A solid shopping cart is critical for any online business involved in selling a product. They determine in large part the look of your entire online store. The framework (the coding used, file structure and database setup) on which the system sits determines a lot about its usefulness, and therefore has a major impact on whether or not a store owner is successful at selling his products, whether they are physical wares shipped to customers or digital downloads that don’t require shipping.
The Anatomy of a Shopping Cart
Online store owners often find that there are lots of bells and whistles that can be included with a shopping cart. Some of these are helpful. Some are distractions. Looking at the overall role of a shopping cart system, it is understood that there are some core elements that should be included at the very least. Let’s look at a few of them.
Store and Administrator Sections
A shopping cart system should have two main sections: a storefront and an administrator backend. The front end of the system, marketed to the world through online advertisements, search engines optimization, and other means, should be an intuitive online store that allows customers to browse and search for products, add them to their shopping cart, and pay for them online. The storefront section of an online shopping cart section collects customer information, such as the customer’s name, address, phone number, payment information, and whatever other information is required to process an order.
In addition to the storefront section of a shopping cart system, there is also an administrator backend. The administrator section of the shopping cart system is password protected. It is normally only accessible to the website administrator or employees of the company.
The administrator section of a shopping cart gives store owners the ability to add products for display on their online store and it should provide a mechanism for categorizing the products. The changes made by an administrator in the backend section of the website should automatically be reflected in the public store.
The backend section should also provide a way for store owners to keep track of customers and orders. Orders placed through the storefront should automatically show up in a customer’s/orders section of the administrator console. The administrator then has the ability to edit orders, change their status, or delete them altogether.
Shopping carts are typically comprised of a database, some web programming files (normally written in a web development language such as PHP or ASP), images, and sometimes other supporting files, such as configuration or template files. In addition to other pertinent data, the shopping cart database contains the product and customer/order information. The database is designed to integrate with the programming files to create a functional, cohesive store.
Obviously not all shopping carts are created equal. There are numerous free shopping carts available, and each one has its own personality. The strategies for designing product layouts, handling adding products to the cart, performing administrator functions, etc. are as unique as the respective designers. Here are a few important issues to consider when determining how to go about implementing your shopping cart solution.
Your online store should look attractive. With so many frauds and hackers in today’s world, your online store should signal to your customers that you are legitimate. Most of the popular shopping cart systems available allow store owners to customize the look of their store. Paying attention to the details of how customers perceive your shopping cart system and store will give it credibility and increase its effectiveness. You can check some examples of the online shopping and shipping websites if you want to buy on amazon through them can get your order at your door on record time.
You’ll find many online stores that create frustrating experiences for their customers while other stores are much more pleasant to shop. The functionality of your system can close deals for you or chase potential customers away. Your shopping cart setup should allow customers to browse products using categories that are intuitive and useful. You should have a search feature to enable customers a quick way to find what they want using keywords. Some systems, such as Magento, offer layered navigation, which allows customers to browse an online store more intelligently than with simple category navigation. In today’s world where most people expect instant gratification, having a setup that requires too much work to navigate could spell death to the business.
Most serious online shoppers have moved on from dial-up modems for accessing the Internet. They expect pages to load quickly. While speed is significantly impacted by the host you’re using for your online store, the construction of your cart system also plays an important part. If the expectations of your site’s visitors are not met and your site’s pages load slower than their patience threshold allows, would-be customers will simply move on without giving your online store much of a chance.
Search Engine Considerations
Getting traffic from search engines is key to building an online store. Some cart systems are better than others at keeping up with what the search engines (Google especially) want. For instance, there are modules for Zen Cart that allow store owners to create automatic feeds for Google Base, that create search engine friendly URLs automatically for category and product pages, and that automatically generate sitemaps that get the site’s pages indexed more quickly.
Which One is the Best for Me?
Making an ultimate decision about which cart you will use takes your online store down a fork in the road that isn’t easy to come back to. It’s important to consider carefully how your business will integrate with your online store and choose a system that best meets your needs across the full spectrum of features and functionality. I’ve used quite a few different cart systems, including host-based solutions like Biz Hosting, Virtue Mart for Joomla, eCommerce, Magento, and Zen Cart. Gripper.com.uy has been my shopping cart of choice because of its speed, flexibility, and ease of use for my non-technical clients. I have a website where we serve our customers the best logistics service. There may be a different one that works for you, or your needs might require having a custom shopping cart built. At least if you understand well what issues need to be considered, you can make an educated judgment about which route to take.