-Guest Article By Nexternal Solutions-
What are the 5 most important features a shopping cart program must have? While the answer really depends upon the business needs of the merchant that is selling online, there are 5 undeniable features that we find really help our clients succeed:
1) An Always On Screen Shopping Cart
Many shopping cart programs make the mistake of taking consumers to a new page every time they add something to the cart. When the consumer clicks “continue shopping” they have no idea where they are going to land next. There is really no need to do this as it can cause irritation and frustration on the part of the shopper. If consumers can see the contents of their cart along with a running total and checkout button, they’ll feel more comfortable ordering. If you add something to your cart on Amazon.com, you’ll notice the cart is displayed on the right side of the screen. Each product is a hyperlink back to that product in the store. Having an always on screen cart reduces shopping cart abandonment which leads to increased revenue.
2) A Search Engine Friendly Catalog
For most merchants, the more unique visitors to their site, the better. Having a shopping cart program that is search engine friendly is a great way to get traffic to your site at no additional expense. A good shopping cart will:
- Have static keyword rich URLS
- Allow merchants to customize the page title and meta description tags.
- Use Header Tags around the Category and Product Names (h1 or h2)
- Use Alt tags for product and category images
- Allow merchants to put unlimited copy in the product and category descriptions
- Allow for consumer product reviews
- Generate an XML Sitemap of URLs for search engines to crawl.
Although we don’t recommend that merchants rely solely on their organic search engine rankings to market their stores, picking catalog software that is search engine friendly will pay dividends for months if not years to come.
3) Social Media Tools
In the last couple of years there has been a rapidly increasing trend to spend more time on Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter. For retailers, it is very important to adapt to this trend and leverage these sites. Perhaps the easiest way is to use the free tool offered by AddThis. By simply adding a snippet of code to a product screen, consumers can then share that page with a friend. Most shopping carts should be able to support that tool. However, what’s even more powerful is if your shopping cart supports a post order sharing tool. This type of tool encourages consumers to post that they purchased something from your site on either Facebook or Twitter. These posts can link back to your site and can be a good source of quality traffic. If Ethel sees that her friend Lucy posted a blurb on her Facebook Wall stating that she purchased a cute outfit from a retail site, she’ll be inclined to checkout that site herself and may consider making a purchase herself.
4) Tools for Integration
Once a merchant is successfully marketing their site, they will quickly notice a need to make sure their ecommerce system is “talking” with the rest of their business systems. Merchants should make sure their ecommerce software has an XML Toolset or another type of API so that it can be integrated with other systems. For some merchants this may not be important, however for those selling through multiple channels it very important. Nobody wants to be the person keying data from one system into another to make sure inventory levels are in-synch. Furthermore, automating this process programmatically reduces the chances that there will be a mistake.
5) Shipping Carrier Integration
Choosing a shopping cart program that is well integrated with the major shipping carriers offers several advantages. First of all, merchants can quote accurate real-time rates. If merchants aren’t using real time rates but rather using tabulated rates, there is a good change that either the consumer feels like they are paying too much or the merchant is losing money on shipping. The second advantage is that merchants can generate shipping labels directly in their Order Management System. When order volume start to climb, it just doesn’t make sense to pay someone key or even import and export order data to a shipping carriers system. It’s much more efficient if the merchant can simply click a button to generate a shipping label. The final advantage is that the shopping cart can utilizes tracking information provided by the carrier. This makes it easy to keep the consumer in the loop an ultimately reduces customer service costs.
With hundreds of shopping cart applications on the market today it is important to choose one that is the right fit for your business. Picking the right shopping cart application from the start that is going to proactively help your business succeed can often mean the difference between great success and failure.
About Nexternal Solutions
Nexternal Solutions, Inc. is a leading provider of web based ecommerce software. Founded in 1999, the company’s unique ecommerce system is used by hundreds of clients in many diverse industries. Nexternal’s software features an always-on screen shopping cart with integrated marketing and fulfillment tools allowing merchants to maximize revenue while minimizing operating costs. Nexternal’s software was rated five out of five stars by Internet.com and is a three time SIIA Codie awards finalist for Best E-Commerce Software. Clients include Weyerhaeuser, Alcoa, USA Today, Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Taser International and Hershey. With locations in Carlsbad, CA and New Canaan, CT, Nexternal provides industry leading customer service. For more information, contact Nexternal Solutions, Inc. 800.914.6161. Web: www.nexternal.com
Integration, Integration as a Service, Webstore Integration, eBRIDGE Blog