Now that you’ve decided to start an online business, one of the first things you’ll need is a shopping cart program to process your orders. There are several available options that can make your life as an e-business owner much easier.
Shopping cart applications fall in to two basic categories: “local” carts that you install on your own Web servers, and third-party carts that run on a provider’s site. Both varieties are normally very easy to customize and use.
If you decide to install your own cart, you will have many different software packages from which to choose. Three of the most popular are Miva Merchant, OSCommerce, and Agoracart.
Miva Merchant is a shopping cart that many Web hosting companies include with their hosting packages. If your host doesn’t offer it, you’ll need to pay a licensing fee before you install the cart. Miva offers a variety of different options for small businesses, and their application is very user-friendly.
OSCommerce is a free, open source shopping cart program that boasts many features and a strong development community. It’s easy to install and customize, and, because it’s open source, support and improvements abound.
Agoracart is a simple, free, bare-bones cart technology. If you don’t need a lot of features, this is a great package to install on your site.
If you’d rather not install your own shopping cart, there are many third-party options available. When you set up a third-party shopping cart, all you need to do is place a link on your site for your visitors to enter your store. This link then takes them to your offsite shopping cart.
Microsoft’s Office Live Small Business has one of the most popular third-party shopping carts. For about $25 a month, you can build an online store with up to 10,000 products. Yahoo! offers a similarly robust third-party shopping cart program for about $40 per month.
Can’t decide which cart is best for your business? Try installing the free carts mentioned above, or take advantage of free trial offers from third-party providers. Give each one a test drive until you find the one that works the best for your company and your customers.
While you make your decision, keep in mind that third-party services usually charge a monthly fee, so you could be spending much more than you would if you installed your own cart on your site. With so many competing shopping carts available, your options are virtually endless.