Free Vs Pay Monthly Ecommerce Shopping Cart Solutions

As a provider of several different ecommerce shopping cart websites to clients all over the world, there is one particular question that I get asked time and time again: “Should I use a free ecommerce shopping cart or a hosted solution?”. My reply is always the same: “It will depend on your specific requirements”.

I have always said that no one ecommerce solution can cater to every single customers individual requirements. We will all have different needs, and we will be trying to achieve different end results.

I wanted to take a look at the pros and cons of these two different types of ecommerce options.

What are the differences?

Usually with a free ecommerce shopping cart you will need to do everything yourself. From choosing your domain name, to selecting hosting, installing your ecommerce software, designing it etc.

With a hosted ecommerce solution provider many of the required steps are already taken care of for you. You still need to decide upon & register your domain name, but hosting is taken care of by the ecommerce company that you choose.

Hopefully taking a look at the pros and cons of each will help you to decide which best suits what you are looking for.

Free Ecommerce Shopping Cart

With a free platform you will first need to decide on platform you would like to use. Zen Cart and OS commerce are popular but are getting old and becoming less supported. Magento, Presta shop and X cart are the choice of the professionals, but have a steeper learning curve.

Pros

  • It’s free! – You can’t get any cheaper than getting something for free ay?
  • No tie-ins – There are no commitments with free ecommerce solutions. If one particular platform is not working for you, you can usually just start again on another ecommerce platform.
  • You have full control – The great thing about hosting and running your own ecommerce store is that you will have full control over all aspects of your store and so cn be a bit more flexible. Some people may find a hosted solution quite restrictive.

Cons

  • Little to no direct support – You are usually on your own support wise when it comes to free ecommerce solutions. So if something goes wrong, you’ll need to either consult forums for the answer yourself, or outsource and hire a developer to fix things for you.
  • It’s harder to install a new theme – Depending on the ecommerce solution you choose, installing a new theme can be a complicated process. You will usually need to access your websites core files and upload your new theme using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software such as file zilla.
  • Updates – You will usually be on your own when it comes to ensuring your shopping cart software is up to date. Some updates for the software you are using could include important security patches or bug fixes.
  • Security – How secure your website is from hackers will rest with you and you alone.

Hosted Ecommerce Shopping Cart

There are several companies out there not that provide a hosted solution for a reasonable monthly fee. Each company also has their own pros and cons as well as differing feature-wise. You will need to invest time into deciding which best fits your needs. Big commerce, Volusion and Actinic are popular choices.

Pros

  • Free themes – Several free themes are available for hosted ecommerce solutions that are usually just one click away to install.
  • Better support – The majority of hosted ecommerce solutions will have a helpful in-house support team that you can turn to if you are having any problems with your store.
  • Updates – The ecommerce company that you choose will usually ensure all customers are running the latest versions of their software.
  • Security – No ecommerce company would want their platform – or a customers website to be hacked. The majority will do all they can to reduce the chances of this happening.
  • Easy installation – Most hosted solutions are very simple to set up. It’s usually just a case of entering your details.

Cons

  • Not as flexible – Those who prefer to spead their wings and experiment with their store may find a hosted solution quite restrictive.
  • You’re tied in to a monthly fee – Whether your website becomes instantly profitable or not, you will be tied in to paying a monthly fee that will range anything from $10 – $20PM.
  • No core file access – For security reasons hosted solutions will not give you access to your websites raw code. They instead make all aspects of your store editable by using the likes of a WYSIWYG editor ( what you see is what you get ).

So as you can see, the choice when it comes to ecommerce is not an easy one. I personally prefer the flexibility that the free ecommerce platforms can provide; but I can also see why hosted ecommerce solutions are becoming more and more popular.

Ecommerce Solutions for your Web Site

So, you want to sell stuff online? You may have a business or maybe you just want to de-clutter your home of those “hidden treasures”. Anyway you look at it, this is eCommerce.

eCommerce: The very word scares a lot of people, but there isn’t really any magic to it. If you want to sell online, you can do it! What you need to know are the types of eCommerce that are available to you and the methods that you can go about to start making money. Below is a list of the ways that you can get online.

Business-to-Consumer (B2C): This is the eCommerce that most people think about when they hear of selling online. With this style, you have an online storefront and customers come to your web site and buy things from you. Doing this typically involves having an online merchant account through a bank and paying a small percentage off of each sale to this merchant account. There is usually a monthly fee involved, as well, so you’ll want to make sure you are selling product to off-set these costs.

There are other, more cost-effective ways of selling online. One of these methods is with Google Checkout. This method allows you to sell online with the use of a credit card. It is similar to eBay’s PayPal, but lacks payment of cash from one person to another. Still, I know of people using this method now without an online merchant account. It may be something to consider if you just want to “test the waters” of eCommerce.

Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C): I am sure you know of this type of eCommerce, though may be unfamiliar of the name. This is the type of commerce that people use on auction sites, like eBay or sale sites, like the craft web site called, Etsy. These type of sites usually ask for a nominal transition fee for allowing you to place an item for sale on their sites.

Business-to-Business (B2B): This type of site has been around for a long time. This type of transaction makes up the majority of all commerce online. Types of these sites would include, but are not limited to: Company Web Sites, Product Supply and Procurement Sites, and Pay-for-Information Sites.

Consumer-to-Business (C2B): How does this one work, you ask? This type of site is when the consumer requests a service from a business. A typical site like this would be the William Shatner promoted Priceline.com. You contact the business and tell them what you want to pay.

Adding an eCommerce model to your business does not have to be complex. Our services can either consult you on the processes to start your own online sales or we can set up everything for you.

Small Business eCommerce – What Type of Internet Presence Do You Need?

If you are one of the growing number of people that have decided to start an online business, then you have several options for an eCommerce site to choose from. With new internet technology, people are able to do much more with their businesses than ever before.

The question is, what can an eCommerce site do for your business? It isn’t just simply a way to pay for products online, even though this is usually the main goal of your business that decides to use an eCommerce site. What you can do with your site will depend on the features your site has.

If you have a virtual storefront, then customers can look at the items you have and have an easy way to order, since they can do so right from their computer. Through this type of site, customers can look through your offers, find out what they are about, and then order. This is somewhat similar to a mall, where shoppers can do all of their shopping in one centralized location.

Through great menu features, it is simple for your customers to shop, since all they have to do, is click on what they are interested in. Then, through the shopping cart, they will have the items saved until they get ready to check out. When they are finished shopping, all they have to do is checkout and pay for their purchase.

Information sites are there to let potential customers know about your products. The main goal is the selling of products, but this isn’t necessarily done online. This is perfect for companies that have big showrooms, since they can reach out to a larger amount of people. This is a wonderful way for companies to make their items known to the public.

When people use the internet, it is mostly so that they can find out information about different things. An example is if you wanted to buy a new car, but didn’t have days to search through various dealerships, you can instead go to their websites and search for deals.

A marketplace is an other kind of eCommerce site – just think of eBay. These kinds of sites are mediators between buyers and sellers. The products can either be bought via bidding or directly, like it is done on eBay.

These types of arrangements make it possible for businesses to grow indefinitely utilizing their internet presence. If you do your research and find the type of eCommerce site that is right for your business, or use a combination of the above options, then you can grow your business into a global player.