In the few short years since Black Friday was introduced in the UK it has become a phenomenon, signifying the start of a month-long spending frenzy which can make or break many retailers.
There are three main shopping cart options:
What are your options?
- Free open source cart
- Fully hosted cart
- WordPress based cart
Some of the most popular ecommerce shopping carts are open source (software maintained by a small group or community). Anyone can use this type of software for free, meaning you can avoid at least one monthly cost if you opt for this type of cart.
Open source cart
Another great thing is that you won’t be tied down to a specific company or service provider, meaning you maintain a lot of freedom.
You’ll also be in control of the source code, so if you wanted or needed to add a special functionality that’s specific to your online store you can implement it yourself. If you’re unable to do this personally, you can hire a developer to do it for you.
However, using an open source cart is a double edged sword. You’ll have to manage your own server and ensure your cart is kept up to date. If anything goes wrong you’re responsible for finding a solution.
Another downside is that it will typically require more development and coding knowledge. If you don’t have these expertise you will need to pay out for a developer.
The largest downside is that all operations, such as maintenance, speed optimisation and security, are down to you so this option can be time-consuming – not ideal if your time is limited.
If an open source shopping cart sounds like too much of a challenge and you have a larger budget at your disposal you may prefer to opt for a fully hosted cart.
Fully hosted cart
With a fully hosted cart you pay a company to manage your shopping cart and provide you with technical support – making it a fairly convenient option.
One of the biggest upsides to this option is that it makes it a lot easier for you to get yourself started. You’ll also have support on hand when you need it, something you won’t receive when using open source.
As this option is less time consuming, it will also give you more resource to focus on marketing and sales.
However, the cost may be an issue as many hosting sites are raising their prices and changing policies.
Additionally you may find that you have less freedom than with open source, and end up sacrificing some control of your ecommerce store.
One thing to note with this option is that you should really only consider it if you already have a successful WordPress blog.
WordPress based cart
One example of a WordPress based cart is WooCommerce, which is a free plugin.
A great thing about WooCommerce is that it connects to major payment gateways. The default payment gateways are PayPal and Stripe, but with this you can also accept both Amazon Pay and PayFast.
You will also be able to offer your customers coupons and discount codes, and because it’s a popular platform there is good support available.
However, despite it being free to download, there are extra expenses once you start delving into the more complex features of the plugin.
Because this is an open source cart, you will need some technical knowledge and development skills to make it work for your online store.
While this quick guide has given you a bit of an overview of the different shopping carts available, make sure you do additional research and weigh up all the pros and cons before picking the right cart for your online store.
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