When you hear the term shopping cart, you may think of the physical shopping cart that you push around the store when you go to a supermarket. That is not the type of shopping cart being referred to here. Rather in e-commerce terms, a shopping cart is a virtual basket where you collect items that you would like to purchase online. It has the same use a physical shopping cart. It simply operates in a virtual online environment.
How an e-Commerce Shopping Cart Works
An e-commerce shopping cart is usually linked up to your payment mechanism and merchant account. As items are added to the shopping cart, the software automatically draws up an inventory of the items listed for purchase. It will usually have the name of the shopping cart, the price and the quantity wanted for purchase. At any stage while the customer is browsing the website, they can click on the shopping cart and see what items they have chosen to purchase. When customers are ready to check out, they can simply open the shopping cart, check the contents and then proceed to the checkout to make payment.
Benefits of Using a Shopping Cart on Your Website
Imagine if you wanted to shop for a number of different items but you weren’t able to collect them. After finding each item, you had to proceed to the checkout and pay for each item individually. Thereafter, you could head back into the store and get the next item. No one would shop like that in a real supermarket so expecting customers to do so on an e-commerce website is not good business practice. Even though there is no physical effort involved the process, it is still time consuming and could be frustrating to customers. A shopping cart allows customers to collect items and then conveniently pay for everything at once.
Another benefit of a shopping cart is that it can actually help you increase your sales. If customers find one product on your site, there is the distinct possibility that they will be interested in other similar or complementary products that you have on offer. By having a feature that makes suggestions to your customers, they may end up buying several products from you instead of just one. From a customer’s perspective, a shopping cart makes shopping online far more convenient. If you see a product you like, you can earmark it by adding it to your shopping cart. Doing so does not mean that you are obligated to purchase it. It simply means that you are interested in purchasing it and want to set the item aside. You are then free to continue browsing the website for other products that may be of interest to you.
How a Shopping Cart Integrates into Your e-Commerce System
A shopping cart is just one of the components that makes shopping online possible. It usually comes as part of your payment mechanism or e-commerce merchant account solution. The shopping cart links up to the product database and depending on what system you have, it could also be linked up to your inventory and delivery system. As products are added to the shopping cart, your database of products is updated. This can then show other customers if you have the item in stock or if it is sold out. The shopping cart is also the first step in the payment process. Since most online transactions are paid for using credit cards, the shopping cart is usually linked to your merchant account. In order to facilitate the payment process, it is important that the whole checkout process is smooth, fast and efficient. Using one system that starts with the shopping cart and ends with the payment confirmation is one of the best ways to ensure that this is the case.
The Importance of Efficiency on an e-Commerce Site
In the online environment, customers are impatient and fussy. If a system takes too long, does not offer benefits, or is cumbersome to work through, customers will simply logout and shop elsewhere. Worst of all there is no way for you to gauge a customer’s reaction to your system in the online environment. In a real store, you may have the opportunity to talk the customers around if you see they are unhappy about something; however, in the online environment, customers either purchase from you or they don’t. You therefore need to make sure that your systems are efficient and user-friendly, and a shopping cart is an important part of that process.