The best shopping cart software makes it simple and easy for businesses to take customer orders online.
Shopping cart software is therefore essential when it comes to ecommerce websites, and is often effectively a short-hand term for an e-commerce platform (our review of best ecommerce platforms is here). 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, highlighting some of the best shopping cart software out there, will include both, as well as comparing the additional factors that you may not have considered.
For example, if you want to set your own shopping cart software up, you'll need e-commerce web hosting to be able to cater for your shopping website, and ensure you add a credit card processing 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 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 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.
Read our reviews on the best ecommerce web hosting and best credit card processing service.
The best shopping cart software of 2023 in full:
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Widely acknowledged as among the best shopping cart software on the market, Shopify 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 set up and use.
Shopify accepts all major credit cards and provides a fast checkout procedure via its very own Shopify Pay or 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.
Shopaccino 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 number of resources and number of users you require, and which range of features you require.
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Ecwid 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.
Another reason Ecwid features on this list of best shopping cart software is that it notably 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, sell digital goods, and offer a mobile point-of-sale.
Read our full Ecwid review.
Magento is a free and open-source 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 organization's 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'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.
Read our review of the best small business servers and best open-source software
Woocommerce 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 is 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 Mailchimp for email marketing and Xero for accounting.
Although add-ons tend to have a cost associated with them, that in itself isn't too bad as most add-ons 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.
Read our full Woocommerce review.
Also check out the best web hosting services.
What is shopping cart software?
If your website offers any sort of product or service in exchange for money, it's very likely that you're going to need in-built e-commerce functionality that allows you to accept payments online.
Shopping cart software - like those featured in this list - essentially allows website visitors to select the products or services they want from a digital storefront.
These products are then accumulated in one easy-to-access area typically known as the shopping cart, before a customer pays for the items in during checkout. It is here that users will be able to securely input their personal details, delivery address (if required), and payment information.
The more sophisticated shopping cart software will also be able to automatically tally-up additional fees such as delivery costs and taxes, or implement discount codes or coupons.
How to choose the best shopping cart software for you
The first thing to consider when weighing up your options on the best shopping cart software, is the platform your website uses. Some of the shopping cart software listed above are only compatible with certain platforms. WooCommerce, for example, can only be used with WordPress websites.
Once you've narrowed down the shopping cart software available to you based on platform, the next thing to consider is what features you'll want your shopping cart to have. Will you need it to be able to automatically calculate delivery charges or taxes? Will you need software that can manage recurring subscriptions? Will you need software that works with a specific payment gateway (e.g. PayPal or Stripe?).
Getting these answers will give you a very specific idea of the sort of shopping cart software required for your site, before considering the final conundrum. Cost. Do you have budget to spend a one-off fee for sophisticated software? Would you rather use software that takes a percentage of transactions? Or are you on the lookout for low-cost or free options? Fortunately, we cover all of the options in our list above.
The best shopping cart software: How we test
In our list of the best shopping cart software we've narrowed down a vast choice of options down to what we believe are the top five. We've done this by road testing the software in several key areas.
For shopping cart software to be effective, it needs to work with as wide a range of payment methods as possible, from major credit card suppliers to mainstream online processors like PayPal and Stripe. We've noted where this is the case.
Given the global world we now live in, software that will work in a wide range of countries has also been prioritised on this list, including features related to calculating shipping costs and taxes.
And while much of the focus has been on the customer experience, it's of course important that shopping cart software is also easy-to-use and intuitive for the website owner, which is another factor we've taken into consideration. We've also listed where try-before-you-buy schemes are offered by the software providers.
Read more on how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar.