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What Is An eCommerce Shopping Cart?

Oct 26, 2007
Do you want to sell your products online? Are you not really sure where to start? It is more than likely that you will need to get yourself some shopping cart software, or develop your own. This software is the backbone of any online store. It allows you to display your products online and let potential customers make purchases from you.

Most shopping cart solutions comprise of 4 parts; the actually shopping cart, a product catalogue, the checkout process and an administration panel of some form.

The Product Catalogue is, as you would expect, the part of the store that displays your products. This can range from a single hand coded HTML page displaying a few products up to a massive multi-category store containing thousands of products. Store with a large number of products normally use a dynamic solution driven by a database, this allow information about the products to be changed with simple database updates rather than making changes to every page. These are commonly written in web scripting languages such as PHP or Active Server Pages.

Without the shopping cart component of your store your customers will not be able to make a purchase and hand over the cash. This part of the solution allows your customer to add products to a virtual basket then checkout and pay at a later point. Conceptually the software works in exactly the same way as a shopping basket in a supermarket, the customer browses through the products on the shelves placing products they want into their basket. When they are ready to finalise the purchase they take the basket to the checkout.

Once the customer has decided that they want to purchase the products in their shopping cart then they must make a payment and hand over shipping details. This is where the checkout process comes in. This process allow you to integrate with your chosen billing gateway or provider and collect the payment detail from the customer. Most eCommerce solutions provide you with a number of options when it comes to billing integration allowing you to choose a billing solution that fits your business model.

The final part of the software is the administration panel, the panel allows store owners and selected staff to manage the running of the store and perform administrative actions when required. It can perform a multitude of actions but a number of common activities are:

- Setup The Store (payment solutions, shopping costs, etc)
- Add/Update Products
- Process Orders
- View Store Statistics and Reports
- Manage Customers

Most online store solutions available today incorporate all of the above features (product catalogue, shopping cart, admin panel and checkout process) into one easily installable and manageable package. More advanced solutions include facilities to integrate with numerous payment gateways, manager customer, customer self management options and much more.
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