an online shopping cart is a big decision. Unlike a traditional
brick and mortar business, your website is your only chance to impress
potential customers. It needs to project a professional image to
capture the trust of your visitors. The shopping cart is a particularly
important part of your website because it deals with peoples
personal information and credit card numbers. People are nervous
about online purchases and need to be assured that they are giving
their credit card numbers to a reputable company.
There are several types of ecommerce shopping carts available. They
range from merchant services, which require no programming skills,
to fully integrated shopping carts that require custom programming.
The three main categories of shopping carts are:
* Merchant services such as eBay and 2Checkout
* Hosted shopping cart services
* Fully integrated shopping carts
Most shopping carts require you to have your own merchant account
and gateway. A merchant account is a bank account that allows a
business to conduct credit card transactions and the gateway allows
the transaction to be conducted over a secure connection. Its
okay if you dont have a merchant account or gateway. Merchant
service shopping carts allow you to use their merchant account,
gateway and shopping cart for a higher cost.
Merchant services are beneficial for very small businesses or those
that are just starting and dont have a lot of orders. Merchant
services provide the merchant account, gateway, hosted shopping
cart and will maintain your customers personal information.
They usually require a set-up fee between 50 and 200 dollars, transaction
fee between 30 and 75 cents, and 5% to 10% of each transaction.
Because you are using their merchant account, your customers
credit card statement will show the merchant services business name
not yours. In some cases, customers will not recognize the charge
and may dispute it.
Merchant service shopping carts have an administrative interface,
which allows you to login to your account to add products, prices
and shipping options. The shopping cart generates the html for the
purchase buttons and you simply copy and paste the html into your
web pages. When your customer clicks on the purchase button, he
is taken to another website to enter the credit card information.
This indicates to the customer that you are a small business. Some
potential customers will abandon the shopping cart rather than enter
their credit card information on a website they know nothing about.
Once your business grows to the point where you are processing over
$1000 a month, its more cost effective to apply for your own
merchant account and switch to either a hosted shopping cart (little
or no programming) or a fully integrated shopping cart (programming
Hosted Shopping Cart
The hosted shopping cart is a great solution for a small business
that is processing over $1000 a month but does not have the resources
to create or customize a fully integrated shopping cart. Hosted
shopping carts are similar to the merchant services because they
provide an administrative interface for you to enter products, pricing
and shipping options. They will generate the html for the purchase
buttons, which can be copied and pasted into your html pages.
Hosted shopping carts face some of same problems as merchant service
carts because your customers will be transferred to a different
website to enter the credit card information. Some hosted shopping
carts allow you to customize the shopping cart so that it has the
same look and feel as your websites. Customizing your shopping cart
may require some programming skills, but it could also prevent customers
from abandoning their shopping carts.
The main difference between the merchant services shopping cart
and the hosted shopping cart is the name that appears on the customers
credit card and pricing. Hosted shopping carts allow you to use
your own merchant account and gateway, which means the customers
credit card statement will show your business name next to the charge.
This can decrease your charge backs.
If you are using your own merchant account and conducting over $1000
of transitions each month, the hosted shopping carts can be less
expensive than merchant services. Your merchant account will probably
charge a monthly fee between 20 and 60 dollars, transaction fee
between 10 and 50 cents, and a percentage of the transaction, usually
ranging between 2% to 3.5%. In addition to the merchant fees, your
shopping cart service will also charge a monthly fee between 10
and 30 dollars and could charge a transaction fee. These fees sound
more expensive than the merchant service option, but if you are
processing over $1000 a month and growing, its better to pay
flat monthly fees than continue to be charged 5 to 10 percent of
the each transaction.
Fully Integrated Shopping Carts
The fully integrated shopping cart is a great option for any business
that can afford it. The shopping cart will be dynamic and will have
the same look and feel as your website. The ZIP Baby Potty Training
Store is a great example of a fully integrated shopping cart. Fully
integrated shopping carts like this contain features that are not
found in merchant service or hosted shopping carts. For example,
you can discount items, display customer reviews, assign products
to multiple categories, display out of stock notifications, sort
products and prices, and display shipping estimates without requiring
the customer to create an account.
Integrated shopping carts require advanced programming skills and
can often be used with your own merchant account or with a service
that allows you to use their merchant account for a higher fee.
There are many integrated shopping carts available. Free carts require
the most programming skills, but if you dont have the programming
skills necessary to customize a free shopping cart, there are many
companies that specialize in customizing fully integrated shopping
Your choice of a shopping cart can have a dramatic impact on your
business. Your website is the first and only impression you get
to make so youll want to make it as professional as possible.
While shopping for a shopping cart system, put yourself in your
target customers shoes and browse the Internet. Review your
competitors websites as well as those outside your industry.
Make a list of shopping carts that you find appealing and research
them thoroughly before choosing one.
Copyright 2004 Danna Henderson. All Rights Reserved.
About The Author
Danna Henderson started ZIP Baby in order to provide parents with
comprehensive potty training information and a large selection of
potty training products. For more information visit the ZIP Baby
Potty Training Store.