How Do E-Commerce Shopping Carts Work?


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Online shopping carts are the reason e-commerce has exploded in recent years. They provide a convenient way for customers to select the items they want and check out without stepping foot in a store or getting help from an employee.

E-commerce carts are an integral part of your online store, so it’s important to understand how they operate. In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How e-commerce shopping carts work
  • What features your cart should have
  • How online carts increase conversions and improve digital marketing

What Are E-Commerce Shopping Carts For?

Shopping cart boxes.

An e-commerce shopping cart is a type of software that enables customers to make purchases online. It calculates the purchase total, tax, discounts, and shipping and allows customers to make their payments.

The software then notifies the retailer of the orders so they can fulfill the customers’ purchases. The cart software will also notify the payment processor so they can finalize the transactions.

How Does an E-Commerce Shopping Cart Work?

An online shopping cart is essential for customers to conveniently store and manage their potential purchases while browsing your digital shop. The best shopping cart software provides an efficient and hassle-free online shopping experience.

Adding and Managing Products

A cart serves as a receptacle for customers to put their potential purchases in at its most basic. At this stage, an e-commerce cart is functionally the same as a traditional cart. It allows customers to save what they want while they continue their shopping.

Effective e-commerce carts will allow customers to update their items easily. They can remove things they’ve changed their minds about, update the quantity, or make changes to the size or color of the product, if applicable.

Providing this flexibility gives your customers control over their digital carts and improves their online shopping experience.

Purchasing Products

When your customer decides they’re ready to buy, they will click on the cart icon to view their products. Your shopping cart software will calculate the total purchase price, including taxes and any applicable discounts. The shopper will be prompted to provide their name, address, and payment information, such as a credit card number.

Once the customer provides their address, your cart software will calculate the shipping cost and update the total purchase price. Your customer will have a chance to review everything, make any last-minute changes, and then complete the purchase.

The e-commerce cart will relay the inventory and customer information to your business and the payment information to the appropriate payment processing vendor. This allows your company to start working on the order fulfillment and notify the payment vendor to finalize the transaction.

Depending on your software, the cart might also email the customer a receipt for their purchase.

What Features Should Your Shopping Cart Have?

Workers graphic for an online shop.

E-commerce cart features vary considerably between providers. Before you compare options, it’s important to know what features you want for your business.


With the rise in cybercrimes, it’s no surprise that customers are concerned about their digital security. You can make them feel confident about their online purchases by providing cart software that prioritizes security.

Features such as 256-bit encryption, an SSL certificate, and PCI Compliance Level 1, which protects credit card data, are effective security measures that will keep your customers’ data safe.

Abandoned Cart Saver

Customers abandon nearly 70% of online shopping carts. There are myriad reasons this happens, from mobile optimization issues to concerns about pricing. It may even be something out of your control, like the customer’s pet distracting them.

Regardless of the reason, you can win back some of these sales with cart software that saves these abandoned purchases. You can set up your marketing software to send email reminders to customers about the items they left in their carts or offer them a discount if they complete their purchase.

User-Friendly Design

Customers will not hesitate to ditch their carts if your software is frustrating to use. Look for an online cart that has an intuitive, attractive design and a simple payment process.

Display Local Currency

One of the benefits of e-commerce is that it allows you to operate globally if you choose. If international sales are right for your business, look for cart software to display prices in the customer’s local currency. This increases user-friendliness and makes it simple for your international customers to decide if the price is right.

Mobile Optimization

Mobile shopping has exceeded computer-based online shopping, so you must optimize your online cart software for mobile. If the text, images, and buttons become tiny on a cell phone or customers have to scroll horizontally to view everything, they’re likely to abandon their purchase.

How to Choose Shopping Cart Software

An online shopping cart integration helps manage an e-commerce store from initial awareness to customer purchase orders. The goal is to provide the best buyer experience. A fully-equipped shopping cart software should include a full range of e-commerce capabilities such as payment processing, store building, and customer management tools. But, the best e-commerce shopping cart software suits your needs and branding. 

The right features guarantee convenience to your target prospects and loyal customers, and a reasonably priced shopping cart cuts up your business’ overall expenses.  Once you’ve decided which features are most important to your e-commerce business, the next step is to compare pricing and options among online cart providers. To help you start your search, we’ve highlighted several highly rated shopping cart providers: 


Shift4Shop’s turnkey e-commerce solution includes a feature-rich website builder, product and order management, customer marketing tools, and more. It has developed over 20 years of experience and industry knowledge that has successfully identified and included all the most-needed features of a website shopping cart.

Shift4Shop does not leverage fees on top of those normally charged by your payment processor. With robust web hosting, unlimited data storage, and bandwidth, your online store can handle any number of visitors and gives you the freedom to create all the pages you need and upload as many images as your products require. It comes with a lot of integrations and complete credit card processing at competitive rates. It offers a free plan with zero limits when you opt to use its payment processing.


AbanteCart is an open-source e-commerce solution that operates based on donations and other contributions, marketplace proceeds, and financial support from advertisers. It offers an expandable shopping cart application suitable for every business, and with a fast-growing number of extensions that can easily be installed. This allows you to add virtually any feature or service to AbanteCart, which is very important in today’s dynamically changing technology environment.

Their fast-performing shopping cart application uses few computer resources and can be installed and run on virtually any shared or dedicated hosting platform. It comes with a control panel with a “Search anything” feature that helps you quicklu find and edit information. It is fully equipped with knowledgebase and necessary tools to sell products online. AbanteCart pricing starts at $0.01 as a one-time payment. There is a free version.


OpenCart is a customizable platform that has no monthly fees. It comes with store management features where you can easily manage products, customers, orders, taxes rules, coupon codes, and more, including built-in SEO. OpenCart has a friendly user-interface design; the administrator dashboard has all the important information available at a glance where you can get a full overview of what is important with total orders, sales, customers, people online, sales analytics, and many more widgets. 

Their user management features make it easier to collaborate with your employees by setting advanced user privileges and separate access for user groups and users. It also allows you to manage multiple stores from one admin interface, set products to appear in different stores, and choose a different theme for each store where you can localize store settings and set per store product prices. The starting price is $25 per month. 


Shopify offers a reliable, secure shopping cart solution for your e-commerce website. It sets up your store’s online shopping cart to use your local currency with automatic tax rate calculations based on where your business and buyers are located. The shopping cart checkout page is customizable in one of 50+ languages such as Danish, Dutch, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Swedish, and others.

The shopping cart software allows you to accept credit cards, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal payments by integrating with over 100 payment gateways. Shopify is Level 1 PCI compliant and uses 256-bit SSL certificates to keep order details secure. They use the same level of encryption as large banks to provide maximum security with a 128-bit SSL certificate free of charge. The Shopify plans start at $29 per month. 

How Can Shopping Cart Software Increase Your Conversions?

Illustration of two computers with hands reaching out with a credit card and shopping bag.

Shopping cart software can give you incredible insight into your customers’ behavior and allows you to reach out to the owners of abandoned carts. Behavioral analytics can help you recognize patterns and spot potential problems.

Do your customers often change their minds about purchasing once shipping is added? Consider offering a free shipping promotion.

Are your customers abandoning their carts when they move to the second page of the checkout process? You may need to find cart software with single-page checkouts. Analyzing customer behaviors and making appropriate changes can dramatically improve your conversion rate.

Abandoned cart savers also improve conversions by focusing on customers who’ve already shown their interest in your products. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to convince these shoppers to complete a purchase than it is to attract brand new customers to convert.

In addition to analytics and cart saving, your e-commerce cart software can increase conventions by simplifying the checkout process. If your customers begin the process and encounter any type of hassle, they’re likely to give up.

But if you’ve done your research and chosen a quality provider with a smooth process, your customers will rarely encounter obstacles. You’ll see a higher rate of conversion and have more satisfied customers.

How Can Shopping Cart Software Help With Your Digital Marketing?

Many e-commerce shopping cart providers offer additional features that can help with your digital marketing efforts.

  • Built-in SEO tools make your site easier for customers to find.
  • Collecting customer information such as names, emails, and purchase histories allow you to personalize your email marketing.
  • Integrating with third-party marketplaces increases your audience reach.
  • Remarketing allows you to target individual customers with advertising that features items they’ve interacted with on your site.
  • Review collection tools make it simple to increase the effectiveness of your product detail pages by capturing customer reviews via email.

Selecting cart software may seem overwhelming at first, but with the above tips and suggestions, you’ll be able to make educated choices that will benefit both your customers and your business.

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