At the heart of any e-commerce Web site is a shopping cart program that allows customers to find and buy products and services. Every commercial website should always have a backbone. That is, none other than an e-commerce shopping carts.

Technically, this kind of shopping cart is utilized by the customers throughout the process of online shopping. This virtual cart functions like the ordinary basket or push cart which is used in the supermarket.

A shopping cart is a software application that typically runs on the computer where your Web site is located, and allows your customers to do things such as searching for a product in your store catalog, adding a selected product to a basket, and placing an order for it.

The shopping cart "integrates" with the rest of your Web site. In other words, there are typically links on your Web pages that customers can click on, and which allow them to perform some of the functions described above

Shopping carts are written in a variety of different programming languages. Some of them provide full access to the "source code", thus allowing experienced programmers to make modifications to the system features, some others don't. Some shopping carts run on Windows Web servers, some on UNIX, others on both. In most cases, you can place the shopping cart on your Web server simply by transferring its files there using any FTP software

Structure of

  • A shopping cart includes a database that stores information such as product details, customer data, order information, etc.
  • It contains a storefront that displays this information to store visitors (e.g. product detail pages, search pages, checkout pages, etc.).
  • It includes an administration area that allows you, the store administrator, to manage your store. For example, this is where you add products, set up shipping & payment options, process orders, etc.

How will your customers get to the product catalog? How can you make your home page link to the "Monthly Specials" page, created dynamically by the shopping cart? And how can you make the pages that the shopping cart creates look the same as you’re "About us" or "Contact us" page? The look and feel of your online store, and the way it merges with the rest of your Web site, are crucial elements of a successful ecommerce store

Typically, you will be able to create HTML links that take a user for any HTML page that you may create for your Web site. How easy it is to place such links into your HTML pages varies however from application to application. Make sure to select a shopping cart that allows doing so quickly and easily

As for the graphical interface used by the shopping cart to display the store page, some shopping carts limit you to using pre-formatted templates. Stay away from that kind of ecommerce software. Choose a shopping cart that does not use templates, but rather allows you to use your own Web site design as the graphical interface for the store pages

Types of Shopping Cart Software

The first type is one which has something to do with the administrative functions. In this kind of software, the web administrator has all his hands in adding, editing, or deleting any service or product from the list. If you involve this type of software, you have the control over your site.

The second type is the one which is generally meant to serve the customers. It is designed to help them with their purchases and payment.