Over the last couple of decades, eCommerce has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, millions of people shop online, and many of them prefer it over visiting brick-and-mortar locations to purchase the products they want. Business owners everywhere are looking for the fastest way to get involved and start selling their own products online. You may be one of them!
Even if you already have a website, there's no reason you have to start over to build an online store. You can create a store using an eCommerce platform and connect it to your existing website. Let's get into the details of shopping cart software and how to choose the best.
Shopping cart software is a type of software that allows customers to shop on a website, creating a list of products they want to buy by adding them to the virtual cart. The customer can view the online shopping cart to see what products have been added to it, and can choose to add more products or remove them.
When the customer is finished shopping, the shopping cart software provides a secure means of paying for the products in a virtual checkout. The owner of the eCommerce website is then informed of the purchase so they can start fulfilling the order through packing and shipping the items.
There are three general types of shopping cart software. They're differentiated by the ways they're added to a website, how they're distributed, and by who takes charge of updating the software.
Open-source software is released with an open license that allows any developer to access and edit the source code. An open source shopping cart has both benefits and drawbacks. Usually, the software is free, and with its source code available to developers everywhere, addons, bug fixes, and modified versions are often readily available.
However, since an open source shopping cart is not controlled by any one person or company, you may struggle to find help with it. A centralized customer support line may not exist, and if it does, they may only be able to offer support for an unmodified version of the software, or they may be unfamiliar with the specific customizations you use. In addition, you'll be responsible for obtaining the software and installing it onto a web server, which will need to meet the software's system requirements. You'll also need to perform updates yourself by uploading the new version of the software onto the server.
Licensed software is much more straightforward than open source. It's developed by a single company and available for your purchase and use. All development on the software is done by the company that created it, although they may provide a method for independent developers to create addons or plugins for it (through an API: application programming interface). Usually, there's a one-time fee for use of the software, although some use a monthly or annual model. Some software licenses also don't cover updates beyond a certain time limit, so you may need to pay again to get a new version. Tech support also may not be included in the license, or may expire after a set time.
Licensed shopping cart software needs to be installed and maintained the same way as open-source: by uploading it to a web server that meets the software requirements and that is PCI compliant. You will also need to upload new versions yourself.
A hosted eCommerce platform, also know as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution, combines both shopping cart software and web hosting. Instead of needing to find your own web server that meets the requirements of the software, the whole package is provided as a service. This eliminates the need to download software and install it yourself. In addition, updates and maintenance are performed by the developers. Hosted eCommerce platforms also provide a web-based interface for you to manage your store, rather than requiring you to download software, so you can run your business directly from a web browser.
Hosted shopping cart software is generally the most hassle-free way of getting an eCommerce shopping cart for your website. Most charge a monthly fee which varies depending on the plan you sign up for, with more expensive plans providing more built-in features and other advantages. Many hosted eCommerce platforms offer a free trial, while others offer a free plan. However, remember you can't sell products from a free trial store, so it's only for learning to use the software. Platforms that offer a free plan are also usually extremely limited, preventing you from adding more than a few products or otherwise inadequate for growing your business. Shift4Shop is the only eCommerce platform with a full-featured free plan for an online store of any size.
There are two main components of shopping cart software, both of which are made up of smaller parts that work together for the final result.
The storefront is the eCommerce website accessible to customers. It includes product pages, category navigation, and checkout pages in which the customer can enter their payment information to complete the purchase. It may also contain additional pages such as the "About Us" page with company information, a Contact page with related information and a contact form, Store Policy pages including shipping, return, and privacy policies, and more.
The storefront's appearance can usually be altered by design themes or templates, which are often available from a variety of sources. Most eCommerce software has a theme store where merchants can choose from a selection of free and premium (paid) templates, and third-party designers often create their own templates for sale as well.
The administration area is the part of the shopping cart software used for store management and order processing. Other names for this part of the software include the dashboard, the backend, and the control panel. Administration can either be web-based, in which the store owner logs into a website for access, or desktop-based, in which the merchant must use software downloaded onto a computer to make changes which are then sent to the online storefront.
What you find in the store administration strongly depends on the eCommerce software you use. At the very least, you'll have product and category management in which you add products, edit their information and images, and assign them to categories. All shopping cart software also includes a list of recent orders and their status (such as "new," "shipped," and "complete"). The best shopping cart software also provides you with analytics and other information, tools for customizing your store and marketing to customers, and more.
With eCommerce becoming a multibillion-dollar industry, there's no shortage of shopping cart software these days — but Shift4Shop stands out from the competition. Shift4Shop has been developed with over 20 years of experience and industry knowledge that has successfully identified and included all the most-needed features of a powerful website shopping cart. Today, Shift4Shop is the most feature-rich, scalable, and overall most powerful shopping cart solution for any size business.
Where other carts skim off the top of your profits by charging a percentage fee for every transaction, Shift4Shop does not leverage fees on top of those normally charged by your payment processor.
Shift4Shop hosts its merchants' online stores on fast, powerful servers and sets no limits on space. You can create all the pages you need and upload as many images as your products require.
Traffic limits and overage charges are a thing of the past. Shift4Shop provides unlimited bandwidth so your online store can handle any number of visitors at any time.
Search engine optimization is crucial for your website's success. Cutting-edge SEO features have been built into every part of the Shift4Shop software so you can optimize every page within minutes.
Whether you run a small shop or a huge outlet, sell as many products as you desire with no limits. Plus, unlimited categories and subcategories let you organize your online store exactly as you need.
Send newsletters, abandoned cart emails, and more right from your Shift4Shop Online Store Manager, and create all the promotions and coupons you need. Plus, Daily Deals, wish lists, gift registries, and more.
Connect your Shift4Shop store to Facebook, Amazon, eBay, eBay Motors, Houzz, and more to reach millions of potential customers right where they prefer to shop — and manage it all from your Shift4Shop dashboard.
All the information you need is at your fingertips, including robust statistics and reporting on sales, customers, and more. Plus, full Google Analytics support further rounds out your data.
Shift4Shop is the easiest platform to start accepting payments right away. Right out of the box, your online store is ready for robust and complete credit card processing at competitive rates.
Automatically calculate shipping right in your customer's cart so they're never surprised at checkout. Shift4Shop also calculates tax for anywhere in the world with a quick, customizable setup.
Want to use your favorite marketing, CRM, shipping, tax, or other software instead of our built-in tools? No problem! Shift4Shop integrates with hundreds of services like MailChimp, Avalara, ShipStation, and more.
Shift4Shop is fully PCI DSS compliant, meaning our security standards exceed the high requirements mandated for eCommerce. Your online store is fully protected from hacks and data theft from day one.
No matter what time or day of the year, Shift4Shop support is always available through live chat, email, or phone. Plus, our support is never outsourced — you will be helped by experts in our home office.
Explore all the features Shift4Shop has to offer — for free. Build your online store and grow your business with hundreds of advanced tools that would cost you over $299 per month (or more) on other platforms.
To choose the right shopping cart for your business, compare your needs to the features offered by the shopping cart software. Also investigate how easy the software is to use, because features are no good if you can't use them!
Build a complete website with Shift4Shop, or easily use it with your current website or platform.
You can use Shift4Shop with any website by creating a subdomain and connecting it to your Shift4Shop storefront. Choose a theme that matches your branding, or customize one yourself or with the help of a Shift4Shop expert. Add a navigation link on your main website that leads to your Shift4Shop store, and add a link to your store menu to take visitors back to your main page. It's that simple!
WordPress site owners often use a plugin like WooCommerce for their online stores, but before long its limitations become clear. You can add Shift4Shop to a WordPress site with the same method as listed above. Since WordPress themes have a built-in menu, often in a sidebar or header, add a link to your store in WordPress by creating a new menu item with a custom URL.
Shift4Shop connects with your Google Merchant Center with an automated feed that enables you to create complete product listings in Google Shopping. These include product images, star ratings, pricing, brand, and more. You can also create AdWords PPC ads using the same product data, which will appear alongside search results. Shift4Shop also makes full use of Google Customer Reviews which displays an aggregated star rating on your storefront based on customer feedback. Shoppers can also pay with the information they have saved in their Google Account through our integration with Google Pay, preventing them from needing to enter their information on your website.
Shift4Shop's Amazon integration makes it possible for you to sell on the Amazon Marketplace while managing orders and inventory in your Shift4Shop dashboard, even if you don't sell the same products directly from your own site. Seamless integration with Fulfillment by Amazon means you can ship your products to an Amazon Fulfillment Center for picking, packing, and shipping, which also qualifies your products for Amazon Prime and gives you a better shot at winning the Amazon Buy Box. You can also accept payment via Amazon Pay, which allows customers to use the saved information from their Amazon accounts to complete their purchases.
Shift4Shop's native Square integration means you can accept all types of payments Square processes, including all major debit and credit cards, both online through Square Pay and in person with Square Register. Using Square and Shift4Shop together means all your sales, online or offline, will be tracked in the same place, ensuring your inventory remains consistent. Shift4Shop is fully compatible with Square's POS software so you can use the same system for online and face-to-face transactions.