What shopping cart to use?
As a local store, you have had a hard enough time competing against the Walmarts of the world. Now with the continuing rise of Amazon and other online shopping sites, many local stores are realizing to compete, they need to open up their own online stores. The hard part is figuring out what platform to use. We continually try out and use various ecommerce shopping carts to find the best solution for both online and offline businesses.
Hosted versus Self Hosted
The first question that needs to be asked is whether to use a hosted or non-hosted shopping carts. The more technically oriented people I know, prefer to use a non-hosted shopping cart such as Zen Cart or Magento. Hosted solutions include companies such as Big Commerce and Shopify though there are tons of cart providers out there.
The thought with self hosting is it gives you more control over what you can do with the cart and it is cheaper. Unfortunately this is just not the case anymore. With Magento you needed to have an upgraded hosting service, purchase your own SSL certificate and handle uploading data into a server. This is a daunting thing to do even for those of us that are technically proficient.
Even if you are technically oriented, I still recommend against self hosting your shopping cart. It is not just because it ends up being more expensive but for local businesses there are other issues they need to worry about.
The Payment Card Industry, Data Security Standard is a set of rules that merchant account providers and carts follow to protect customers personally identifiable information. Those with traditional merchant accounts, especially from local banks and larger providers will need to provide proof of PCI compliance. If you self host, it is a harder to show compliance, but the carts we use all have been PCI Level 1 compliant for several years now.
Integrate Shopping Cart with POS system
Since most local customers use a Point of Sale system, the ability to update inventory between the two is important to a local store. Ask Best Buy what happened when they didn’t have this figured out. (Best Buy Christmas Failure) The carts we use can be integrated with QuickBooks or Fresh Books or at the very least, offer an easy way to update inventory with the use of spreadsheets.
In most cases (not all) we use Big Commerce to create stores for our local customers. We like Big Commerce for several reasons.
- Inexpensive – Their plans start as low as $25.00 a month
- Shipping Functionality
- Easy to set up shipping zones down to the zip code level
- Easy to set up USPS, UPS and Fed Ex shipping
- Can create local pick up and local delivery options
- Flexible categories
- Beautifully designed templates
- Email Marketing – Connects with the many autoresponders to make email marketing easy
- Flexible Coupon and Discount options
- Easily make banners and web pages
- Upsell functionality
- Connects with Facebook Fan pages – See your products on your Fan Page
Shopping Cart Ease of Use
While all these are important, what I like most is the system is easy to use for my customers, even the lease technically inclined. There are only two things about the shopping cart I don’t like. First is they don’t give you a ton of bandwidth so as your store grows it will become more expensive, yet I tell customers, if they have that many visitors, it’s a good thing. The only functionality it doesn’t have is the ability to do recurring billing. So if you are selling vitamins and want auto ship, it doesn’t offer it at this time. While they allow you to pull from an outside blog, I do wish they had a better blogging platform.
Thinking of Building an Online Store?
Check out Big Commerce and give it a try if you like. They offer a 15 day trial or give us a call, we can build it out quickly for you.
What if I already have a blog?
Already have an informational website or blog? You don’t have to give it up. All we do is host the shopping cart in a subdomain. For example, on this site it would be shop.onlinestorehelp.com . This allows you to keep your blog and just add a store on the back end.
We also used Shopify but tend to suggest it for smaller boutiques with limited categories. What is nice is it integrates with an existing POS system to give you one integrated system to track inventory. Other options include:
Not sure what you want to do? Give us a call and we will discuss the options with you. You can reach us here.
Update: BigCommerce is now offering Unlimited Bandwidth for all their accounts. This is a huge plus for their platform now!