With the advent of the Web 2.0, the online marketplace has become a highly competitive advanced industry. The days of simple websites that bring money in with very little effort are gone. Instead, with the various types of web applications available, the online business world has been transformed into a massive collection of visually aesthetic ecommerce websites that lure the customer into making purchases with feature-packed, user-friendly interfaces. Out of all of the features included on a successful ecommerce website, one seems to demand the most consideration; the shopping cart.
The shopping cart is perhaps the most important feature on your ecommerce website, as it will be the last thing your customers interact with before making a purchase. Your profits solely depend on a reliable and convenient shopping cart. Many people do not realize that all shopping carts are not the same, and there are certain attributes that one should look for when selecting the perfect shopping cart for their online store. The shopping cart you choose is a decision that can either make or break your online business. In many instances, the difference between a successful e-commerce store and a failure is not the actual products or services, but how the products and services are sold. To keep you from falling on the unfavorable side of things, we have provided some important features to look for in your shopping cart application.
Customer Feedback and Reviews
Generally speaking, people are more apt to purchase a product if they are able to read and look over user reviews from your past customers.
It is important to remember that above all “word of mouth” is still your best selling tool, even with an online business. If customers can become confident that others have found your product and services satisfactory then they will feel more at ease shopping with you. This is why having a shopping cart feature that allows users; not only to read previous reviews but to leave their own is so important. In addition, user reviews are often indexed giving your site an even higher probability of receiving traffic.
Remember! Real, genuine customer reviews make a great way to encourage more sales. These reviews are like having a peer recommend your store to potential customers. Think of it as a way of allowing your customers to market for you. A good shopping cart equipped with this feature should either support a review system from within, or allow you to connect to a third-party tool such as PowerReviews or similar.
Sharing and Recommendations
Any potential customer visiting your website should have the ability to share product details via email or in other ways. Let’s say a teen is interested in one of your products and wants to let their mom or dad know they really want this particular item as a birthday gift. To make this a seamless process, your store should provide the teen with any easy way to send notification to their parents without having to cut and paste the details.
A good shopping cart application will include a sharing feature, typically as a part of wish list system that calls for the customer to complete some type of registration in order to use it.
The most important attribute your shopping cart can have is convenience. If the shopping cart is not easy to use, then you’ll undoubtedly lose a large portion of your customer base to frustration and disappointment. The ultimate shopping cart will accommodate the customers needs without asking too much of them.
The main reason why your customers shop online is to avoid the hassle of going to the store. Therefore the entire online shopping experience relies upon convenience. Since the item obviously takes longer to get to the customer, the only thing that’s keeping them form going to the store is either price or convenience. Even if you have the lowest price, an inconvenient shopping experience will almost always drive the customer to the nearest competitor.
To ensure your shopping cart is easy-to-use try using it a couple of times yourself. Make sure the shopping cart does not require too much info before checkout. You want the process to be as seamless and simple as possible.
Perks and Discounts
Shopping online for most people is a method of purchasing things at the best price possible. There are a wealth of websites on the internet that are specifically designed for the purpose of providing customers with discounts and coupons of a variety of services and products. If you are promoting a product that is featured on other sites then it is imperative that your shopping cart come equipped with a bot that enables coupon and promotion input to be utilized.
If people come to your site and are unable to use their coupons then there is a very good chance they will go somewhere else that will allow them to. Remember, as an online business owner you are facing a lot of competition. When you run an online business you are competing with thousands of other vendors that sell the same product as you. Make sure that your shopping cart can keep up.
It doesn’t matter what you sell, it is almost guaranteed that your customers are looking for a deal. The best way to attract this type of audience is with coupons. Numerous reports show that customers are increasingly on the hunt for online coupons, so a shopping cart that supports coupon codes will likely do you some good. Without this feature, you are doing nothing but limiting your potential.
Ability to Up-sell
Anyone who has had even a small amount of experience in the retail or food service industry will already understand the importance of up-selling. When you up-sell you are offering customers something more than what they came for by enticing them to do so. For instance, if a customer comes to your website to purchase a .com domain name then a good up-sell would be additional domain extensions or optional WHOIS Privacy.
When the customer has reaches the check out point then everything the customer has chosen will be totaled up neatly and payment will be quick and easy. This feature is vital to providing your customers with the service they need but will also help to increase your sales.
The shopping cart you choose should offer cross-selling functionality as an either a semi or fully automated process. The best e-commerce platforms have systems that associate products and dynamically place related items on the corresponding product and checkout pages.
Your customers must be able to rely upon your shopping cart, therefore it is important that you give each shopping cart a test run before activating it on your website. A single glitch could result in the loss of a sale, or even worse, the loss of a long term customer. One way to ensure the reliability of your shopping cart, is to make sure it does not rest itself automatically. There is nothing more frustrating than filling your shopping cart with goods only to have it all erased before checkout.
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The Importance of SEO
Search engine optimization is absolutely vital to your online business. If people cannot find you then they are not going to shop with you, it is that simple. This is why it is so important to be sure that your site is rich in high quality content with the right keyword density. But it is equally important to be certain that your shopping cart includes a feature that will enable it to automatically generate URLs that use the right keywords in order to index your site properly and bring you to the top of the list when it comes to searches. If you have good SEO with your site and your shopping cart is designed to automate this process then your chances of achieving success are far greater.
As an online business owner, SEO (search engine optimization) should be one of your top priorities. While most site owners have a part in creating intriguing content, they often have less impact on the design and search engine indexing. If this sounds like your situation, then choosing an SEO-friendly shopping cart is essential. Signs of a good cart with these qualities is one that automatically produces keyword-rich URLs relative to your site or items.
Customer communication is perhaps one of the most important aspects of successfully running an online business. You’ll need to know what your customers are thinking to accommodate their needs properly. This means you’ll need a shopping cart that gives users the option to leave detailed feedback and contact customer support.
Communicating with your customers in return is just as important as receiving the message, so you’ll also want to have a shopping cart with an autoresponder and integrated support email client.
Open-Source Shopping Carts
The number of available shopping carts is tremendous and even better, some of the best software is of an open-source variety and totally free to use. While you can probably pay for something better, numerous users are doing just fine running their store with these free versions.
Here are some of the most common open-source shopping carts you may encounter on the market.
PrestaShop is a comprehensive, professional-grade shopping cart that is easy to use and setup. The software offers a fully featured back-end interface to maintain your inventory, orders, shipping options and customers in real-time. It is also highly customizable as you can incorporate your own modules. PrestaShop keeps security in mind but securely transmitting customer payments directly to your bank account.
Magento is a robust e-commerce solution that offers unparalleled flexibility and control. This software is so well designed and functional that you would never think it came from an open-source project. Unlike other shopping carts, this one gives you clean URLs and SEO-friendliness right out the box, bypassing the need to make additional configurations. Magento has a scalable architecture and seamless integrate with various third-party applications. Additionally, it gives you the benefit of both community and professional technical support.
CubeCart is one of the most popular shopping carts around. Although it is free to download and use, you are forced to leave the developer’s copyright notice in your footer. That disadvantage aside, CubeCart offers a plethora of features with support for most of the major gateways and shipping options. The software comes with decent support from an active community that regularly contribute plugins to the cart.
Written in the Perl programming language and driven by a MySQL database, Agora is another popular choice for open-source shopping carts. Very customizable, it features a built-in CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) manager that lets you control the look of the shopping cart as well as setup options ranging from a simple template-based storefront to more complex visual designs. Agora supports unlimited products, a wealth of shipping and payment options, up to four tax zones at once and much more.
Zen Cart is a user-friendly shopping cart that caters to beginners. This is one software that actually focuses on the shoppers and store owners opposed to developers. Zen Cart is easy to use and supports multiple shipping and payment options. It also allows you to easily provide discounts and coupons to your customers.
The wide variety of features in osCommerce enables you to set up an online store fairly quickly. It supports multiple currencies and also lets your customers print their invoices directly from the order screen. osCommerce gets the backing of a superb community who provide ongoing support and make contributions to the project.
All online businesses have one thing in common and that is the need for a reliable shopping cart to process all of the e-commerce transactions that come through. In many cases the type of product you are offering will not even be the main factor that determines whether or not people purchase from you. Instead, your marketing strategies and customer service will play a major role in obtaining new business. If your website is equipped with a shopping cart that is user friendly and efficient then your customers will be more inclined to shop with you again. On the other hand, if your shopping cart is not up to par or lacks simplicity then this could actually keep people from returning.