In simple terms, shopping cart software is a software package that runs on the back-end of your website, but provides both front-end and back-end functionality.
On the back-end, shopping cart software enables you to track orders, update orders (such as inputting shipping information), contact customers, and maintain accurate logs of inventory.
More advanced features of shopping cart software will allow you to create coupons, free shipping offers, and other special promotions. And on the front-end, shopping cart software will, to put it quite simply, make your website look nice.
Shopping carts provide categories, tags, labels, pictures, descriptions, and other information and search filters that make it easy for even the most novice of internet users to browse or search your website for the products they’re interested in.
Today’s ecommerce shopping cart packages can accept just about any form of electronic payment, including all major credit cards, electronic checks, gift cards issued from that particular online store front, and even PayPal and Google Checkout.
Most carts offer merchants the option to tweak prices for sales, holiday promotions, end-of-season clearances, and other promotional periods, but you’ll want to check to be sure.
Additionally, if issuing coupons, free shipping, and other offers is of an interest to you, you’ll want to make sure that the cart software you have your eye on can also provide you with these features.
Today’s options for shopping carts are fairly extensive, with a wide variety of price ranges and features. Generally, you’ll want to look for cart software that offers the following:
- acceptance of all major credit cards; acceptance of online payment methods such as PayPal and Google Checkout if you would like to offer these additional options
- generation, acceptance, and automatic calculation and price adjustment for sales and coupons
- stock management
- customer account creation and management (learn more here about why customers should be able to create their own accounts for order management)
Finally, you’ll need to decide if you’ll be hosting your cart software on your own server, or if you’ll purchase licensed cart software that is hosted elsewhere. Both offer advantages and disadvantages; consider your server’s capabilities and your own needs and preferences when deciding which option to choose.
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