5. Selecting a Shopping Cart and Web Hosting Service for Your Online Store

The Closet Entrepreneur by Kendra Leah Fuller

By , @Writing2Day

I apologize for my absence over the past month. Unfortunately, I have a day job that has been rather hectic lately and some unforeseen travel came up. On top of that I’ve been wrestling with the proverbial question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Or in this case, “Which came first, the web hosting company or the shopping cart?”

I would rather get into choosing a web hosting company first. However, since you can’t choose a web host until you know what type of servers your shopping cart software will need to run on, I think we’d better figure out what type of shopping cart will best suit your needs. In some cases, this will go hand in hand with choosing your web hosting company so we’ll address both issues here.

When I first started Xanadus.com (my online retail store), I knew only the basics of HTML and web design. I definitely was not ready to customize a shopping cart. This book is geared towards do-it-yourselfers who are trying to keep their business startup costs as low as possible. To that end, I’m going to assume you know nothing about web design and shopping carts (other than those you’ve checked out on) but are willing to learn as you go.

Time Out for a Brief Rant
Before I tell you what I recommend, I want to caution you against something that I feel is an absolute no no if you want to be competitive online. Do not, I repeat, do not set up a shopping cart/website where your customers have to either call, email or fax in their order. Shopping online is all about the convenience of the experience. You do not want to force your customers to take any unnecessary steps like picking up a phone, etc. THIS WILL LOSE YOU SALES! And, (this is a big and) do not make PayPal the only method of payment. Not everyone wants to set up a PayPal account. Offer PayPal as a payment choice if you want to, but do not offer it exclusively. Doing either one of things will inconvenience your potential customers, scream I am a small retailer and lower their trust in your company, and more than likely send them off to a different site to purchase the exact same product. Do you think I feel strongly about this topic? Now that I’m done with my rant, on with the show.

Hosted Shopping Carts for Beginners
For those of you who are true beginners in the online retail world, I recommend you find a web hosting company that also offers a hosted shopping cart for a set fee each month. The fees are usually based on how many products you have for sale on your site. You can expect to pay about $9.99 for a twenty product catalog to $50 or more for an unlimited number of products.

The advantage a hosted shopping cart will give you is that they are basically a template design. You choose the basic design you like, upload a picture for your logo, and choose the fonts and colors you want to use. You will then go through the basic configuration of the cart to let it know what type of shipping you plan to use, if you will be using coupons, what type of payments you accept, and other options. Once you’ve completed this portion of the cart you are ready to add your products.

Before you add the products, you will need to think about categories and subcategories. Start by adding the main categories of your products to the shopping cart. Be sure to think like one of your customers and choose the wording that they will be searching for. Next, add any subcategories if necessary. To get your products up and running all you have to do is upload product photos, enter your descriptions, and pricing information.

Features to Look For in a Shopping Cart
When choosing which hosted shopping cart to go with be sure to demo the shopping cart. If there is not a demo, look somewhere else. You don’t want to put a lot of hard work and hours of time into creating product listings only to find out that the cart didn’t work the way you expected it to work. Below is a list of some main features that all shopping carts should have.

  • Choose a shopping cart that can stand alone or be easily integrated into an existing website.
  • Product details should include: pictures, descriptions, SKU, pricing, options (such as sizing or color).
  • Categories and Subcategories
  • Multiple photos and enlarged photos (if necessary for your products).
  • Product Search
  • Coupon Codes
  • Discounts on certain products or a group of products.
  • Upsell products by displaying Related Items.
  • Featured Items
  • Search engine friendly page URLs.
  • Accept all major credit cards and PayPal with no setup fees and no percentage of sales. You will already be paying fees directly to your merchant account provider.
  • Process payments.
  • Capture payment information if you are processing through a different program and for backordered items.
  • Real time shipping shipping rates from UPS, Fedex, and USPS.
  • Option to use flat rate shipping.
  • Option to offer free shipping at a set minimum order.
  • Print shipping labels.
  • Shipment tracking for customers.
  • Built in sales tax calculators.
  • Order Management
  • Email notification of orders to you and your customers.
  • Email shipping notification to customers.
  • Inventory Tracking
  • Set minimum inventory.
  • Allow backorder on out of stock products or hide products if out of stock.
  • Customer Management
  • SSL (Secure Socket Layer) enabled for secure checkout.
  • PCI Compliant
  • Optimized version for viewing on mobile devices.

Once you have spent time demoing the shopping cart and made your decision, you will need to purchase a SSL Certificate from the hosting company. Please note, just because the shopping cart is SSL enabled does not mean you have secure checkout. You must purchase an SSL Certificate.

Shopping Cart Software for Experienced Web Designers
For those of you with web design experience, I recommend purchasing shopping cart software. There are many shopping carts on the market and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good one. One free alternative worth checking out is osCommerce. I have not personally used this cart but it looks pretty comprehensive and has a good online support community.

Go through the checklist above and be sure to demo the cart first. Many shopping carts that are purchased outright also have add-ons available for further functionality and customization. Please note that if you chose to purchase shopping cart software, you will need to upload the files to your server and determine which files you need to use for certain customization. Always save a backup copy of the original files before you start dinking around changing things. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience. Once you’ve selected your shopping cart software determine which platform it runs on – either Windows or Unix and you are ready to select your web host.

See Related Posts
#ecommerce #shoppingcarts #webhosting #webdesign #newbusiness #businessstartup


3 Responses to “5. Selecting a Shopping Cart and Web Hosting Service for Your Online Store”

  1. Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this info. Today bloggers publish only about gossips and net and this is actually annoying. A good website with exciting content, this is what I need. Thanks for keeping this website, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.

    • Kendra Leah says:

      Hi Beatrice,
      Thank you for the nice comments. Hopefully you’ll find it useful in the future. I do not do a newsletter at this time. I’ll keep you posted if I do in the future.
      Have a great weekend!
      Kendra Leah

  2. thanks for the post, I’ll be sharing for sure

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