When you are making the leap to starting an online store or eCommerce website, one of the big decisions you will have to make is what shopping cart to use. A shopping cart is the aspect of your website that will perform as your online store’s catalog, process for ordering, and marketing tool. Usually it is a piece of software that can be plugged into your existing site or can be used as the main structure of your site. Finding the right cart should be a process that takes a bit of time and research. You don’t want to pick a cart that is too simple and restricting that you can’t grow with it, nor do you want one that is too complicated that you need to hire someone full time just to manage it when you are just starting out. Below we’ll outline a strategy to help you pick the right shopping cart for your business.

Figure out what you need

You’ll need to know which features your particular store will need beforehand. Making a list can greatly help this process. Your list could be things like: I need to have a gift-certificate function, needs to support my payment gateway, needs to have SEO friendly Urls, needs to support multiple product photos, etc. After you make your list pick the three top features. Those top three features will be the features that will make or break your choice in the beginning phase.

Cart options

After you have a good list and the top three features, you’ll be able to start narrowing down all your cart options from the hundreds out there. To start narrowing down your options the first place to start would be by building a list of the carts you’ll want to review. To build your list ask your webmaster, merchant account provider, and or any trusted advisor on which carts they would recommend. Once you have it ready start comparing each shopping cart with the features you’ll need from your feature list. Start with your top three features. If they don’t have those top three features then eliminate that cart from your cart list and move on to the next. After that you’ve narrowed down the list start seeing who fits the criteria or is closest with the additional features you need. To save time from searching all around the vendors site, it doesn’t hurt to go the old fashion way and call the shopping cart provider up on the phone. They should be able to answer your questions faster and more complete than trying to find all the answers on their websites.

View it in action

Once you have it down to 3 – 5 shopping carts, dig into each one. Read the customers reviews, visit their customers sites (if listed ), and see how the cart performs. Many shopping carts even offer demos or trial packages where you can test out the cart’s back-end and see how it works before deciding to purchase.

SEO and Marketing

To compete today in eCommerce you need to be able to get your site found in the search engines and shared via social media. You’ll want to make sure the cart does not get into the way of your SEO by either having SEO friendly URLs or secure links that will get ignored by search engine spiders. You’ll also want to see if they have an integrated email system as well as site reports and analytics.


Your sites security is important. Hackers are getting more and more advanced each year. You’ll need to make sure you pick a shopping cart that is up to date and that offers support and updates to their software if needed. You’ll also want to make sure the shopping cart you decide to go with is PCI Compliant and if not, you’ll want to make sure to ask them how they will help you to make sure your site is PCI complaint using their software.

Design flexibility

It’s important that your shopping cart reflects the look and feel of your current website or direction you have planned for your future site. You’ll want to make sure that the Shopping cart offers either easy to use templates that can be modified or has the ability to let you or your webmaster access CSS style sheets so you can control the look of all the elements on your pages. Your check out pages should match your site design as much as possible so that the user experience is fluid throughout the checkout process.

With these tips you should be able to start narrowing down the right shopping cart for your online store. Please visit our partner and affiliate sections on our website to help you choose a shopping cart service that will help you grow your business.

Click here for a list of eMerchant shopping cart affiliates