Q&A: I’m setting up an online store. What shopping cart software should I choose?
The explosive growth of eCommerce is making business ownership a reality for even more aspiring entrepreneurs, which means I get a lot of questions about what’s the best shopping cart software for you to set up your online store with.
I know many of you use sites like Etsy and Artfire to sell your products, but opening your own store with its own shopping cart will help you get the most out of your online business by letting you control how your customers shop.
To help you make the choice that’s best for you, here is my take on choosing the right shopping cart software:
1. Shopping cart plugins for WordPress or other CMS
If you want to set up your site in WordPress, using a shopping cart plugin in (a lot of which are free) might seem like the best way to go. Here are some pros and cons:
Pro: For the non-tech savvy, WordPress and other CMS (Content Management Systems) make starting your own online store easier (and more affordable) than ever. The WordPress interface is easy to navigate and a range of customizable shopping cart software plug-ins make getting your first sale a breeze.
Con: There are a LOT of WordPress plug-in out there in the world, and you may have to try (and buy) a few before you find the one that works for you. For the best results, choose only WordPress approved plug-ins like WooCommerce or Cart66 and read users reviews thoroughly to decrease your chances of buying a clunker.
2. Hosted Shopping carts
A hosted shopping cart is one where you pay a monthly fee to host and run your online store.
Pro: Big Commerce, Volusion and Shopify are three of the most popular hosted shopping carts on the market. The biggest pro of using a hosted cart is that it keeps your entire store in one place, from invoicing to shipping, and all of the programing work is done for you. You also have access to their customer service, which is like having an IT person on staff should something go wrong.
Con: Those who have more than basic programing skills may find the templates available on hosted shopping carts a bit limited, which make them better for those who are unfamiliar with web programing. If you want to customize your shopping cart, you’ll most likely have to hire a programmer/designer to do it for you. And the monthly fee can increase if traffic to your site increases, too.
3. Self-hosted shopping carts
Pro: Using a self-hosting shopping cart, like Zencart, offers the most control and flexibility for those with programing skills. Because you’re uploading your cart to your webhost, you don’t need to worry about price increases or the host company making changes that will effect the look and feel of your cart. And you don’t have to pay any monthly fees for your shopping cart.
Con: The learning curve can be a little steep for those without any programing skills, so you’ll have to rely on your programmer or web designer to keep your cart up to date with any enhancements or security updates, which can be very costly.
My bottom-line recommendation
If you’re serious about having a successful online store, I recommend going with a hosted shopping cart like BigCommerce or Shopify. While WordPress is great and I use it to run LaunchGrowJoy.com, it was built as a blogging tool, not as an e-commerce tool. Yes, there are a lot of e-commerce plugins available, but I know many entrepreneurs who have had to switch from WordPress because there were too many issues with the e-commerce plugins.
On the other hand, hosted shopping carts were built specifically for e-commerce, so all the features you could possibly want (like zooming in on a picture, tracking shipped orders, offering gift cards, or selling your products wholesale) make it easy for you to run your online store. And your store is automatically upgraded if there are any security issues or if there are any new features available (like a Pin It button, for example). And having a dedicated customer service line available to help you if you have any issues is a lot more reliable (and quicker) than always reaching out to your programmer or web designer.
Which shopping cart software option do you use? Tell us which and why in the comments section.