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Choosing the right shopping cart platform

Take the time to integrate the right shopping cart software into your retail website so you can better care for your customers and refine their experiences, says DPO PayGate.

Whether you already have a website or are building your online store from scratch, you will need a reliable shopping cart platform to make the shopping experience seamless.

Many of the website builders on the market today make it easy to build a great looking online presence in a matter of hours with drag-and-drop functionality. However, not all website builders are created equal and some are more suited to e-commerce than others. Before investing your time and money to build your retail website, you need to ensure that it is capable of handling what you want from it. Or you could discover that the platform you’ve chosen, like Wix, can’t scale to sell more than 10 products, lacks vital e-commerce capabilities you envisioned, or can’t integrate with payment gateways in Southern Africa.

E-commerce shopping cart solutions such as WooCommerce, Shopify and Magento allow you to build your entire store on top of their platforms and also make the process of integrating their software into existing websites easy – if it was built on a suitable platform. When you choose between shopping carts, also ensure that you have a clear idea of what features and functionality you need so you can build a retail business that works perfectly from the first item right through to the final sale.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when selecting your shopping cart platform:

The features of the perfect shopping cart solution

1. Ensure it has rich functionality and features

There are several questions you need to ask yourself before investing in your shopping platform. What will your shoppers be looking for? Will they need to see your products in a variety of colours? Will you need to send out newsletters to your customers? Do you plan on developing an affiliate marketing campaign? Add your requirements around reporting, stock alerts, mobile and web applications, and platform accessibility to these questions. When your customers come to your store, you want their entire experience to be engaging and easy.

Before you opt into any shopping cart solution, ensure it includes a SSL certificate – or find out if you have to buy your own – as that engenders trust.

Write down every one of your requirements so you can tick off the list as you search for a solution. The right platform will ensure that you can offer customers a rewarding experience while building marketing campaigns and nurturing your database.

2. Ensure it can scale

Invest in an e-commerce platform that’s capable of scaling with your business. You may have started with a specific revenue goal in mind, but your business may grow ahead of your expectations and your platform has to be capable of handling this growth. Assess the shopping platform’s features and ensure that you can customise these to adapt to your changing needs.

It is also worth ensuring that it can integrate with other tools and services that are essential to the seamless management and control of your business. You will need access to solutions such as accounting software, inventory management and shipping tools to maintain your business so any solution that doesn’t allow for this level of functionality isn’t going to be a good fit. It’s easier to plan ahead, to ensure that your shopping cart is capable of expanding with your business, than it is to tear everything out and start again.

3. Know exactly what you will pay

Many shopping cart solutions come with a great price tag that looks incredibly reasonable at the outset but then doesn’t include all the extras that you will have to buy to ensure the system works to your standards. Often you will have to tack on several add-ons to get the functionality you need, which could push you well over your budget. Some important considerations are:

  • Storage and bandwidth – choose a plan that has enough capacity to handle your images and data.
  • Templates – some plans include basic themes that are free but premium templates with added features will cost more.
  • Extra features – these can vary from platform to platform so ensure that your solution at least includes basic social media, SEO, and buttons such as ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ so you can build your customer base.
  • Support – some carts limit the number of support tickets you’re allowed so if you want deeper customer support you may need to pay more.

4. Ensure you can integrate it across platforms and solutions

As mentioned earlier, it is incredibly important that your shopping cart is capable of integrating with other solutions. The last thing you want is to spend hours troubleshooting problems that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

While most shopping carts support leading global payment processing solutions, like Stripe, this isn’t an option for South African customers. South Africa has different, localised, payment solutions. Shopping carts also integrate with specific payment gateways (the till point on your website) to process your payments. If you invest in shopping carts that are US-focused, like SquareSpace or BigCommerce, you may end up paying huge fees or find it impossible to process payments at all.

The solution you select must be compatible with local payment gateways and payment processing platforms to ensure you keep your costs down and your customers happy.

5. Know if it has ongoing support

There are few things as frustrating as inadequate support. Whether you opt into using a website developer to create and manage your site, or whether you opt into building an online store yourself, you will need reliable support to keep your business running. Look beyond the general documentation that lists frequently asked questions (FAQ), the forums, and the user guides for self-service help. If you experience a crisis, you want to be able to call or get online help via instant chat.

In conclusion

Selecting the right shopping cart platform for your business may well be one of the most important technical decisions you make. Its functionality, ability to scale, support, costs and integration capabilities will determine the smooth sailing of your retail business and your customer experiences. Ensure you invest in a solution that takes the pressure off and that matches your expectations. If you choose a website developer, make sure they understand your business and can offer you relevant, expert guidance.

You can also take advantage of the free trials offered by numerous platforms as this gives you time to experiment and see if they are a good fit. Try adding on new products, introducing product variables, changing categories and adapting content by yourself. This will quickly identify pain points and problems that will help you make an informed choice.

It’s easier to spend time selecting the right platform today than to lose days migrating platforms tomorrow. With these tools you will quickly build a reliable and scalable solution that has the power and flexibility to grow with your business and support your dreams.

DPO PayGate is a proud Partner of the NSBC.

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