e-Commerce has become a key role in allowing independent merchants to sell their product or services online to a wide range of audiences and establish a customer base internationally. With the rising popularity of the internet, more and more people are now able to jump on the path of online entrepreneurship and dictate their own career path by becoming their own boss. e-Commerce has certainly come a long way since the days of e-Bay and now everyone has a chance to create their own online shop for either supplemental income or a full time career.
If you have an online store, you may need a shopping cart to run your business, keep track of your inventory and sales. Basically there are two different types of shopping carts, the hosted shopping cart, which is requires the least amount of effort to get started and the self hosted shopping cart, which allows more flexibility and control, but also requires a bit more work and effort to get started.
Hosted Shopping Cart
The advantage of having a hosted cart is that they are relatively easy to use and you don’t have to be a tech expert to start your online e-commerce business. As you can see from the list above, there are many different options available, so I’ll only go through a couple briefly.
For a new or experimental seller who is afraid to commit to a paid investment, I would recommend FreeWebStore or Ecwid for beginners who just want to test the waters without having to get soaked. Both these shopping carts offer a free service plan that allows you to post a limited amount of products before they start charging.
Hosted e-Commerce shopping cart for Wix – If you are using Wix as your web editor, then Eciwid is a good hosted cart solution because this is one of the main shopping carts that integrate with Wix. Wix is a free drag and drop web editor that allows the creation of a website without the user having to know HTML, CSS or any other web based language. Wix is extremely easy to use, but the HTML 5 templates are often “bubbly”, which can appear unprofessional in the relative sense of design, often times generic and unless user has an eye for “good” design, the drag and drop feature can make websites look sloppy if the user has no idea what they are doing. However, in the hands of an expert graphic designer (even one without coding experience), Wix is a great solution.
If you do not have a domain yet (you will want one eventually) – Outside of e-Bay, the best thing about a hosted shopping cart like FreeWebStore is that you do not need to purchase your own domain because the cart can run from a sub domain on FreeWebStore’s site. If you do decide to purchase your own domain or already have one, then you can attach FreeWebStore to your domain and your store will appear as www.yourdomain.com instead of www.freewebstore.org/yourstorename. The first option will allow you to use your specific domain name to peddle your goods, while the other option restricts you to having the customer hit FreeWebStore’s URL (since they are hosting your store) to access your products. While the second option works just a good as the first option in regards to SEO purposes, but it may be better for you to have your own unique domain name in order to establish a brand identity for your business, product or services.
Easy to use – For the intermediate or veteran merchant, and anyone who is not afraid to invest in a $25 or more a month, then I would recommend finding one that suits your business needs. For the most part, all of these shopping carts are pretty similar, but carts like Ecwid, Volusion and Big Commerce give you the ability to customize the look of the template with CSS (a good option if you are a developer or wish to hire a developer for something more custom).
Customer Service & Technical Support – Since these carts are charging you a monthly fee, you should expect to at least be ablet o contact a customer support representative via phone, chat or email. If not, then you should really consider a different option!
Factors out of your Control – Hosted e-commerce shopping carts are always run by a business, and like any business they certainly have the chance to go out of business unexpectedly, which is a possible disadvantage of having someone host your shopping cart (once the hosted shopping cart’s domain goes down, so does your store). Self-Hosted shopping carts also almost always require a monthly or annual fee (some people may see this as a problem).
Monthly Fee – People without e-commerce experience may also feel intimidated about paying a monthly fee and being locked into a contract, and if you’re one of those people who are wondering: “but what if I don’t make any sales?” well, the only answer I have for you is, the simple fact that business an entrepreneurship may not be for you, but don’t fret, there are also many free shopping carts out there, which are open source, but they are also self-hosted. But let’s be realistic about this, if you have no idea what you are doing or want a shortcut, then the fee is worth it. I mean, someone is hosting your business for you and they too are also a business, just like you, so you shouldn’t complain too much about having to pay a monthly fee because it’s more or less like paying rent on a brick and mortar location. Just my two cents, but I’m being entirely subjective here.
Self-Hosted e-Commerce Shopping Carts
- Open Cart (PHP)
- Magento (PHP – they have both a free and paid version)
- Coffee Cup Software (PHP)
- DreamlineStudio (Flash)
- Spree Commerce (Ruby)
- nopCommerce (ASP)
- CactuShop (ASP)
One Time Fee – The main advantage of using a self-hosted shopping cart is the fact that there is usually just a one-time fee (as opposed to a monthly fee for the hosted shopping carts), which may be better than paying a monthly fee for some people. The self-hosted shopping carts which cost a one-time fee may have some sort of technical support as well.
Open Source and Free – Self-Hosted Shopping Carts may be either open source or not (now keep in mind that just because they are “open source” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “free”, even though many open source carts are indeed free). Open source shopping carts allow for a lot of customization and are perfect for developers albeit, you do not have to be a developer to actually use one since they all come with a customizable template where you just need to swap out the existing dummy data and images for your real product images.
Requires Tech Skills – The main disadvantage of a Self Hosted Shopping cart is the fact that they require some technical skills in order to use them (not a whole lot, but at the very least you will need to understand how to upload files onto an FTP and have a basic understanding of directory paths work).
No Technical or Customer Support – For most free, open source shopping carts, you will also not be able to get direct technical support from the developers and will need to browse and post on community forums.
Do it Yourself – Self-Hosted carts also mean that most technical issues will have to be fixed by you. Some paid self-hosted shopping carts may offer some type of email support with the developer, but for the most part you will be relying on community support on the forums, so be prepared to do your own research!