Design & Development

Shopping Carts: Survey of Merchants Confirms Fractured Market

Respondents to a February 2009 Practical eCommerce survey collectively use more than 30 different shopping carts, an indication that there is no clear and decisive leader in the ecommerce shopping cart segment.

14.1 percent of respondents to the survey said that they use Go Daddy’s Quick Shopping Cart to power their ecommerce business, while another 10.3 percent rely on Yahoo! Merchant Solutions or Volusion to drive their businesses. But, dozens of other carts are also clearly popular. osCommerce, a free cart, received nearly 7 percent of “write in” responses in the “Other” category. Miva Merchant drew 7.7 percent, while Network Solutions (formerly MonsterCommerce), ProStores, CubeCart, and 1ShoppingCart each received 7.1 percent of the responses.

The broad selection of carts listed in the survey may mean that the shopping cart industry is still very fractured with a large number of successful contenders. In fact, 40.7 percent of the survey’s respondents said that their shopping cart was very useful and improved business. Another 26.3 said that their shopping cart was useful and worked just fine, adding up to 67 percent of merchants who are apparently satisfied with their current shopping cart solution. These numbers might also imply that ecommerce site owners don’t have an effective way to compare shopping carts and, therefore, cannot really rank their solution against other available options.

 

 

More Control, Integration Would be An Improvement

While it is important to reiterate that most of the survey respondents were pleased with their shopping cart, when asked what they would improve, many of those surveyed wanted more control over the cart’s appearance (i.e. more templates or more layout control) and function and more integration with third-party tools, including FedEx shipping software, QuickBooks, Google Base, and Amazon.

Interestingly, several of the improvements that respondents asked for are available with other carts. For example, one user of ProStores wanted the ability to add a product image zoom, a feature available out of the box with Magento Commerce and Volusion (to name just two). Requests for features available in other carts may be an indication that ecommerce site owners do not necessarily compare features before selecting a cart, or that they may not really know which features will be the most desirable before implementing a chosen solution.

So What Does it Mean?

Viewed together, the responses point to two possible trends. First, there may be a lack of good comparative information about shopping carts or about important shopping cart features. QuickBooks or FedEx integration is a cart feature available from several vendors, yet many of the survey respondents wanted these features. Are they unaware that these tools are, in fact, out there? Would they make a change if they knew that software integration is available with other shopping carts? Perhaps, but it would seem that at least some ecommerce site owners did not have access to that sort of comparative information.

A second trend may have to do with development capabilities. Many of the most popular shopping carts identified in the survey required little or no HTML, CSS, or other development skills. Instead they are geared toward users with little or no coding expertise. These same users were the most likely to be unhappy or frustrated with the cart they were using. Its functions were too often a mystery, and they generally wanted more control.

As an example, Go Daddy’s Quick Shopping Cart, which requires no development experience, was the most popular, but it also had the highest number of respondents (28.6 percent of those that used Quick Shopping Cart) who wished the solution did more. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions, another solution that requires minimal coding skill, had 50 percent of users wishing it did more.

Lessons for Merchants

If our speculations regarding the survey results are correct—(1) that there is not enough comparative shopping cart information and (2) that ecommerce site owners do not have a sufficient level of development expertise to meet their own needs—then at least two lessons follow. First, ecommerce merchants need a better way to compare and review shopping carts, and Practical eCommerce is seeking to address this point by developing a new, upcoming shopping cart guide. The second lesson is many ecommerce merchants should be seeking professional development help.

Not too many brick-and-mortar merchants try to build their own stores from the ground up, hauling in lumber or hanging drywall. Instead they hire professionals to frame and finish their buildings. Perhaps ecommerce merchants should consider the same tact, investing in good developers to build their stores. This assumes that those developers are not tied to a particular cart via affiliate commissions or some other financial arrangement.

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Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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