Choosing the Right Online Shopping Cart

Are you a website owner or a web designer/developer? If either applies, I would venture to say that eventually you’ll need an online shopping cart for one of your websites. In fact, almost all new websites today need some sort of ecommerce built-in, for the purpose of selling goods and services in the online marketplace.

The greatest challenge is to find the perfect ecommerce shopping cart solution for yourself and/or your client. This task can be very overwhelming, considering, if you type ‘shopping cart’ into, this search alone returns over 14.4 million hits! Most of us don’t have the time to sift through more than a few pages of a search engine to find what we’re looking for.

For the last 3 months, much of my time has been devoted to researching as much shopping cart technology as I could get my hands on. In general, shopping cart software ranges in price from free to over $2000 for a single license and web hosted carts range from $5 to hundreds of dollars per month. The studied carts cover the spectrum of all web programming languages (ASP, ASP.NET, Cold Fusion, Flash, Java, JavaScript & Perl shopping carts) and provide limitless features as a whole. The problem is that locating YOUR perfect cart with YOUR specific features can be a big task.

But no fear, just follow this guaranteed step-by-step guide to locate it:

The Top 10 Steps to Finding the Best Online Shopping Cart


How much money do you have to spend on an internet shopping cart? The nice advantage is that there are shopping carts with hundreds of features and they don’t cost you a dime. They are generally open source products. The only problem is that these same “free shopping carts” can take hours of installation time and be fairly difficult to configure. For a monthly fee, web hosting shopping carts are made for users with little programming experience and allows them to have an online storefront presence in no time.

Hosting vs. Software

There are two options in selecting your overall shopping cart solution. Either you get shopping cart software, download it, install it on your web server, then configure the shopping cart OR you get an online storefront (aka a hosted shopping cart) where the configuration is very basic and the required setup time is minimal. If you have some programming skills, I recommend buying a script and installing it on your own. The nice thing is that you pay a one-time fee for shopping cart software and the license is good for a lifetime. It’s approximately the same price to have a hosted solution for a year compared to most one time shopping cart license fees.

Supported Gateways

What do I mean by gateways? Gateways give shopping carts the ability to connect and securely process credit card orders in real-time. Not all shopping carts are created equal. Make sure that your client’s merchant account is supported by the cart you select. I have found that almost all carts support the larger online payment processing companies, such as, PayPal and Verisign.

Shipping Options

Will you be shipping physical products? If so, there are shopping carts that have built-in real-time shipping options through DHL, UPS And USPS. Often times, the cart gives the user the ability to view tracking orders and order status all from within your secure shopping cart web interface. Also, there are shopping carts with options to ship digital goods as well (files, programs, pictures, music and others).

Technical Support

What kind of technical support does your shopping cart offer? If you choose to purchase a script, be sure to also subscribe to the shopping cart creator’s newsletter, so that you can stay on top of future updates to the software. Be aware that technical support is generally available on a pay-per-incident basis, as a yearly fee or in the rare case, free. Be sure to know what kind of customer support guarantee the shopping cart comes with.


Please, only buy a shopping cart if it supports SSL (secure socket layer), with 128-bit encryption. As an online storefront, remember that you are responsible for the safe transfer of sensitive information (credit card and bank account information) that is processed through your store. If any of the sensitive information is accessible (stolen) from your website, you could be liable. Be sure that you’re purchasing a secure shopping cart solution. Ask the creator’s of the shopping cart what they do specifically to protect the secure transfer of sensitive information.

Style Compatibility

Can you customize your shopping cart to look like your website? There needs to be a seamless transition between your website and your shopping storefront or your customers might get hesitant in purchasing your products. There should be similar colors and style layout to look professional and believable.

Extra Features

I just wanted to mention some of the other features that I have discovered, which might be a critical point in determining the shopping cart you want.

Affiliate Program – Offer your own customized affiliate program through your shopping cart software. Quickbooks Integration – Many carts allow direct integration with Quickbooks.

Newsletter & Mailing Letter Managers – The ability to stay in touch with your current customers and keep them returning to your online store.

Custom Taxing Options – Create taxable or tax-free products and have the ability to add various global tax options at checkout.

World Languages & Currencies – Shopping cart language translation and support for world currency might be a necessary feature for your cart.

Error Free

You mean shopping carts can have errors? Of course. A private UK-based web testing firm found the following, after studying a large group of UK online shopping carts for a period of one month (24/7):”The majority of UK web sites are guilty of leaving e-consumers stranded at the checkout empty handed, once they have already spent valuable time browsing and selecting goods to purchase. This is due to erratic functionality within shopping carts, at a critical step in the online purchasing process.”

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Why We Enjoy Shopping

“If money can’t buy happiness, why does it sometimes feel so good to buy stuff?” asks Kristin Bianco in his personal finance column at Fox News Network. Well, there is an answer for Kristin’s question if you search for it at the right place. That place is consumer psychology. Professor Kit Yarrow, professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, writing in Psychology Today names the good feeling that Kristin experience when buying stuff “retail therapy”. She says a recent study has found that more than half of Americans admit to engaging in “retail therapy.”

So, when your customers feel down, they go shopping to feel better…

Finding the joy of shopping

According to the emotional view of consumer decision-making, each of us is likely to associate deep feelings or emotions, such as joy, fear, love, hope, sexuality, fantasy and even a little ‘magic’, with certain purchases. Also, scientists have found that shopping does make some people feel good. It’s been reported that when a person shops, the brain releases the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is linked to feelings of satisfaction and pleasure and is released when you face new, exciting experiences. So, what do your customers pay for when they want to have “retail therapy”?

Recent survey results indicate that engagement in retail therapy is often driven by factors such as boredom and seasonal changes. As many as 66% of adults and 75% of teens indicate that shopping is a great cure for boredom, while 45% of adults revealed that the seasonal changes are the biggest motivator to go shopping.

If your customers really want to feel happy, they will go on a ‘shopping spree’. WiseGeek describes a shopping spree as “a playful” and “devil may care” attitude in a single shopping trip where lots of money is spent. A shopping spree is the action you take to start your ‘retail therapy’. But what do your customers say about the joy of shopping?

Customer insights about the joy of shopping

Here are some commentary and comments from customer’s experiences about the joy of shopping.

“I think the clothes I buy will make me happier. The storage bins, the throw pillows, perhaps a bottle of nail polish. And while it’s true for a day, it doesn’t bring me real, lasting happiness. It gives me a bit of a happy high: “I love this new dressssss! How cute and stylish am I!?” but then the excitement wears off and I want to buy something else… ” writes Ashley in her blog “Our Little Apartment”. The comment of Ashley supports the findings of the survey done by Ebates.

Customers, sometimes, are feeling guilty after a shopping spree. Here are some of the comments on Ashley’s blog:

Ashile says: “It is so true that in the moment we think buying some new it will make us happier. But truly, it is only momentary happiness”.

Marta says “We all have wasted money and resources and time on unneeded shopping. You know how I do now? I ask myself “do I REALLY need it?” “Would I come back tomorrow again to buy it?” “Is it likely that I’ll never find such a wonderful cloth again in the world? Ever?” then, I usually realize that I’m not going to buy anything, and I feel sort of liberated.”

Customers are feeling both positive and negative emotions at the same time before, during and after shopping. But what will the customer feels when she visits your shop?

Creating the right environment for joyful shopping

Previous studies have shown that consumers are influenced by their shopping environments which in turn influence consumers’ emotional states and purchases. The negative emotions consumers experience before the shopping process are soon forgotten when consumers immerse themselves in the shopping process and start visiting stores and examining the merchandise.

It is unlikely that a random purchase at any venue will have therapeutically value for people feeling down. Their shopping experience needs to reward them. Emotional customers seeking ‘retail therapy’ should visit your shop to reward themselves. There are some obvious things a retailer needs to do to create lasting shopping experiences for their customers.

Keep a wide range and a variety of products;
Keep products that are in ‘season’;
Make sure that there are always some items on promotion;
Try to create an atmosphere in your shop that will make the customers feel happy;
Provide the customers with excellent, friendly service and make the transactions hassle free;
Allow your customers to see, touch, rub, wear, taste and smell the products;
Keep your shop clean and tidy at all times;
Make sure that your shop is well well-lit and that there are enough cashiers at the pay points;
Play music that put customers in a good mood and give them stylish shopping bags when they check out

Lastly, “What are customers doing when they are feeling bored? They surf the internet and do some online shopping…


It seems difficult to draw a line between ‘the joy of shopping’ and ‘compulsive buying’. Compulsive buying is described as a ‘addictive disorder’ whilst the joy of shopping is keeping our shops open. The question that we as retailers need to ask is what to do if we recognize some of our customers as compulsive buyers? Do we have a moral duty to warn them about it? Or to suggest help?

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Benefits of Shopping Malls

The earliest malls were Paris Arcades in the 19th century. They became very popular with shoppers instantly. Since then shopping malls have evolved to suit people’s tastes. Shopping malls are the most preferred shopping areas in our times among shoppers across the globe.

Earlier shops in shopping centres catered to the elite. But it is no longer the case. Now, there are shops in shopping malls which cater to different budgets.

Shoppers prefer shopping centres/malls to stand-alone shops for various reasons:

1. They have their own parking facility.

2. There is a wide variety of products available.

3. There are products from competing producers available under one roof. So, they can compare and make purchases.

4. They have facilities such as restrooms.

5. They have gaming zones.

6. There are food courts with a wide variety of cuisine.

7. There are movie theatres in shopping centres.

All these features making shopping a fun-filled and satisfying experience.

Since shopping centres are the most sought-after shopping destinations, it is beneficial for a businessman to set up a store in a shopping mall. Generally, retail store owners rent shop space in a mall. Renting store space benefits the businessman in many ways.

• Shopping malls are usually located in prime locations which are easily accessible. If a retailer sets up a store in a mall, he can have the shop in a prime location with a minimal investment. On the other hand, if he attempts purchasing a shop in such a location, he may not be able to afford it. A rented property implies low initial investment. This enables the businessman to utilize the saved amount on his business.

• He can attract clients of competitors who have shops in the mall. This enables him to build a clientele easily.

• He does not have to direct his time and efforts towards the maintenance of the shop. This helps him to focus on his business.

• Generally, the charges for utilities are included in the rent. Hence, he does not have to involve himself in these matters.

• Many a time, businessmen set up pop-up stores in shopping centres in order to attract customers for new products. This is a popular location for a pop-up store as it is a high traffic area.

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