Ecommerce Spot

Should I buy or use a hosted shopping cart?

Should I buy or use a hosted shopping cart?

There are two types of shopping carts. One type you pay a monthly fee to a company who host the shopping cart for you. These are called hosted, or managed shopping carts. The other type is a shopping cart you buy (or some are free) and install it on a web server you have organised yourself. Some shopping carts have an option to buy or go hosted. This article compares the two types and helps you choose.

Hosted shopping carts

These carts have a monthly fee and sometimes additional fees such as a percentage of each sale. There are normally a few price points depending on the number of products you have, number of visitors you are expecting or the features available.
Hosted carts:
  • are quick to setup
  • require little to no technical skill
  • include web hosting
  • look after details such as server backups, etc.
They also:
  • often have high monthly fees
  • are often hard to customize if you have a specific need

Downloaded shopping carts

You can also download a shopping cart and install it on a web server. It's easy and fairly cheap to rent some web space, but will normally require at least some very basic technical knowledge to install it. Many shopping cart providers will install it for you for a small fee. Prices to buy a cart vary but most are under $1,000, this is a once-only cost. There are some free carts, although these may not be the best choice for you. Many shopping carts allow an almost infinite amount of customisation, but this usually requires a programmer which can get expensive if you want complex customisations.
Downloaded shopping carts are:
  • usually cheaper in the long term
  • more customisable
  • offer greater flexibility

They also:

  • can have higher upfront costs
  • require some basic technical knowledge to get started
  • have monthly web hosting costs

What should I choose?

As always, there's no easy answer. If you are working with a web design company, they will usually choose a downloaded shopping cart. This is because downloaded carts are usually more flexible. If you have some basic technical knowledge, or can hire someone who does, a downloaded shopping cart will probably work out cheaper. If you get stuck or mess things up, all shopping carts have people available who can help you out - at a cost of course.
Busy people who want to do it all themselves usually choose a hosted cart. They tend to be less hassle in the short term and can get up and running very quickly. The ongoing fees can add up quickly.

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