So, you are exploring opening up an eCommerce store and wondering whether it is worth it to get a hosted shopping cart or whether you should use a stand-alone shopping cart software. This is going to be a very personal and individual choice. It will ultimately depend on the goal of your store, how much time you’d like to spend working with the design and customization of the store and what you want the store to look like. Let’s start with the basics.
Why Do You Need Shopping Cart Software?
The main purpose of stand-alone shopping cart software is to support online merchants who have larger customer databases, and enable a simplified self-service method. Let’s face it, you don’t want to be calling and asking each and every customer to send you a check. Ecommerce websites that have reliable shopping cart services, the prospective buyers have the ability to preselect, reserve and store the items that they would like to own. The shopping cart is one of the elements that instills trust in the ecommerce store and the online shopping process. It lets the customer know that they are dealing with a professional provider. For the ecommerce store owner, it leads to an accelerated checkout. It also can provide additional opportunities to cross-sell related products and make further sales.
What is Stand-Alone Shopping Cart Software?
Stand-alone shopping cart software refers to the software that enables you to make purchases on your website that doesn’t include hosting and customer service in the package. It does mean that you have full access to the code that runs the website, which you don’t have when you opt for a hosted shopping cart. Typically, you own the code or pay a license for using the code and any modifications to that code. You or your developer can make any modifications to that code. On the other hand, hosted solutions do not give you access to the code. You usually only have access to make template and design changes when you use a hosted solution. For business owners looking to build a highly customized enterprise or eCommerce website, this can feel very restrictive and limiting.
Some top ecommerce shopping cart non-hosted solutions include:
Stand-alone Shopping Carts and Unique Design
When it comes to business, you want your company to stand out. Having a unique and memorable design is important. Unfortunately, when purchasing a shopping cart system from a hosted solution, you have a number of different templates to chose from. This means that your website will end up looking like 100 other sites, maybe even 1,000. Looking like everyone else doesn’t help your brand and it may not position your company where you’d like it to be. For that reason, many ecommerce business owners opt for a customized solution that enables you to be creative designing your website. With stand-alone shopping cart systems, you can select how you want the images to appear on your website and where the layout should be. You will also be able to select the colors of the buy buttons and how the checkout will appear on your site.
Flexibility of Functionality
As you run your business, you want to ensure that the shopping cart is functional and meets your needs. At some point, you’ll need to add different functions as your business grows. You may not need all the bells and whistles right now, but in the future, you may want to add some unique functions that will improve user experience and take your business to the next level. You may not need everything now, but think about what will happen when you outgrow your eCommerce cart? Who will be making the modifications for you? Will your hosted shopping cart offer the solutions that you would like? At what cost? With a stand-alone shopping cart system, you’ll always have the ability to add functionality through plugins or developers that can created unique code for you.
Some functionality that you may want to include on your website:
- Managing membership sites
- Integrate shipping carriers
- Automate your taxes
- Customize emails and notifications
- Add social media integrations into your store
- Integrate Google Analytics of other reporting features
- Customize your product pages
- Add features to your cart and checkout
When choosing a stand-alone shopping cart software for your ecommerce store, you can add these features to your website by simply adding a plugin or extension when you need it. It is simple enough that you can do it on your own, but you can also delegate that task to your IT person if you have one.
Search Engine Marketing & Optimization
Hosted eCommerce shopping carts are really lacking when it comes to search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is one of the best ways to get targeted customers to your website. Therefore, having blog posts and product pages that are optimized for search engines is vital. Unfortunately, many eCommerce shopping carts lack search engine optimization. They may have too many clients who are selling the same items. When this occurs, you can end up with 50 websites selling the same items, using the same cart and in return all end up with pretty much the same website. Google hates this. In fact, they will penalize websites with duplicate content. Search engines look to see how unique your site and your products are. Websites that appear to be just like everyone else won’t stand out at all. Custom designing the site allows for the ability to constantly use the latest in web code trends and search engine optimization techniques. You can update your website with the latest and greatest for the best search engine marketing around!
Controlling Your Destiny
Hosted shopping cart systems get you up and running quickly, but they don’t allow you to own your own code. This is huge. What happens when you become dissatisfied with your hosting provider and want to move your site? They own your code. If you want to move your shopping cart to another developer or hosting plan, you don’t have access to the code. You will either have to stay with them or recreate your whole website. Therefore, it is a great idea to select a stand along shopping cart software if you foresee your company moving to another hosting provider. The data can easily be exported.
With stand-alone shopping cart software, one can easily integrate with the back end software like CRMs and fulfillment solutions. You will have complete control over your online store, which is a major advantage.
The Cons of Stand-Alone Shopping Cart Systems
- They are usually harder to set up than their hosted counterparts. At the very least, you will need to find a hosting provider, choose your e-commerce platform, and go through an installation and setup process.
- In most cases, there is no centralized support system you can contact if you need help or run into an error. So you will need to become adept at looking through the documentation and searching community resources to troubleshoot problems for yourself or hire a qualified developer to help you.
- Depending on your hosting provider, costs can pile up once your store begins to grow. They also may decrease, depending on the traffic.
- Keeping your website updated with different applications is your responsibility.
- You are responsible for fixing problems with your website unless you have an IT professional on hand.
- Customized development can become expensive.
There are definitely benefits and drawbacks to both stand-alone shopping cart software and hosted ecommerce platforms. Both solutions are powerful and flexible enough to fulfill even the most demanding set of requirements, so the choice is yours and should be determined based on how you prefer to run your business. You should first determine the goals of your business and be realistic about how much time that you have to spend on designing and maintaining your website.
Stand-alone shopping cart systems: You should select a stand-alone shopping cart system if you enjoy design and want a greater degree of control over your website and the functionality of your website. It is a great option for someone who is starting out on a shoestring budget and has a bit more time to set up and maintain their website. Stand-along shopping cart systems are great for people who already have a website with hosting and simply want to add their ecommerce store to their website. They are great for people who are already familiar WordPress and very comfortable adding plugins to their website.
Hosted e-commerce platforms: Hosted platforms are great for the business owners who have a bit more money than time. They want to get things up and running quickly. Hosted platforms are great for people who don’t want to hassle with the technical details or don’t have IT experts with the knowledge of hosting and managing the carts. They will cost you a bit more and are less customizable. Hosted e-commerce shopping carts offer a turn-key product in addition to broad expert support. The provider also manages the security and availability of the platform, so you don’t have to worry about that.