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Choosing an Ecommerce Shopping Cart
By: Danna Henderson, Wed Aug 2nd, 2006
Choosing an online shopping cart is a big decision. Unlike a
traditional brick and mortar business, your website is your only
chance to impress potential customers. It needs to project a
professional image to capture the trust of your visitors. The
shopping cart is a particularly important part of your website
because it deals with peopleís personal information and credit
card numbers. People are nervous about online purchases and need
to be assured that they are giving their credit card numbers to
a reputable company.
There are several types of ecommerce shopping carts available.
They range from merchant services, which require no programming
skills, to fully integrated shopping carts that require custom
programming. The three main categories of shopping carts are:
Merchant services such as eBay and 2Checkout
Hosted shopping cart services
Fully integrated shopping carts
Most shopping carts require you to have your own merchant
account and gateway. A merchant account is a bank account that
allows a business to conduct credit card transactions and the
gateway allows the transaction to be conducted over a secure
connection. Itís okay if you donít have a merchant account or
gateway. Merchant service shopping carts allow you to use their
merchant account, gateway and shopping cart for a higher cost.
Merchant services are beneficial for very small businesses or
those that are just starting and donít have a lot of orders.
Merchant services provide the merchant account, gateway, hosted
shopping cart and will maintain your customerís personal
information. They usually require a set-up fee between 50 and
200 dollars, transaction fee between 30 and 75 cents, and 5% to
10% of each transaction. Because you are using their merchant
account, your customerís credit card statement will show the
merchant services business name not yours. In some cases,
customers will not recognize the charge and may dispute it.
Merchant service shopping carts have an administrative
interface, which allows you to login to your account to add
products, prices and shipping options. The shopping cart
generates the html for the purchase buttons and you simply copy
and paste the html into your web pages. When your customer
clicks on the purchase button, he is taken to another website to
enter the credit card information. This indicates to the
customer that you are a small business. Some potential customers
will abandon the shopping cart rather than enter their credit
card information on a website they know nothing about.
Once your business grows to the point where you are processing
over $1000 a month, itís more cost effective to apply for your
own merchant account and switch to either a hosted shopping cart
(little or no programming) or a fully integrated shopping cart
Hosted Shopping Cart
The hosted shopping cart is a great solution for a small
business that is processing over $1000 a month but does not have
the resources to create or customize a fully integrated shopping
cart. Hosted shopping carts are similar to the merchant services
because they provide an administrative interface for you to
enter products, pricing and shipping options. They will generate
the html for the purchase buttons, which can be copied and
pasted into your html pages.
Hosted shopping carts face some of same problems as merchant
service carts because your customers will be transferred to a
different website to enter the credit card information. Some
hosted shopping carts allow you to customize the shopping cart
so that it has the same look and feel as your websites.
Customizing your shopping cart may require some programming
skills, but it could also prevent customers from abandoning
their shopping carts.
The main difference between the merchant services shopping cart
and the hosted shopping cart is the name that appears on the
customerís credit card and pricing. Hosted shopping carts allow
you to use your own merchant account and gateway, which means
the customerís credit card statement will show your business
name next to the charge. This can decrease your charge backs.
If you are using your own merchant account and conducting over
$1000 of transitions each month, the hosted shopping carts can
be less expensive than merchant services. Your merchant account
will probably charge a monthly fee between 20 and 60 dollars,
transaction fee between 10 and 50 cents, and a percentage of the
transaction, usually ranging between 2% to 3.5%. In addition to
the merchant fees, your shopping cart service will also charge a
monthly fee between 10 and 30 dollars and could charge a
transaction fee. These fees sound more expensive than the
merchant service option, but if you are processing over $1000 a
month and growing, itís better to pay flat monthly fees than
continue to be charged 5 to 10 percent of the each transaction.
Fully Integrated Shopping Carts
The fully integrated shopping cart is a great option for any
business that can afford it. The shopping cart will be dynamic
and will have the same look and feel as your website. The ZIP
Baby Potty Training Store is a great example of a fully
integrated shopping cart. Fully integrated shopping carts like
this contain features that are not found in merchant service or
hosted shopping carts. For example, you can discount items,
display customer reviews, assign products to multiple
categories, display out of stock notifications, sort products
and prices, and display shipping estimates without requiring the
customer to create an account.
Integrated shopping carts require advanced programming skills
and can often be used with your own merchant account or with a
service that allows you to use their merchant account for a
higher fee. There are many integrated shopping carts available.
Free carts require the most programming skills, but if you donít
have the programming skills necessary to customize a free
shopping cart, there are many companies that specialize in
customizing fully integrated shopping carts.
Your choice of a shopping cart can have a dramatic impact on
your business. Your website is the first and only impression you
get to make so youíll want to make it as professional as
possible. While shopping for a shopping cart system, put
yourself in your target customerís shoes and browse the
Internet. Review your competitorís websites as well as those
outside your industry. Make a list of shopping carts that you
find appealing and research them thoroughly before choosing one.
Copyright 2004 Danna Henderson. All Rights Reserved.
About the author:
Danna Henderson started ZIP Baby in order to provide parents
with comprehensive potty training information and a large
selection of potty training products. For more information visit
Stop Potty Shop.