Which shopping cart should I use?

OK, this is a question and a topic which I’ve avoided answering for years, simply because it’s an absolute minefield! There are so many carts available with various levels of functionality that critiquing them all will simply take a lifetime.

Add to the fact that every business has different requirements means that unless you spend big on a custom cart solution, no single package will cover off every perceived or future requirement you may have.

Obviously I haven’t used or been exposed to all the carts available either, so it’s impossible to judge all of them!
All that aside, I’ll give you some of my favourites… and I’ve broken it down into several criteria:

Open source

Open source is obviously a ‘free’ solution. One really fine example includes Magento — now Adobe Commerce — which is brilliant and a big favourite.

Another is Silverstripe – http://www.silverstripe.com/ which is still a little green, but getting better.

These packages will literally build you a full ecommerce website from scratch – but there would be a lot of mucking around if you tried to integrate them into your existing site.

Then there are the shopping cart ‘plug-ins’ for open source CMS’s – so if you’re using Joomla, there’s the trusty VirtueMart ecommerce plug-in. Drupal CMS has a cool cart called ubercart and there are quite a few for WordPress which I don’t have time to go into.

Obviously when you’re in ‘open source territory’ you’re going to have a good degree of technical knowledge to get these solutions to work for you, so in many cases it’s better to pay someone with experience to build your ecommerce solution (suddenly open source isn’t so ‘free’ anymore).

Proprietary Packages

A proprietary cart is one you pay for, usually on an ongoing monthly subscription basis and they’re usually ‘packaged’. So the more functionality, products, transactions etc you need, the more you’ll pay each month.

An excellent up ‘n coming cart is www.goodbarry.com – a crap name for a really good SME business solution. Pretty easy to set up with very powerful reporting and intuitive to use, as well as being SEO friendly – just ask www.haul.com.au.

Like most solutions, Goodbarry offers a generous 30 day trial, so give it a ‘burl’ and try it for yourself.

There’s also Ezimerchant – www.ezimerchant.com – which uses a desktop application instead of an online ‘login and get cracking’ (or ‘hosted’) solution. With Ezimerchant you install the software on your PC and build your shop before uploading it to the web. This means you can use your own hosting which can save you costs in the long run. It’s very easy to use and they’re always updating with new features and enhancements.

Like Goodbarry, Ezimerchant is an Australian developed product making it well suited to our postage system, our local payment gateways and GST tax system.

Another robust local solution I’ve used and really like is www.Bizarshop.com.au – good support if you need your hand held during your build. They offer a scalable solution which grows with you as you grow and like Ezimerchant, you can choose your own web host.

Then there are some I haven’t tried, such as www.Gate13.com.au and www.ashop.com.au, so if you have experience with these, jot down your thoughts in the comment box below.

One final note on proprietary solutions is that they often use their own shared secure ‘check out’ process, which means there’s little scope for optimising the checkout process yourself, and it can be darned near impossible to set up Google Analytics tracking (for goal funnel analysis etc).

High End Carts

Lastly there are the high end carts which a design and development company will build for you if you have the budget, sales volumes and require a fully customised and designed shopping cart/checkout.

They also allow for much easier analytics tracking as you’ll most likely have your own SSL certificate, which means when someone goes to checkout they’ll see: https://www.yoursite.com.au/checkout.html – rather than https://secure.propietary-shopping-cart-solution.com.au – which can also help conversion rates on your site too, as your visitors aren’t leaving your site to complete their transactions.

I’ve opened the tin, let the worms out!

Chris Thomas heads Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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