Online Shopping Carts: Which Is Right For Your Store?

Danielle Antosz
Last Updated on October 22, 2020
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E-commerce is big business. Over 65% of retail sales occur online.  With that market volume, it is no wonder so many businesses are moving to the industry.

If you are considering jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon, you’ve likely been looking at how to make that happen. At the core of each sale is shopping cart software.

Shopping cart software allows site visitors to select items for purchase by adding them to a virtual shopping cart. It then collects shipping info and processes the payment.

A high-quality all-in-one shopping cart software may also offer additional features designed to increase sales, like:

  • Built-in SEO features
  • Abandoned cart recovery tools
  • Recommendations for related products
  • Drop shipping

What Shopping Cart Features Should You Look For?

Choosing the right shopping cart software requires considering your customer’s needs, the types of products you sell, and your budget. For example, if you sell only digital items, you may not need a pricier software that offers drop shipping.

Another important feature to consider when comparing shopping carts is transaction fees, which vary by company. Some shopping carts may charge a monthly fee, while others may charge a percentage of your sales. Some carts may charge both!

In addition, many carts provide hosting, whilst others require you to secure your own hosting.

Some (like BigCommerce, Shopify, Ecwid, and WooCommerce) provide you with ready-made store websites so you can get an “instant” online store that looks professionally designed.

It is wise to take all costs into account when comparing your options and consider the long-term costs as your store grows. Once you’ve decided on necessary features and services, your only problem is being spoilt for choice.

8 Shopping Cart Software Options

There are dozens of shopping cart software options on the market, which can make selecting the right one overwhelming. To make your life easier, we are going to take a look at the eight of the top programs and compare them based on the pros and cons. At the end, we’ll review with our recommendations for different use cases. Here’s a quick overview of the carts we’ll cover here:

 Free TrialStarting Price
BigCommerce15 days$29.95/mo
Shopify14 days$29.00/mo
WooCommerce30 daysFree
Ecwid7 daysFree
3dcart15 days$19.99/mo
MagentoDemo AvailableFree
PrestaShop15 daysFree
CScart60 days$385.00 (one-off purchase)

Read on for a quick overview of each. By the time you are finished reading, you should have a better idea as to which platform is best to build and grow your e-commerce business or just get started with simple “buy buttons”.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) shopping cart solution that allows business owners to sell products online. You pay a monthly fee to gain access to store design templates, the ability to sell physical or digital products, SEO options, and integration with a range of payment options.

bigcommerce shopping cart

Pros

  • No transaction fees (though you will pay these to your payment processor)
  • A gift card and coupon functionality
  • Option to upgrade between plans as you grow
  • Automated abandoned cart emails

Cons

  • May be too complicated for beginners or simple websites
  • Limits to the amount you can sell each month (plan dependent)

Shopify

Shopify is a web-based shopping cart application. It provides ready-to-go templates so you can have a professional-looking store out of the box. Developers can access HTML and CSS code to gain more control over their sites.

Like Big Commerce, it is a Saas solution, which means you pay a monthly fee and do not own the software. They offer five plans, starting at just $9 per month and charge no transaction fees if you use Shopify Payments.

shopify shopping cart software

Pros

  • Wide range of plans and templates
  • Access to code to customize your store
  • Abandoned cart and SEO features included
  • Access to a point-of-sale app for in-person sales

Cons

  • May be too complicated for simple websites
  • Limited functionalities with lower plans
  • Charges transaction fees in addition to credit card fees

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is one of the most popular shopping cart solutions created specifically for WordPress users. It is free, easy to install, and comes with features such as a range of payment options, shipping options, and an easy-to-use dashboard.

You will need to download extensions to add features such as SEO, email marketing, and product bundles. But, this design allows you to build the platform you need and avoid paying for features you won’t use.

woocommerce shopping cart

Pros

  • Free shopping cart
  • Tons of features
  • Easy to set up on WordPress
  • Extensions can be used to broaden functionality

Cons

  • Limited to working with WordPress
  • Some advanced features are subscription-based

Ecwid

Ecwid is a Saas platform that allows current website users to add e-commerce functionality to their current website. They recently released a feature called “Instant Site” which creates a free landing page for your store. A big plus of Ecwid is you can use their dashboard to sell on your own site, as well as on third-party sites like Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, and Google.

Features vary by plan and include SEO features, drop shipping (via the app store), and multi-language site version support.

ecwid homepage

Pros

  • Easy. Can be added to any site
  • Offers a free plan (limited functionality)
  • Integrates with major platforms like WordPress and Wix

Cons

  • Limited stand-alone site features
  • Limited front-end customization compared to alternative carts

3dCart

3dcart is a fully-hosted Saas e-commerce solution with a wide range of features and plans to choose from. The Startup plan (their lowest tier) offers 24/7 support, unlimited products, product reviews, gift wrapping, coupons, tax calculations, hosted email accounts, built-in blog, and a Facebook store.

Higher plans boast features such as make an offered pricing, daily deals, abandoned cart software, and a built-in CRM.

3dcart shopping cart

Pros

  • A feature-packed low tier plan
  • Unlimited products
  • Free 15-day trial

Cons

  • Abandoned cart and automation are only available for the highest plans
  • Despite a generously featured low tier plan, many add ons are on the expensive side

Magento

Magento is a free, open-source e-commerce platform.

You will, however, have to pay for hosting and other add-ons such as payment processing and an SSL certificate. In most cases, you can expect to need a developer to help manage your store, but this platform will grow with your store. While not a good choice for beginners, this is a powerful solution.

magento shopping cart

Pros

  • Free and open-source
  • Easy to customize and scale
  • Active community with resources to help you learn
  • Demo available

Cons

  • Not beginner-friendly (developer dependent)
  • High-specification hosting required

PrestaShop

PrestaShop is a free, open-source e-commerce solution. You may find it slightly more user-friendly than Magento. They offer video support to help with set-up.

They also provide useful features like marketing, store customization, and the ability to sell digital downloads.

prestashop homepage

Pros

  • Free and open-source
  • Wide range of marketing features
  • A wide selection of integrations and add-ons

Cons

  • Technical knowledge required to get set-up and amend modules
  • Customer support is pricey

CS-cart

CS-cart is an e-commerce builder that offers a full license purchase. Unlike other platforms, which charge a monthly fee, once you buy CS-cart, you own it.

Base plan features include SEO tools, built-in layout editor, choice of 200+ themes, more than 50 payment options, and built-in content management system. Higher plans include the possibility of running multiple storefronts an app to manage your store.

cs cart homepage

Pros

  • One time purchase
  • Wide choice of themes
  • Non-technical set-up
  • Marketplace allows you to purchase add-ons

Cons

  • Additional software update fees after the first year
  • Must pay for support after the first 30 days

Summary

So, which is the right shopping cart for your online store? If you just wanted to sell a few products and already have a reliable website, Ecwid is probably the most cost-effective, beginner-friendly shopping cart option.

WooCommerce is a great choice for WordPress users. Developers might prefer the open source aspect of Magento or PrestaShop.

For more full-featured eCommerce solution look 3dcart , Shopify and Bigcommerce — as these check all the boxes for most users with lots of features. However, all of these options have their pros and cons depending on their use. Read our guide to eCommerce platforms for further details.

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