Small Business Tips

Best Shopping Cart Software for Small Business in the UK

Nigel Graber

If you’re thinking about setting up an eCommerce store, you’re going to need some way of making payment easy for your customers. That means you’re going to need shopping cart software.

What is shopping cart software?

Firstly, let’s clear up exactly what wemean by shopping cart software. Whether you’re selling dog toys or detergentonline, an effective shopping cart is key to the success of your eCommercebusiness.

How your shopping cart works and how itintegrates with the rest of your business, particularly your online catalogueand your payment-processing gateway, can make or break your online operation.

Of course, you might get shopping cartsoftware lumped in with your web-hosting platform. That might be fine for yourneeds, but you’re more likely better off taking a close look at the nature ofyour business, your intended audience and how you want to sell.

Identify features important to you

These days, shopping cart software does far more than simply accept payments. So you’ll need to think carefully about which features matter most to your online business.

Is it necessary for you to be able to track and manage your inventory, fulfil orders, track sales, maintain a marketing or loyalty programme, sell offline or manage a blog?

Many of today’s shopping cart softwarepackages will do all this and more. You can even buy turnkey bundles thatinclude web hosting, payment processing and fulfilment. But it can be hard toseparate the wheat from the chaff. So let’s assume you’ll be buying standaloneshopping cart software.

Why you need shopping cart software

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Let’s imagine you’re buying a coffee-maker on the web. You’ve chosen the machine that will deliver your perfect super-latte macchiato and placed your order. But what’s this? You’re being asked to phone up with your debit card details. No way, Nellie.

Making your customers jump through hoops like this is a sure way to lose sales. Of course, there’s always good old PayPal. It’s a decent first step. But good shopping cart software will do more. It can handle several types of payment, collect tax and work out shipping costs.

If your shopping cart software isn’tdoing this, then you’ll need to do it yourself. And we’re pretty sure you’vegot better things to do.

Joyful woman enjoying online shopping in bed

How does shopping cart software work?

Thebest shopping cart software allows customers to browse without being lockedinto buying before they’re ready. That’s why you get that dinky little shoppingbasket in the top-right corner of the screen.

Customersmust be able to add or remove products from the basket easily. They must alsobe able to pick from various options: sizes, colours, widths and heights. Arunning total on each page can help buyers navigate the process.

What about those tax calculations?

If you’re UK-based and selling within the EU, the best shopping cart software will automatically enable B2B  (business-to-business) EU tax fields. It will charge your assigned tax for B2C (business-to-customer) sales and let EU buyers validate their EU VAT number, so they’re exempt from paying VAT on their purchase.

And shipping?

Whenit comes to shipping, today’s shopping carts can make calculations based onlook-up tables that you’ve set, or make real-time calculations according toinformation from shippers and couriers.

These shipping calculations may consider:

  • Weight
  • The number of items
  • By weight and area
  • Fixed prices

If you do plenty of shipping, it’s especially convenient to use the plug-ins provided by the major shippers. Companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL offer this as a free service. You’ll usually be able to limit the shipping options customers see, even when the shipper offers other options.

Secure checkout

Let’snot forget being able to check out securely and quickly. To do this withoutmaking the hackers happy, your shopping cart software will need:

  • A secure SSL connection between your website and the buyer
  • A payment gateway to communicate with the card processor
  • Card number protection
  • Secure order retrieval that works without exposing card details to hackers. This is usually achieved with a secure SSL connection, although XML, secure FTP or encrypted e-mail are alternatives.

Happily,most carts come with these features as standard.

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Payment gateways

Whenchoosing your payment gateway, make sure you don’t pick one before buying yourshopping cart software, as some might not be compatible. Always go forreal-time card authorisation, as you’ll benefit from:

  • Time saved retyping details
  • Eliminating errors from re-entering orders
  • Time saved processing orders, with authorisation a given

Email confirmation

Your shopping cartsoftware will almost certainly also come with on-screen and email receipts thatconfirm the sale. If you can find one that also confirms shipping, so much thebetter.

The best features of shopping cart software

It’s horses forcourses where shopping cart software is concerned. Some systems are better forselling physical objects, while others shine when selling the digital andvirtual, such as eBooks, files and services.

Some are suited tomigrating data from an existing cart, while other software has tools to helpyou set up a brand-new storefront.

You’re also going to want SEO tools, integration with Google Analytics and the ability to call someone up if things go pear-shaped – at any time of day or night.

If there’s a trialperiod on offer, take it. Use the time to figure out the shopping cartdashboard. And always look for great security, in the shape of a web host thatoffers you an SSL certificate.

Hand on smartphone using shopping cart software app

What’s the best shopping cart software for UK businesses?

Here are a fewquick reviews of the best shopping cart software for UK business.

GoDaddy(ÂŁ19.99/month)

GoDaddy comes with a wizard that makes site-building so easy, aTeletubby could handle it. Alongside easy navigation and a clean dashboard, itgives you Facebook commerce pages, SEO scans and email marketing.

However, there areno mobile apps or point-of-sale support. And there’s no Application ProgrammerInterface (API) and just the one pricing tier.

Insummary

GoDaddy is a soundchoice for new sites and start-ups, but bigger players won’t be impressed bythe lack of functionality.

Shopify(ÂŁ19.99/month)

Shopify’s the most-searched-for eCommerce platform in the UK. Thatcould be because it’s so easy to set up and customise. You could have thecoding skills of a chimp on coffee and be able to fix up an online store whilepicking from a good variety of themes and apps.

On the downside,Shopify isn’t the cheapest shopping cart software on the UK market, when youtake into account various add-ons, such as transaction fees. But you can dipyour toe in the water before diving in, with a 14-day free trial.

Insummary

For aneasy-to-set-up, all-in-one platform, Shopify is hard to beat.

PinnacleCart(ÂŁ34.99/month)

PinnacleCart comes with a 14-day trial and some nice-looking templates. Available is an easy-to-grasp dashboard and good tools for SEO and email marketing.

On the flipside, there’sno built-in point-of-sale system and no free shared SSL certificate.

Insummary

A simple, fun wayto manage and market your eCommerce store, but you might think the lack of apoint-of-sale system is a drawback.

WixStores (ÂŁ12.50/month)

Wix Stores’shopping cart software is easy to pick up and great for simple customisation.It also supports point-of-sale systems and doesn’t charge you for transactions.

Cons? Storage islimited to 20GBs and you can’t sell during your free trial.

Insummary

Very slick shoppingcart software that’s great for small businesses wanting to get up and runningquickly. If you’re after something more advanced or with better customisation,though, best look elsewhere.

3dcart(ÂŁ25/month)

On the plus side, 3dcart comes with a generous 15-day trial and good SEO features. Less impressive is how the advanced features are available only on the higher tiers. Third-party apps could also be better. And there’s a limit on the number of users per plan.

Insummary

The templatesaren’t fantastically beautiful and the dashboard isn’t very intuitive. However,it’s a solid cart at a decent price.

Man using smartphone shopping online

BigCommerce($29.95/month quoted on UK site)

With a 15-daytrial, advanced features on every plan and plenty of third-party apps, BigCommerceholds plenty of appeal.

However, the Plusplan costs almost three times as much as the Standard. If you want the Pro package,be prepared to pay in the hundreds. Don’t even ask about the Enterpriseversion.

Insummary

A good choice ofadvanced features for small businesses and a powerful platform. However, thehigher plans come at a cost.

XCart

With XCart, you can choose from hosted or self-install options. There are 30-day trial periods, refunds and even a free plan.

Unfortunately forsome, the downloadable software requires some HTML editing and codingknowledge.

Insummary

It’s a powerfulpackage, although probably a bit complex for some. Smaller businesses might beput off by the need for manual coding.

Ecwid

There’s a free planavailable on Ecwid, alongwith handy plug-ins for WordPress and Facebook. A responsive design gives the site a tasty look, whateverit’s viewed on.

On the minus side,there are no add-ons available and you’ll need some ability to code.

Insummary

The USP here isthat Ecwid works with your existing site. It’s also easy to manage, but you’llneed to know the basics of coding.

Which shopping cart software is best for you?

The shopping cartsoftware you ultimately plump for will depend on the size of your business,what you want it to do and how skilled you are at coding and site-building.

Let us know when you’ve toppled Amazon.

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