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If you’re going to sell products online then you’re going to need a shopping cart system on your website. And a shopping cart system is nothing more than a data base driven program that allows your customers to add products to the shopping cart and complete their order online.

A basic shopping cart program normally runs on the server computer where your website is hosted or on the server of the company which provided the shopping cart, and integrates with the rest of your website from the “Buy now” or “Add to cart” button on your product page.

And with some shopping cart systems, the entire website is the shopping cart and catalog combined.
In a website where each product has it’s own product page, such as in the case with a static HTML website, it’s the “Add to Cart” button that links your website to the shopping cart data base system.

When the customer clicks on the “Add to Cart” button, they’re directed to the shopping cart program where they will enter in their customer information such as their credit card number, billing address and shipping address as well. And the entire transaction takes place on a secured sever.

Once the customer clicks on that final option to complete the order, their credit card and billing information is processed and authorized within seconds by the gateway provider.

The gateway provider authorizes and approves the transaction. Then a confirmation “email merchant receipt” or a “payment notification” email is sent to you, the seller, and to the buyer as well.

This confirmation email will include the customers name, phone number, and shipping address. It also confirms that the customers’ credit card has been approved for the transaction and the process of transferring the funds of the sale from the customers’ credit card into your bank account is taking place. If however, the customer paid via PayPal then those credit card funds are transferred from the customers’ credit card into your PayPal account instantly. And those funds are now available to either purchase the product with a PayPal business debit card or to transfer into your own personal or business bank account.

How a shopping cart works

Most shopping carts are database driven programs that store information such as product, customer, and order information in the database files. And the storefront interface displays this information to the customer.

The administration area of the shopping cart allows you to manage your store, add products, set up shipping & payment options and more. However, most of the information is stored within a database, and not on actual web pages. But the shopping cart will retrieve the data from the database to dynamically generate the web page in real time and display that page to the customer when the customer clicks on that page link.

In other words, a web store with 100 products that is maintained by a data base driven shopping cart does not actually have 100 product pages on the web server. Instead, the pages are created on the fly when a customer clicks on the link to see that actual product page. The information is retrieved from a database and displayed to the customer in a graphical, user-friendly webpage.

Customer registration or not

Over the years, statistics have shown that when shopping online, most shoppers prefer to add their products to the shopping cart and check out as quickly and as easily as possible without having to go through the hassle of registering and establishing an account with the internet retail company.
If the customer is forced to register before completing their purchase then there’s a good chance that he or she will abandon the shopping cart and move on to the next online store. Furthermore, the best visitor-to-sales conversions come from shopping cart programs which do not force the customers to register in order to buy the product and complete their purchase online.

However, the customer should be able to add the product to the shopping cart, enter their billing and shipping information and then check out and complete the order as quickly and as easily as possible without being forced to register and open an account. And internet storefronts that provide a quick and easy checkout will always do better than those who make their customers register before they’re able to complete the purchase.

Fortunately, more shopping cart systems have found this to be true and as a result most shopping carts give the customer the option of either registering now or completing the purchase as a guess shopper, without having to register, and as a result, more sales are made and completed as well.
Basic shopping carts vs. Complete shopping cart solutions

There are two types of shopping carts; a basic shopping cart such as what payment solution providers like PayPal and Google Checkout have to offer. And then there are more comprehensive shopping cart systems which allow you to manage your product catalog, sales, discounts etc…

Basic shopping carts

With a basic shopping cart, there are many good, free options to choose from such as PayPal and Google Checkout shopping cart. And there are others as well, but PayPal just happens to be one of the more popular payment and shopping cart solutions on the internet.

A basic shopping cart system allows you to place a link on your website, specifically on your “Add to cart” button, so that your customers can click on that button and add that product to the shopping cart, and then check out and complete the order online. However, functions such as managing discounts, sales, specials and promotions are usually not available with basic shopping cart systems. Yet for certain types of products such features are not needed. And a simple basic shopping cart solution may do just fine.

Complete shopping cart solutions

A complete shopping cart solution can make a huge difference in the customers buying experience and can handle everything from the storefront catalog to sophisticated store management tools. And with a full featured shopping cart, you can run sales, promotions and discounts on specific products and give several shipping and payment options as well.

Hosted shopping cart vs. licensed shopping cart

You can own and possibly customize your own shopping cart software or you can pay for your shopping cart services on a monthly basis with your web hosting services. The choice is yours.
Hosted shopping cart

Complete ecommerce providers such as Volusion and Shopify offer storefront solutions along with hosted shopping cart systems as part of the ecommerce package. And these complete packages are paid for on a monthly basis and can start from $19 per month.

When using these options, your initial start-up costs are much lower and start-up time is much faster as well. However, if you’re not happy with their services, you can’t take the shopping cart with you. Yet most ecommerce providers offer 30 day free trials which give you plenty of time to test drive the shopping cart and the administration area as well.

Licensed shopping cart

A licensed shopping cart software is a program that you purchase and is typically hosted by your web host provider where your website is being hosted. With a licensed shopping cart you would normally pay for the software license fee which may also include support and updates as well. However, if for whatever reason you’re not satisfied with your web hosting company then you can always take your shopping cart software with you and move it to another web host provider. Furthermore, with many licensed shopping cart software programs you can edit and customize the software's source code, if you ever needed to do so.

Storefront and shopping cart administration

Shopping cart systems consist of two interfaces: the storefront area which is visible to your customers and includes the store catalog, the product pages etc, and the administration area, which is not visible to your customers, but only to you, and is where you’ll manage the storefront, add products, change prices etc.
Storefront features:

A storefront shopping cart provides a store catalog which makes it easy for customers to browse your store and shop online. A shopping cart also includes a “search” feature that helps customers to find specific products just by typing in the name of the products in the search box. The search feature can also search the shopping cart data base based upon other search criteria such as popularity, price low to high, high to low etc.

The storefront will also provide a customer service area where customers can view or edit account information, see and track previous orders and more. Storefronts can also include pages for featured products, products on sale, and products by brand as well.
Administration features:

The administration area of the shopping cart is where you’ll actually add the products to your storefront. And adding products is as simple as “insert image” and “insert product text” and then click “save”.

You can set store settings such as how products are displayed, how many products are displayed per page etc…The administration area also provides a module to create, edit and manage product pages and product categories as well. You can also change settings across multiple pages with one just modification.

Within the administration area you can add and change other features on your storefront according to which products you sell. For example, if you’re selling clothing items then you can add size and color options and change prices per size as well.

You can offer multiple shipping options such as UPS or FedEx Ground Shipping, 2 Day Shipping, Next Day Shipping, or Free Shipping on orders over $50. And you can also offer multiple payment options such as credit cards, checks, eChecks, COD, money orders, and PayPal.

The administration area is where you’ll set all your storefront settings to make your customers’ shopping experience as easy and as pleasant as possible. And most shopping carts allow you to make such changes and many more with ease. Yet even the most basic shopping carts are sufficient to sell a variety of products as well. What matters most, is that your shopping cart helps the customer to easily add their product to the shopping cart and complete the check out process as quickly and as easily as possible.
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Books Distributors, DropShippers, Wholesalers
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Footwear, Shoes Distributors, DropShippers
Small Appliances DropShippers, Wholesalers
Tools and Garden DropShippers, Wholesalers
Gifts Distributors, DropShippers, Wholesalers
How to Find More DropShippers, Wholesalers
How to Open Your Online Store
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Building Your eStore with Website Templates
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Create Search Engine Optimized Product Pages
How to Create a Content Rich Website
Choosing Your Web Host Provider
Create a Search Engine Optimized Domain Name
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Top Web Building Software Programs
Top 10 Web Host Providers
Top 10 Complete eCommerce Solutions
Top Website Developers
All About Shopping Carts
All About Payment Processing
All About Merchant Accounts
Using PayPal as a Payment Processing Solution
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Setting Your Prices
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How to Collect Sales Tax for Internet Sales
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How to Ship International and Overseas
How You Get Paid Each and Every Day
Dealing with Product Returns and Exchanges
Sample Return Policy and Procedures
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