The best shopping cart software offer a seamless online retail experience for customers, allowing them to easily order and pay for products directly from your website.
Shopping cart software is therefore essential when it comes to selling online, and is often effectively a short-hand term for an ecommerce platform (opens in new tab). However, there are a number of key choices you can make - set it all up yourself, or pay for a ready-made solution. This guide will include both.
If you want to set your own shopping cart software up, you'll need ecommerce web hosting (opens in new tab) to be able to cater for your shopping website, and ensure you add a credit card processing (opens in new tab) option to take payments online. This isn't necessary as difficult as it sounds if you already have some experience with working with websites and servers online.
However, many people will almost certainly prefer an off-the-shelf solution in which everything is already provided. The positive, of course, is that everything is already set up for you to use. The trade-off of course is that this will almost certainly cost you more in the long-run than if you managed your own site.
Even still, ready-made solutions are a good way to try out ecommerce in the first place, without much financial outlay or risk.
We'll therefore feature some of the best shopping cart software out there to help make your decisions easier.
Shopify (opens in new tab) is a shopping cart solution originally developed in Canada. The initial company concept came from two young men looking to sell their snowboards online. Dissatisfied with the options on offer at the time, Shopify was born. The platform has widely been praised for being code free and indeed requires no knowledge of website coding whatsoever to setup and use.
Shopify accepts all major credit cards and provides a fast checkout procedure via its very own Shopify Pay or by Apple Pay. Should you have your own payment gateway Shopify works seamlessly with over 100 of the major players such as Sage Payments and PayPal. Shopify Payments costs 2.9% - 2.4%, depending on the plan chosen, with an additional transaction fee on top.
The software is currently available in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Ireland. Basic subscribers can upload any number of products but Shopify only allows two staff accounts for store management.
Read our full Shopify review (opens in new tab).
Shopaccino (opens in new tab) offers some of the most versatile shopping cart software available today. The range of payment methods available is very versatile and includes VISA, Mastercard, PayPal, COD (Cash on Delivery), and bank transfer. The excellent interface can also automatically calculate tax on transactions.
Shopaccino has an integrated module for managing shipping, which allows you to set the areas where your store can deliver and manage postage costs. If your online shop offers free shipping, the module can implement this too. Customers can also create a virtual 'Wishlist' for products they may want in the future.
The store interface is simple and easy to use, allowing merchants to upload images and product information without any complications. There are even Android and iOS versions of the software to allow you to manage products on the fly. Shopaccino also offers online support.
The software is free to try for 14 days, after which you will need to subscribe to one of their paid plans. These vary according to the amount of resources and number of users you require, and which range of features you require.
Ecwid (opens in new tab) promises to be the easy to add shopping cart solution that’s “as simple as adding a YouTube video.” It is designed to be added to a variety of platforms, including WordPress, Weebly, Instagram and Facebook sites. It’s quite popular with over 1.5 million sellers in 175 countries.
Ecwid supports over 50 languages, and interfaces with in excess of 40 payment gateways. This solution offers a high level of security, and the company boasts that it’s: “A PCI DSS validated Level 1 Service Provider which is the gold standard for e-commerce solutions worldwide.” Powered by Amazon Web Services, it’s also designed to be optimized for mobile platforms, including smartphones.
Notably, Ecwid offers a free tier that can host up to 10 products, which is ideal to get started and test the e-commerce waters. It also offers multiple paid tiers which can add access to the Facebook Shop, provide advanced SEO tools (opens in new tab), sell digital goods, and offer a mobile point-of-sale.
Read our full Ecwid review (opens in new tab).
Magento (opens in new tab) is a free and open source (opens in new tab) software solution for managing all aspects of virtual shopping carts. It's currently used in some shape or form by nearly a quarter million merchants including big name companies like Nike, Cisco Systems and Ford. Magento was originally developed in 2007 and the platform is now owned by Adobe.
The benefit of being open source is that Magento supports a huge number of features and can be customized to your individual store's needs. The software supports accepting manual payment solutions such as checks and money orders out of the box. It's also pre-configured to work with a number of major payment gateways such as PayPal, SagePay and Authorize.net.
Unlike the other solutions reviewed so far Magento can be hosted on your organizations own server meaning you're no longer dependent on a third party for shopping cart solutions. This does mean however that you are responsible for keeping your server secure for instance by registering and installing SSL Certificates.
However, Magento is not easy to set up, install, and customize even if you you're competent with HTML and CSS, as the template system is very user-unfriendly and requires advanced developer skills to generally customize the shopping cart platform. Therefore although Magento may seem like a cheap option initially, expect to have to hire one or more web developers to manage your Magento platform.
Woocommerce (opens in new tab) is a free shopping cart plugin for Wordpress, to allow you to install a fully-functioning ecommerce site to any Wordpress install.
Set up is simply a matter of installing the plugin directly through Wordpress, but although you'll be able to set up products and shipping rates, along with shopping categories and most basic features, you will also need to install additional addons to provide full functionality. Many of these are available directly through the Woocommerce website, though others may be sold on third-party websites.
There are a wide range of addons available, not least including payment processors such as Paypal, Sagepay, and Stripe, as well as a large selection of others for adding different levels of functionality to your shop. This can include everything from inventory management to stock control. A number of integrations are also available, such as for Mailchimp for email marketing and Xero for accounting.
Although addons tend to have a cost associated with them, that in itself isn't too bad as most addons tend to be relatively cheap, measured in tens of dollars rather than hundreds of dollars. Some have a one-cost price, but others have annual renewal fees to maintain support and upgrades, but again this is minimal.
All in all this makes Woocommerce not simply very easy to set up and administrate, but also very cheap to set up, which makes it one of the best contenders for those looking to ease themselves into starting an online retail business, whether for physical products or even digital ones.
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