What is a Shopping Cart?

In eCommerce, a shopping cart is a software system that handles the online purchase of goods or services. Other functions, such as the tracking of sales and customer activity within the online store, are also frequently included in shopping cart software. There is a wide variety of shopping cart software available today with a strong variance in complexity and included features. Some shopping carts include only the product page and checkout functionalities, while others provide a full website builder. The latter type simplifies creation of an entire business website, including pages outside the checkout structure, an attached blog, manufacturer and category pages, and more. These more-complete options are often referred to as shopping cart platforms or eCommerce platforms.

Types of Shopping Cart

In the world of eCommerce you’ll find several different types of shopping carts, and it helps to know the differences between them. They can be divided into two main categories:

  • Self-hosted shopping carts: These shopping carts come as a piece of software you must install onto a hosted web space you already control. Some self-hosted shopping carts are plugins meant to add shopping cart functionality to an existing website, while others are complete website builders with a shopping cart feature included. Self-hosted shopping carts place more responsibility on the online store owner, as they’ll need to seek out adequate hosting and perform software installations and updates themselves.
  • Hosted shopping carts: A hosted shopping cart is a type of SaaS (Software as a Service) platform in which all the technical considerations like web hosting are included in an all-in-one package. The shopping cart’s admin area is accessed through a web browser rather than a software installation. Hosted shopping carts often include built-in security and other features that will let you start selling faster. They’re also more stable, scalable, and accessible than most self-hosted carts.

Whether hosted or self-hosted, the number of features included in the shopping cart can vary widely.

How Online Shopping Carts Work

Shopping carts allow customers to make purchases through a website. The process is as follows:

  1. The customer locates a product on the website and clicks a button (usually labeled “Add to Cart”).
  2. The selected quantity of the chosen product is added to the customer’s shopping cart.
  3. The customer may choose to view their cart, in which they’ll see a list of items currently included in their imminent purchase. The customer should be able to add or remove items as they see fit.
  4. When the customer is ready, they’ll click “Check Out.”
  5. The customer will have a chance to review their purchase and decide whether they want to add or remove items before continuing.
  6. The customer will be presented with a form in which they must enter their payment and shipping information. This process can be simplified in several ways, such as through alternate payment methods or logging in to access saved information.
  7. The customer will choose from one or more shipping methods, any of which may reflect in the total price of their order.
  8. The customer will click the final “Complete Purchase” button.
  9. The customer’s payment information travels through an approval process and then returns an “accepted” or “declined” status to the online store, all within seconds. If the customer’s payment went through, the purchase is completed.
  10. The online store owner is notified of a new sale and must then fulfill the order. Meanwhile, the customer’s payment travels to the store owner’s bank account.

As you can see, shopping cart software provides a virtual version of a real shopping cart in a brick-and-mortar store. The customer fills the cart with items, checks out, and leaves. The technical details are handled in the background.

Choosing a Shopping Cart

As with any business decision, your choice of shopping cart software needs to balance cost-effectiveness, your business’s needs, and other factors including your expected return on investment (ROI) whether that investment is time or money. The most convenient type of shopping cart by far is the hosted shopping cart (SaaS) solution like 3dcart.

3dcart is a complete eCommerce website builder with an integrated shopping cart and hundreds of features and integrations suitable for any size of business. Your entire online store can be customized to your liking and you’ll be able to support an unlimited number of customers. If you want to build an online store quickly with minimal hassle, try 3dcart’s free 15-day trial today.


See Also:

Brick-and-Mortar Location


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