What Makes the Best Shopping Cart? Hosted vs. Installed Software

The shopping cart is the last step in the purchasing process, which means that losing a customer there can feel much more frustrating than losing someone at the beginning. And shopping cart abandonment is common. In fact, BI Intelligence reports that $4 trillion will be abandoned in carts annually.

The good news? According to the same report, 63% is recoverable  if you’re willing to take a few simple steps. 

The key is to create a simple, flexible shopping cart experience. This keeps customers from getting confused with where they are, shocked by added costs, or frustrated by a lack of options.

Features to look for in your shopping cart software:

Outside of common-sense features like secure payment processing, the most important features customers need in a shopping cart are:

  • A space to set options aside and keep browsing the shop. Customers often use a cart as a “save for later” space, and then come back to it to compare and evaluate options before making a final decision.
  • An at-a-glance summary of what’s in the cart. This needs to have enough detail to make sure the customer knows the value of each option. When selling subscription products, this includes details like the subscription schedule of said product (weekly, monthly, etc.), any setup fees, and how long the free trial lasts. Make sure that you’re making your prices as clear as possible, in the interest of decreasing chargebacks.
  • Easy upsell options. Adding an upsell option can be a great way to increase average order value without a lot of work. Ideally, your shopping cart software will make it easy for customers to upgrade a product or subscription, or for you to offer customized upsells based on what’s in their cart already.
  • A clear path to check out. Pretty self explanatory if your customer can’t figure out how to check out, they’re much less likely to buy!

How to choose between hosted, custom-built, or API integrated shopping carts

When it comes down to it, you have three options for putting together the shopping cart you need:

Hosted shopping cart services

Many e-commerce service providers offer hosted shopping cart platforms. This means the cart runs and is maintained by the service, not the business using the cart. This is the simplest shopping cart solution and requires the least amount of technical knowledge. Because of that, many startups go this route to start bringing in revenue quickly.

The downside of this solution is that the user has little to no control over the functions, features, and navigation of the shopping cart. For some customers, this can feel too stifling.

Built in-house

This is only an option if you already have a dedicated development team with experience in creating tools for e-commerce, and you have time and resources to support it internally. Even then, serious evaluations should be done before starting the project. Development time and resources add up, projects get out of scope, and you need to take all of that into account and see how likely it is to produce a cart that’s significantly better than what’s already on the market.

If you do decide to undertake this, you’ll have complete control over all of the details and be able to customize and test to your heart’s content. The downside is that it can be a significant drain on your internal resources.

API integration

The sweet spot between these two options is integrating with an existing cart service using APIs. This gives you complete control over the user experience, without building everything in-house.

If you have a a moderate amount of technical skill, you can set up an API integration. Then, you’ll be able to make adjustments to the shopping cart as needed. For the majority of subscription businesses, we recommend either going this route or using hosted shopping carts from a provider that will let you customize and test the appearance.

Fixing the cart problem

In the end, you need to choose the shopping cart solution that best suits your needs and business model — but don’t forget about your customers and their needs, either. From current abandonment rates, it’s obvious businesses are losing a lot of money at the last minute. Time and effort invested in optimizing your shopping cart can pay for itself many times over.

Now that you’re more informed about what makes a good shopping cart, learn about what else to look for in subscription billing software…

In our free guide, you’ll find out what separates the must-have features from the nice-to-haves, and get a bonus feature checklist to boot:

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Looking fo​r a subscription billing solution?

Download our free guide to get a list of the must-haves (and why they matter), plus a three-page feature checklist: