. Fraud is prevalent on the Internet - don't be a victim(as well as your customers). SSL (secure socket layer) is imperative.

These should be the basic components of your shopping cart. Don't just rely on them of course, there are still a lot of functions you might like added on your shopping cart. One, two, three, four and five - count all these functions with your fingers and include them in your wish list when browsing for a shopping cart.

And that's the five finger approach to shopping carts!

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