Shopping for shopping carts – gotchas to look out for

Shopping for shopping carts – gotchas to look out for

When you’ve made the decision to start an online shop and sorted out the business things like what you will sell, who you will sell to, who is going to supply the products and what your point of difference will be in the market, the time comes to shop for the shopping cart software that will power your new website. It’s an important decision to make as in today’s market there are many providers proclaiming to be the best in the business ranging from multi-national companies to one-person providers. How do you choose the right ecommerce software for your business?
Some of the main considerations in choosing an e-commerce solution will be relevant e-commerce features, the time you have available, your level of experience with website technologies, and your budget. It’s important to be sure about what you are looking for to avoid those disappointing “gotcha” moments after you buy. To follow is a quick summary of some of the things you might not have thought of that could come back to bite you if you haven’t planned for them first. Even a small home business should carefully think about each of these as it can have implications for what you can and can’t do with your cart in the future.

Contracts in the fine print … gotcha!

Even a shopping cart website with a free trial option may have a lock-in contract in order to get the headline monthly price, or just to sign up with them. If you’re locked in to a contract for six, twelve or twenty-four months or more and you decide that the software you are using cannot meet your business needs then you’re left with an expensive termination fee or you have to stick it out with a product you are not really happy with.

Open Source is not really free .. gotcha!

The “free” nature of open source software can be a big lure for some getting started with new websites as they can avoid any up-front setup cost or licensing fees. But very few successful online shops will be using any open source ecommerce software as it comes “out of the box”. No matter which open source solution that you choose you will invariably need to purchase some third-party components to add additional functionality relevant for your market or to extend “missing” features. Depending on the solution that you choose and what you need, new components can cost from tens to hundreds of dollars each, and some have ongoing cost to obtain updates.

Costs of personalising your design .. gotcha!

Almost every do-it-yourself or hosted solution that you will come across will require you to have some graphics skills. Even a pre-made template from a professional design company will often come with pre-made graphics components and colours that are unlikely to match yours. Do you have the skills and time to change these graphics for your business in a graphics application like Photoshop? Not every pre-made template will come with a Photoshop source file (PSD) either, so you may be left trying to build design components yourself from scratch. Time consuming even if you have the skills to do it.
Some pre-made design templates look great in the screenshot that you are given but when they are applied to your store in practice and you try to use the cart with some of the other features, then you find that there are plenty of issues – things that don’t look great at all – and when you contact the designer they tell you that the design was never meant to be used with those features.

Steep learning curves and community only support … gotcha!

Many “open source” shopping carts appear to be free at first glance, but when you start adding functionality you may find that it’s up to you to test the compatibility of third party components with one another, and that some of them might not work together or with the theme that you’ve purchased. Different components all created by different providers can be a bit of a lottery – like baking a cake with random ingredients that have never been tasted together before. If you have to hire a developer to help you out, they could spend hours trying to understand different programming code from different providers some of whom my not speak English. The main provider of the cart is unlikely to support the code of third party providers leaving you in the lurch if something goes wrong. You might just have to wait an indefinite amount of time to get the cart working the way you want it to.

Poor support from a foreign country … gotcha!

If you have a problem with getting your shopping cart set up, who will you turn to? Not all shopping cart providers have native English speakers proving support who understand what it’s like to do business in first world countries or the ins-and-outs of things like our postal services, postage and payment providers, government compliance and common business practices. They might not even speak great English. It pays to check that you have Canadian, Australian, American, or good English speaking support before you sign up to a shopping cart subscription.

Insecure solutions .. gotcha!

There’s a common misconception held that if you are not storing credit card details in your website then you don’t need to worry about whether your website and the server it operates on meets the strict security requirements of the credit card industry (known as PCI DSS standards). Similarly, it will be argued that checkout encryption is not required for the similar reasons – it’s not a mandatory requirement if you are redirecting to your payment providers to do the actual credit card processing. There are a few issues with this way of thinking: your end customers do not understand the ins and outs of whether you are required to have the secure “lock” on checkout. When they shop on the big sites that they feel safe and confident in shopping on they see the padlock on checkout. Do they see it on yours? Trust plays a big part in preventing shopping carts from becoming abandoned and should not be under-estimated.
PCI compliance is more than just your website technology as well as it touches all parts of your business – how you manage access to your website for contractors, what you do with credit card details provided to you over the phone, how you protect the PCs and mobile devices used to manage your website and customer information, what contingency plans you have in place for disasters, what kinds of monitoring and security you have on your servers etc. A shared web host offering multiple technologies and no PCI compliance guarantee could put your customers and business at risk, as the credit card companies will hold you responsible if something goes wrong. Not having an online shop on a PCI compliant server is like driving your car with inadequate insurance cover – everything’s okay until you have an accident.

No mobile support … gotcha!

Users increasingly use mobile phones for shopping, and, at the time of writing, international research suggest that as many as 13% of all online shoppers worldwide will comparison shop for products on their mobiles even if they later buy from you on a desktop device. If your website does not have a mobile specific theme or mobile readiness then you run the risk of losing potential customers before they even get to your checkout process.

A cut of your sales and hidden costs … gotcha!

Be sure you are clear on how you will be charged for your shopping cart. Do you get email included with your website? After your site is set up, you paying just a monthly-fee or are you paying a percentage of your sales on top of the cart’s monthly cost to your e-commerce provider? Are some of the cart’s features only available on higher plans?
Make sure you work out the total cost of doing business online to get the best options for your situation – this includes the ongoing postage cost for sending items, stock purchases, bank fees, merchant and gateway fees. It pays to take a look at our guide to costs for starting an online shop to make sure you plan for all the potential costs that you might run into. This helps you stay on top of your new online business.

How Ozcart shopping carts can help you

Ozcart can take a lot of the hassle out of getting an online shop started, as we will build the site for you. When you get it back just add your products, content pages, images, set up your shipping and payments and test your checkout. The cart comes already integrated with a number of Australian specific post calculators like Fastway, Australia Post, Trans Direct, Smart Send, and eGo, payment gateways like e-path, ANZ eGate, CommWeb, NAB Transaction as well as PayPal and other commonly used gateways. It also features USPS for Americans, UPS and FedEx for worldwide customers, and more to be added soon.
The cart has many currencies and tax ready settings, uses high quality English spelling for default system messages, has a friendly checkout process and easy order management process behind the scenes. The cart is Search Engine friendly (SEO) to help the search engines work out what your website is all about and help you take advantage of advanced search engine marketing techniques as you work to promote your site.
Ozcart has a mobile-specific theme that automatically turns on when a mobile is used and our servers are fully PCI-secure with encryption on checkout and in the admin area so your customers can see the “lock” on checkout. Here are some of the ways Ozcart can help you avoid the above gotchas…..
  • No lock-in contracts
  • Ozcart is commercial e-commerce – with country-specific features built-in
  • We do the website design and build it for you – you just add your content
  • Support for Ozcart is from native English speakers and we include a PDF manual, Q&A knowledge base, and email support team available 6-days a week
  • Ozcart servers and software is fully PCI complaint and audited by an independent global security company
  • Ozcart includes many country-specific features, including a special mobile-theme for shopping on smartphones and tablets

To find out more about how Ozcart could help your business, please take our shopping cart feature tour or view our cart demo.

Other resources

Some other useful resources you might want to look at when planning your online shop include:
Ozcart Ecommerce

Ozcart has been in business since 2006 and is an online, hosted shopping cart that you can use for your current or new online store. We offer so many features for the same low price. In fact, we are addicted to adding new ones to ensure that we remain one of the best choices for a shopping cart.

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