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Weighing Your Shopping Cart Options

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If you sell more than a handful of products on your website, you’ll need to add what’s known as a shopping cart. This is a function that allows your customers to pick out the items they want and send them to a “cart,” which holds onto them until they’re ready to check out. The program then totals the order and adds any applicable taxes and shipping charges.

So how do you add a shopping cart to your site? There are three different options you can choose from.

1) Link out to a third-party service (hosted)

2) Buy your own software and do it yourself

3) Download a script and configure it to your needs

Let’s examine each option separately and the pros and cons involved with each:

THIRD PARTY/HOSTED CARTS

Third party cart services are easy to set up; you can be running in a matter of hours. They require no software to buy or install, but usually charge a monthly fee. Most include a secured server and a merchant account option, if you don’t have your own. This is a relatively inexpensive solution for small businesses.

1) VCart.com: www.vcart.com
Free to try for 30 days then you pay 90.00 for 3 months, 150.00 for 6 months or 1 year for 249.00. Supports 1 to 10,000 products- No CGI to configure and you can use your existing merchant account.

2) FreeMerchant: www.FreeMerchant.com
Prices range from 19.99 to 40.00 per month with a 30 day free trial. Build your store using their web based interface.

3) Yahoo Store: store.yahoo.com
You can’t go wrong with Yahoo’s expert reputation. Easy to build your store on their servers using a point and click interface. You can even upload your own images. Cost for up to 100 items is only 100.00 a month. You can also use your existing merchant account or apply for one through them.

4) Marketers Choice: gta-tech.com
Believe it or not, this one is free. Supplied by Marketers Choice, this cart calculates totals, taxes, shipping charges and notifies you of new orders automatically. Follow the wizard for easy set up. You need your own merchant account but they supply the secured server. So what’s the catch? They try to get you to upgrade to their 150.00 a year package, which is an option. If you continue to use the free one the only trade off is they will display business related ads on all of your cart pages.

SCRIPTS

If you’re at all good at programming with CGI, there are limitless scripts you can download for free or low cost. If you’re all thumbs you could hire someone to configure the script for you. One of the best online programmers I know of is David Black. He’s fast, reliable and his prices are fair. You can contact him at DavidBlack@thewavecave.com

1) CGI EXTREMES: www.cgiextremes.com
You’ll find a variety of CGI shopping scripts here ranging from free up to 300.00 in price. They’ll work on a variety of platforms. Each one is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 for guidance in selection.

2) CGI Resource Index: cgi-resources.com
To find the goodies here you’ll need to drill down to the appropriate category. Click on programs and scripts, then Perl, then shopping carts.

3) PERLSHOP: www.arpanet.com
This CGI script is for sites hosted on a Unix system. It is free to use with their logo on the pages.

4) PAY PAL SHOPPING CART www.cstafford.com
Check out this free CGI Shopping cart script that passes all of your credit card sales over to PayPal for easy processing.

SOFTWARE

1) SALES CART: www.salescart.com
Specifically for FrontPage users. Cost is 179.00. Easy to set up using their step by step wizard.

2) PDG SHOPPING CART www.pdgsoft.com/cart.htm
Completely customizable to fit your needs. Integrates easily with FrontPage software or Dreamweaver. You can also use this cart to set up your own associate program. Works on Unix, NT servers and others. It is a little pricey at 750.00, but worth it for the features you get.

3) Your E-Ware: www.youreware.com/home
Fast and easy to use, with a low price that gives this software an edge. It will hold up to 2,500 products in up to 20 product categories. Works on Win 95.98 and Mac. Download the free demo and take it for a spin. Final cost is under 100.00

There you have some of the various options to choose from when setting up your online storefront. Before jumping into the e-commerce waters, make sure you weigh your options and choose the one that best fits your needs and your budget.

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Weighing Your Shopping Cart Options
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