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What Is an Ecommerce Shopping Cart and Why Does It Matter?

What Is an Ecommerce Shopping Cart and Why Does It Matter?

Your eCommerce store’s shopping cart will play one of the biggest roles in your company’s online success.

It’s the final step in any eCommerce transaction, so if your cart drops the ball, all that money you spent on marketing, UX, and web development will be for nothing.

Here at Dominate, we’ve built the best checkout cart platform in the world – one that took us years to design in partnership with PayPal – which is why we know a thing or two about this important topic.

So, if you’re thinking about updating the shopping cart on your site’s checkout page, here’s everything you need to know.

Introduction to eCommerce Shopping Carts

Let’s start with the basics and cover a very simple introduction to what shopping carts are and how they work.

What Are eCommerce Shopping Carts?

An online shopping cart is just software that allows customers to make purchases on a website. It bridges the gap between your inventory and a successful transaction.

Generally, this technology:

·        Handles a customer's payment

·        Verifies their chosen payment method

·        Processes the transaction

·        Completes the checkout process (e.g., triggers a confirmation email)

Additionally, checkout carts usually collect important customer data for the merchant's records.

In this way, an online retail cart serves as a combined catalog and checkout system.

However, the true measure of an effective online retail cart lies in its ability to facilitate seamless interaction between users and the website – a topic we will cover in a bit more detail below when we get to what to look for in a shopping cart.

For example, an effective cart must handle product details, manage payment information, and seamlessly distribute that data to relevant parties.

But above all, it absolutely MUST provide customers with a smooth and hassle-free shopping experience. Any friction could be enough to cause the dreaded abandoned shopping cart.

Why Are These Shopping Carts So Important?

In short, you can’t have an eCommerce website without a shopping cart.

Fortunately, just about every eCommerce CMS out there comes with a cart right out of the box.

However, most companies don’t want to settle for this standard version. They opt for a cart platform designed by a company that focuses solely on what it takes to optimize the checkout process and reach a site’s full conversion potential.

These types of “premium” carts (though they may be free) streamline the checkout process while assisting both the merchant and the shopper in managing various tasks.

Examples of such tasks include:

·        Storing comprehensive product information for customers, like:

  • Product Name
  • Price
  • SKU
  • Quantity
  • Size
  • Color

·        Managing and organizing customer details and order information

·        Displaying Shipping Options

·        Monitoring Inventory

·        Recording Customer Details

So, just like every other aspect of your website – from its design to your content – it’s important that you don’t just “settle” when it comes to your shopping cart. This single element has the potential to make or break your eCommerce business.

For example, consider that the average cart abandonment rate is almost 70%!

Is your checkout page costing you more than two-thirds of the shoppers who make it all the way to that final step?

The Benefits of an Ecommerce Shopping Cart

At this point, the benefits of your site’s shopping cart may seem obvious, but let’s quickly look at how they help parties on both sides of the transaction.

The Benefits of Shopping Carts for Business Owners

We’ve already covered some of these, but the most important benefits of high-performing shopping carts to business owners are:

·        Improved Conversion Rate: A user-friendly eCommerce shopping cart will lead to increased conversions rather than an unnecessary abandonment rate. A smooth and seamless checkout experience can effectively prevent instances of shopping cart abandonment.

·        Data-Driven Marketing Efforts: With every product addition to the shopping cart on your website, valuable data is gathered, enabling you to gain insights into customer behavior and create personalized offers. Leveraging cart interactions for marketing purposes presents a potent retargeting tool.

·        Retargeting: Speaking of data-driven marketing, eCommerce shopping carts can gather the kind of data you need to employ effective retargeting marketing campaigns. Built-in analytics enable businesses to track customer behavior, acquire essential customer insights, and identify their product interests. Leveraging this information allows for the creation of targeted ads with a higher likelihood of converting into sales.

·        Customer Insights: Imagine being a merchant who can discern the most frequently added or removed products from customers' shopping carts. This invaluable data empowers strategic decision-making for your business.

The Benefits of Shopping Carts for Business Customers

Alright, now let’s see why customers love a quality eCommerce shopping cart:

Frictionless Payment Processing: Shopping cart software handles transaction processing on your behalf. Most online shopping carts accept a variety of payment options, including credit and debit cards, PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and more. Integrating these options into the process enhances the ease of checkout for customers.

Product Suggestions: Online shopping carts provide an exceptional avenue for customers to enjoy a personalized shopping experience, whether they are first-time visitors or returning customers. By tracking customers' past viewed or purchased items, you can offer suggestions for other products that might pique their interest.

Letting Customers Save Items for Future Purchases: The eCommerce shopping cart serves as a platform where customers can explore and save items they contemplate buying. This ensures that your products remain top of mind throughout the customer journey's research phase.

Mobile-Friendly Checkouts: The ability to shop on the go is crucial for today's consumers. With an eCommerce cart, businesses can ensure that their website is mobile-friendly and responsive. This way, customers can effortlessly browse and purchase items using their smartphones or tablets.

Security. Security. Security (Nothing is more important): Customers who trust in the security of their purchases are more inclined to complete transactions. With an eCommerce cart, businesses can offer customers various secure and encrypted payment options. This instills peace of mind, as customers know their personal information remains safe and protected.

Hosted vs. Licensed Shopping Carts

A hosted shopping cart refers to an eCommerce solution where the shopping cart software is hosted and managed by a third-party service provider. In this model, the service provider takes care of the technical aspects, such as server maintenance, software updates, and security.

On the other hand, a licensed shopping cart refers to an eCommerce solution where you purchase a software license that grants you the right to use and host the shopping cart software on your own server or hosting environment. In this model, you have more control and flexibility over the software compared to a hosted shopping cart.

Both of these models have their advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, hosted shopping carts are ideal for beginners. While you can’t customize or install them on your server, it is unnecessary because all updates and modifications are managed on a centralized server.

Many hosted shopping carts also offer additional features that seamlessly integrate your shopping cart into their eCommerce ecosystem. These features may include store building, customer management, and payment processing capabilities.

Licensed carts cater to eCommerce websites requiring advanced functionalities not available in hosted versions. It is important to note that programming and development expertise are necessary to install a licensed cart on your server and customize it to suit your store. However, in the long run, this approach can often help cut overall costs.

What to Look for in an eCommerce Shopping Cart: 8 Factors to Consider

At the end of this article, we’ll cover eight fantastic shopping cart platforms to consider for your eCommerce website.

However, while we hope eight is a manageable list, we want to make it even easier to find the best choice for your company by covering eight factors that you should think about when reviewing each option.

1. Customization

Being able to customize the appearance and user experience of your eCommerce shopping cart is essential for aligning with your brand and maximizing sales.

Among other things, customizing your checkout experience is about ensuring that every page on your website is brand consistent.

This can give the impression that your checkout page – where they’ll soon be handing over their payment information – isn’t actually part of your website. That won’t do much for inspiring confidence. That’s why customizing your checkout page so that it looks just like the rest of your site is essential for locking in your checkouts.

2. User Experience

There are all kinds of other ways you can improve your cart’s user experience, too, which is why this type of customization is so vital when selecting a platform.

Studies indicate that by improving checkout flow and design alone, an estimated $260 billion worth of lost orders can be recovered. Furthermore, optimizing checkout design has the potential to increase conversion rates by 35.26% for large eCommerce businesses.

So, aside from branding, there are two extremely powerful ways you can update your checkout page to give your users what they want.

This may involve streamlining the checkout process by reducing the number of steps, thus minimizing friction. On average, the default US checkout flow consists of 23 form elements, requiring a significant amount of data input from shoppers.

Offering a One-Click Checkout for Your Shopping Cart

A one-click checkout is a prime example of this.

Letting customers check out with just a single click offers numerous advantages for ecommerce stores.

First, it significantly increases conversions and revenue by minimizing the gap between browsing and purchasing. Research shows that 26%of online shoppers abandon their carts due to lengthy or complicated checkout processes, while 7% leave if their preferred payment method isn't available.

With a one-click checkout, these issues are eliminated, providing a seamless and hassle-free experience.

And the swift nature of one-click checkout means it’s less likely that a shopper will second guess their purchase, preventing doubts and potential cart abandonment. It also caters perfectly to impulse buyers, allowing businesses to capitalize on this consumer behavior.

Offering guest checkouts is another great customization for increasing conversions. A lot of shoppers don’t want to go to the trouble of signing up and handing over their emails before they can make a purchase.

By letting customers checkout as guests, you won’t have to worry about losing these customers to competitors that already support this option.

3. Pricing

This is an obvious one, so I’ll just say that you should keep in mind that a highly-effective checkout platform doesn’t have to be expensive – or come at a price at all.

I’ll get into the pricing of specific platforms at the end of this article, but quick reminder: Dominate doesn’t cost a dime 😊

4. Customer Service

Definitely prioritize customer service when considering your options.

If you should have any inquiries or concerns in the future, it’ll make all the difference in the world if you can just reach out to customer support for help. At the very least, this can make all the difference during installation and setup.

Check to make sure your platform-provider-of-choice makes it easy to contact them for assistance and take some time to search reviews for any feedback about how helpful they are in these situations.

5. Integrations

More and more, this isn’t really an issue, but just to be on the safe side, ensure that any online shopping cart that you consider not only seamlessly integrates with your website’s current eCommerce platform but also any payment platforms you use.

Even if it’s not an expansive list at the moment, think about the future.

Is it possible you might want to add other payment processors down the line?

Check the integrations page of any platform to make sure it will support any likely options.

6. Accepted Payment Types

Speaking of which, what payment types will your checkout platform accept?

It should probably go without saying, but the right platform must support:

·        Credit Cards

·        Debit Cards

·        PayPal

·        Venmo*

·        Mobile Wallets

·        BNPL

Supporting these popular payment types isn’t just about increasing your conversions.

Payment Options like BNPL (i.e., PayPal Pay-in-4) are one of the easiest ways to increase your AOV (average order value) without changing anything else on your website.

Best of all, even though your customers will get to pay off their purchases in installments, you’ll receive the full amount right away.

*Dominate is currently the only checkout platform on the planet that lets customers pay with Venmo from their desktops.

7. Shipping options

High shipping costs will drive up your cart abandonment rate like few other things. After all, no one likes added costs they weren’t expecting.

So, look for an eCommerce shopping cart that makes it easy to add all the shipping options your company supports AND make them perfectly clear on your checkout page.

Up to 17% of shoppers abandon their carts when they can’t calculate the total of their purchase (including shipping costs) upfront. The right checkout page will make this easy to do.

8. Security

Finally, no one is going to trust you with their payment information if they don’t think your checkout process is secure.

You just cannot overlook customer concerns about security.

Prioritizing robust security measures isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a smart way to drop your abandonment rates and drive conversions.  

When customers have confidence that your checkout page is secure, inputting their payment details is a no-brainer.

How to Optimize Your Shopping Cart for Conversions

Before we jump into the best shopping cart platforms for eCommerce companies, we are going to very briefly cover some smart ways to improve your results.

For a more comprehensive list of steps you can take, here’s our list of more than 22 ways you can optimize your eCommerce site – which includes some great options for your checkout page.

But we do want to take a moment to point out two very powerful strategies that we’ve seen far too many eCommerce companies overlook.

Use Shopping Cart Recovery Emails

No matter how well you optimize your eCommerce shopping cart, SOME customers are still going to abandon their carts no matter what.

Often, it’s nothing personal.

You did everything right.

They just got distracted.

If you do B2B eCommerce, they might have abandoned their carts because it was 5 o’clock.

Whatever the case, this is when abandoned cart emails are essential. These emails are sent as simple reminders to your shoppers that they wanted to purchase some products but didn’t finish. They don’t cost you a thing, but they could make all the difference to your website’s bottom line.

Add Subscription Services

Last year, we added subscription billing as an option to Dominate because this kind of recurring billing is just an absolute game-changer for companies, but in the past, it’s been hard for companies to offer from their checkout pages without unnecessary friction.  

That said, there are all kinds of other options out there worth considering, which we’ve listed in this post about the best subscription platforms on the market.

We got into more detail in that post, but adding a subscription service to your eCommerce checkout page will skyrocket annual revenue IF you take the time to plan out your offering. Give it as much thought as you would any other service or product you plan to offer or you’re practically guaranteed a churn rate that will ruin your ROI (and could cost your company its online reputation).

The 8 Best Shopping Cart Platforms for eCommerce Companies

Now that you’re an expert in all things “eCommerce shopping carts”, you’re ready to add on to your website.

But where to start?

While there have never been more options on the market, here are some very popular checkout platforms to consider:

1. Dominate – TOTALLY FREE!

That’s right.

Our popular checkout platform is completely free – no transaction fees, either!

But that’s not the only reason so many companies have added it to their websites.

As experienced eCommerce professionals who have worked on countless websites over the years, we created Dominate because we couldn’t find the kind of checkout solution we wanted for our clients.

One of the key advantages is that Dominate is cloud-based, so it won’t weigh down your site’s speed.

On top of that, our team handles all ongoing maintenance, upgrades, and support, so you don’t have to allocate any resources to making sure Dominate is running at its best. Just install this checkout plugin and start reaping the benefits of a cart that increases conversions and skyrockets profits.

The installation process is incredibly straightforward and takes just minutes. We designed Dominate with non-tech people in mind, eliminating the need for any in order to leverage the full power of our high-performing checkout cart on your eCommerce site.

And if, for any reason, you find that Dominate isn’t the absolute best checkout platform you’ve ever used, removing it only takes a single click.

Lastly, Dominate offers comprehensive support for various payment options, including:

·        PayPal (including Pay in 4)

·        PayPal Credit

·        Apple Pay

·        Venmo

·        Google Pay

·        Braintree

·        Klarna


·        Affirm

·        Afterpay

These payment integrations further enhance conversions and revenue generation for your e-commerce business.

2. Weebly – $9/month

Weebly is an entry-level online store builder that offers budget-friendly pricing options. As it is owned by Square, it seamlessly integrates with other Square-owned platforms, providing a convenient ecosystem for businesses. Weebly is particularly suitable for those without extensive technical knowledge or abundant resources, making it an accessible option for beginners.

However, it's important to note that Weebly does have some limitations compared to other online shopping carts in terms of functionality and customization. Due to its affordability, certain features may be scaled back.

And yet, Weebly does offer useful features such as the ability to display store return and shipping policies, allowing customers to include notes during the checkout process, and facilitating the growth of your email marketing list. These features can enhance the overall customer experience and help you build stronger relationships with your audience.

3. Ecwid – $15/month (after 10 products)

Ecwid stands out among the options on this list as it primarily focuses on transforming websites and digital entities into fully functional ecommerce sites. Rather than building a dedicated online store from scratch, Ecwid allows you to seamlessly integrate its shopping cart functionality into your existing websites, landing pages, or other digital platforms, enabling users to add products to their cart and complete purchases.

Similar to Weebly, Ecwid prides itself on its user-friendly approach, eliminating the need for extensive technical coding skills to start selling online. By incorporating Ecwid into your various digital properties, you can effectively synchronize and centralize all your order data, ensuring consistency and accuracy across your platforms.

While Ecwid does offer an online store builder, it may not provide the comprehensive range of features required by growing brands. However, for those looking to leverage their existing digital presence and quickly enable ecommerce functionality, Ecwid presents a convenient and accessible solution.

4. OpenCart – $25/month

OpenCart provides a highly customizable platform without any monthly fees. It offers an array of store management features that allow you to effortlessly handle products, customers, orders, tax rules, coupon codes, and more. The platform also incorporates built-in SEO capabilities. OpenCart boasts a user-friendly interface design, with the administrator dashboard providing a comprehensive overview of vital information. This includes details on total orders, sales, customers, online users, sales analytics, and various other widgets.

With OpenCart's user management features, collaborating with your employees becomes more streamlined. You can establish advanced user privileges and grant separate access for different user groups and individuals. Additionally, the platform enables you to manage multiple stores through a single admin interface. You have the flexibility to showcase products across different stores and select unique themes for each one. OpenCart also facilitates localization of store settings and the customization of product prices on a per-store basis.

The starting price for OpenCart is $25 per month.

5. Shift4Shop – $29+/month

Shift4Shop presents a comprehensive e-commerce solution that encompasses a feature-rich website builder, efficient product and order management, powerful customer marketing tools, and more. Drawing on over 20years of experience and industry expertise, Shift4Shop has carefully identified and incorporated all the essential features required for an exceptional website shopping cart experience.

Unlike some platforms, Shift4Shop does not impose additional fees on top of those typically charged by your payment processor. With reliable web hosting, unlimited data storage, and ample bandwidth, your online store can effortlessly accommodate any number of visitors. This flexibility empowers you to create as many pages as necessary and upload a multitude of images to showcase your products effectively. Moreover, Shift4Shop offers a wide range of integrations and comprehensive credit card processing services at competitive rates.

Furthermore, Shift4Shop provides a free plan that imposes no limits when you choose to utilize its payment processing services. This ensures that you can get started without any upfront costs or constraints, allowing you to explore the platform and leverage its capabilities without limitations.

6. Shopify – $29+/month

Shopify presents a dependable and secure solution with its shopping cart functionality. It seamlessly configures your store's online shopping cart to operate using your local currency, complete with automated tax rate calculations based on the locations of your business and buyers.

Moreover, the checkout page of the shopping cart can be personalized, supporting over 50 languages including Danish, Dutch, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Swedish, and many more.

With the shopping cart software provided by Shopify, you can effortlessly accept payments via credit cards, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal by integrating with an extensive selection of over 100 payment gateways. Shopify boasts Level 1 PCI compliance and utilizes 256-bit SSL certificates to ensure the secure transmission of order details. The level of encryption employed is on par with major banks, and a 128-bit SSL certificate is provided at no additional cost.

Starting at $29 per month, Shopify offers various plans to suit your needs.

7. ShopWired – $29.95+/month

ShopWired is an all-in-one solution for building your online store and managing your ecommerce needs. With ShopWired, you have the power to create a fully customized and branded online store that can be seamlessly integrated across multiple channels.

The shopping cart features provided by ShopWired are designed to enhance the shopping experience for both you and your customers. Enjoy the benefits of free SSL security, ensuring your customers' data is protected with top-notch 256-bit encryption. Recovering abandoned carts becomes effortless with built-in functionality, giving you the opportunity to capture lost sales. Say goodbye to manual tax calculations, as ShopWired automatically handles sales tax calculations for you. Additionally, you have full control over shipping zones and rates, including the ability to offer free shipping to attract more customers.

ShopWired understands the importance of providing a smooth and convenient checkout process. With their two-click checkout, customers can complete their purchase with minimal friction. Furthermore, ShopWired integrates seamlessly with over 60 different payment gateway providers, ensuring you can offer your customers a wide range of payment options. To cater to the evolving needs of your customers, ShopWired also supports buy now, pay later options, empowering customers with flexible payment choices. Even when you're offline, ShopWired allows you to collect payments, providing you with greater convenience and flexibility.

While ShopWired offers a robust set of features, it's worth noting that it currently lacks a companion mobile app. This means that managing your business on the go may require additional effort. However, with its comprehensive web-based platform, you can still efficiently handle various aspects of your business from any device with internet access.

8. AbanteCart – Donations

AbanteCart is a very unique checkout platform as it’s the only one on our list that’s donation based.

This open-source eCommerce solution operates through contributions, proceeds from the marketplace, and financial support from advertisers. This versatile shopping cart application caters to businesses of all sizes, with an ever-growing array of extensions that can be easily integrated. This adaptability is especially vital in today's rapidly evolving technological landscape.

The shopping cart application offered by AbanteCart delivers high-speed performance while utilizing minimal computer resources. It can be effortlessly installed and operated on various shared or dedicated hosting platforms. A user-friendly control panel, featuring a comprehensive "Search anything" function, facilitates swift information retrieval and editing. Additionally, it provides a well-equipped knowledge base and essential tools for effective online product selling. AbanteCart offers flexible pricing options, starting as low as a one-time payment of $0.01, and also includes a free version.

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