Online eCommerce doesn’t have to be a choice between a highly expensive shopping cart system or nothing. These days there are many forms of commercial transaction options for use online and on mobile. You really just want to provide a system that allows your customers to pay you in the easiest and most hassle free manner.
These types of buttons are typically used on websites that have fewer than around 20 products or services on their website. These buy now buttons are not ideal for people who are trying to buy more than one thing at a time. They are very simple to use and implement. Paypal and Google Checkout are the leaders in creating “buy now” buttons that are easy enough to use, so all you have to do is how to copy and paste code.
These are great for eBooks, eCourses, and other types of simple purchases. Most of the time, there are complications when connecting them to Google Analytics, so you may have difficulties tracking your buyers and demographics for sales.
There are shopping cart solutions that are simple like the buy now buttons but still allow you to have multiple items in the cart at once. You can use copy and paste shopping carts, sometimes referred to as eCommerce widgets. Paypal offers them and again, and so does Google Checkout. The nice thing about Google Check Out Widgets is that they pull their info from a simple Google Docs Spreadsheet. You just change the price in the spreadsheet and it automatically updates the widget.
The biggest reason companies choose a simple shopping cart is to allow for ease of use. Typically, setting up referral rewards programs is not possible because there are not tracking systems available with them. These kind of systems are done through companeis such as iFrame or something similar which keeps your website from gaining the SEO benefit of having those products/services listed on your site. Most of these also have trouble connecting to Google Analytics.
The most popular form of shopping cart used by small businesses is third party hosted carts. If you click to go to their eStore and you can see the url in the address bar change away from their domain you know that you are in this kind of cart. For example, you may start on mydomain.com and click eStore. Then, the url changes to mydomain.ecommercecart.com, and you could safely assume they are using a third party.
Prices vary greatly on these kind of shopping cart systems. Most do not have affiliate tracking, and making changes to fit your customers’ needs could be impossible. Some have advanced split testing that allows you to change colors, shapes, and position on the page. Many of these are expensive. Most do not provide your site with the SEO benefit that you probably want. You will run into cross domain tracking issues when trying to connect these to Google Analytics as well.
There are quite a few free shopping carts that come in code bundles called plugins. Many are free, but the good ones will cost you a pretty penny. You place these files on your site and connect them to a database. Then, they will work pretty well. There is an admin area to upload images, write descriptions, etc. like most carts.
We recommend these types of carts as they can be altered to fit your customers’ needs, can be integrated with affiliate tracking systems, and integrate with split testing software and Google Analytics.
Just like anything in this world, there is no limit to how awesome you can get your cart if you have enough money. There are plenty of shopping cart systems available that have everything a business dreams of having. They cost a ton of money, have super high monthly fees, and it costs even more to have further customization done in the future.
The main problem with these systems is that businesses rarely improve them. Businesses will also abandon them when their target market gives them evidence that its not a good fit. After paying to much to get it set up, many people try to just force what they already have instead of fixing it when it doesn’t seem to work.
We recommend using self hosted third party carts to get the maximum benefit with the least amount of capital. Building something from scratch is just not worth it. SEO is finicky, and if your expensive cart doesn’t meet Google’s algorithm, then changing courses may not be an option, and the game is over. Keep you costs down. Be quick and agile. Make rapid changes based on feedback from your market through analytics, split testing, surveys, and good old fashion customer service.