Five tips on navigating shopping cart reviews and finding the right ecommerce software

To run a successful online store, you need the best ecommerce software for your business. Problem: there are too many shopping carts out there. Which one should you pick?

Unfortunately there is a lack of shopping cart reviews (difficult products to “really” review), and so you are left with a big amount of information to digest (we often hear from prospects that have spent days researching different carts).

That’s where this article can help: 5 steps to finding the best shopping cart software for your business. Quick tips on what to look for, so you can quickly narrow down the list.

  1. Narrow down the list
  2. Look at live stores powered by each shopping cart
  3. Focus on what’s most important to you
  4. Test the vendors’ customer service
  5. Read user reviews


1. Narrow down the list of eligible shopping carts

You can’t possibly compare 100 different shopping carts. Yet, there is indeed an overwhelming number of e-commerce solutions available today, many of which are frankly not worth a minute of your time. You need to start by reducing the number of shopping carts that you plan to review.

How can you narrow down the list? By price, by feature, by reading reviews? These methods all work, but would require too much up-front work. Instead, here is an idea: limit your review to companies that are keeping their software up-to-date with the latest technology.

For instance, take “PayPal Payments”. There are only 66 shopping carts (as of 7/2013) that are listed as Partner Solutions. It’s not perfect, but it’s a quick way to weed out older and lower quality solutions.


2. Look at live stores

Live stores can give you an immediate “feel” for how well the ecommerce software that you are looking at works in the real world. Most vendors will provide a partial list of Web stores that use their shopping cart. For example, we do so on this page. Here are two things to focus on:

  • Different graphical interfaces
    Look at a few stores to get an idea of how well the shopping cart merges with the Web site. Make sure the transition from static pages (e.g. About us) to dynamic pages (e.g. search, view basket, browse by category, etc.) is smooth. Make sure there are stores that look completely different from one another. You want to make sure that the shopping cart you pick will allow you to make your storefront look exactly how you want it to appear.
  • Customer experience
    Pick a few live stores that you particularly like, and browse the store, perform a search, add items to the shopping cart, etc. Are you experiencing what you would like your customers to experience on your own online storefront? If not, it’s time to cross that e-commerce solution off your list.


3. Focus on what’s most important to you

This is key given the overwhelming amount of information that you can be bombarded with. Shopping carts look similar, but they are not. Write down the top 3 things that you must have on your e-store. Then, start filtering out the programs that don’t match your needs. For those that do, contact the vendors and ask them to comment on how their application supports those very features. If applicable, ask them to point out a demo store where you can see those features at work so you can quickly test them without having to spend time digging around.

For example: is support for electronic gift certificates a “must have”? Then ask the vendors to point you to pages on their demo storefronts where you can quickly see how a gift certificate is created (store administration), purchased (storefront), and redeemed (storefront).


4. Test their customer service

Start by sending an e-mail message with a few pre-sale questions. Look at the quality of the reply: did they take time to understand what you needed or did they just reply with a template? How fast did they reply?

Then, visit the Technical Support area: a big factor in whether or not you can productively run your ecommerce store is the availability of good documentation: download the user guide for the shopping carts that you are still reviewing. Take a quick look at the table of contents. Make sure that whatever solution you end up choosing has good support documentation.


5. Read user reviews

See what people are saying about your top picks. It will give you a pretty good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the top contenders on your list of shopping carts suitable for your business. There’s nothing like hearing from dozens of current users about the same problem (or same great feature) over and over!

For example, check out reviews on our shopping cart software. You will see how so many users of ProductCart have shared what they thought was a great experience with our customer service (which we are really proud of).

Understand the “Total Cost” of running your store

Done? Almost. If you followed the 5 tips above, you now have a very narrow list of shopping carts in front of you. It’s time to figure out what it’s all going to cost you before you pull the trigger.

Some of the storefront software that you are reviewing may be provided to you as a service (a hosted shopping cart solution, where software is not delivered to you), and some may be sold to you as a product (not a hosted solution: software is delivered to you). We have created a calculator that can help you estimate the total cost of running your online store.

Consider using ProductCart

Not all shopping carts are created equal. There are many reasons why ProductCart may be a good fit for your store. Take a look at some of the things that make ProductCart powerful, flexible, and unique shopping cart software.

And if you are a Web designer looking for a good tool to use when building custom ecommerce Web sites for your clients, read about our reseller program.

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