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Should You Buy or Rent Shopping Cart Software?

Shopping cart software is an important part of your eCommerce site, and the two major options for deploying it are to buy it outright and host it on your own server, or to use a hosted system and “rent” the software from a third party. Each has its own advantages, with buying outright giving the greatest degree of customization possibilities and renting offering greater convenience and lower administrative overhead.

The shopping cart software is an important part of your online store, and the decision on which vendor to choose is key. The shopping cart can make or break a sale. If the checkout process is too difficult for example, or there are not enough payment options, a buyer will often choose to abandon the purchase and buy somewhere else.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the major shopping cart vendors, the features they offer, and the costs, you will have to decide whether to buy or to rent.

Buying shopping cart software that you run on your own server, as opposed to “renting” it or using a third-party hosted system, has its own pros and cons. On the plus side, running your own shopping cart software gives you the greatest amount of control over the environment. You can gain the greatest amount of customization, and if you are adept at programming and are using an open source shopping cart, you can even tweak the code to get very specific customization. But even without specific programming, your shopping cart software will likely give you an interface to allow for easy customization.

Buying the shopping cart software, however, carries with it the same downside as buying any type of software outright, and that is the cost of licensing and continual upgrades, and the hidden cost of ongoing maintenance. If you are a one-person shop, this can be a big disadvantage, and using a hosted system where the maintenance burden is removed may be a better option.

Using a hosted shopping cart system, sometimes known as software-as-a-service or an “in the cloud” program, is the most common alternative. Because the software itself is maintained and delivered over the Internet by a third party, ongoing maintenance of the software is already taken care of. And because it is not hosted on your own internal server, the added time constraints involved in deploying and running your own servers is eliminated as well. On the other hand, using the hosted system will often deliver fewer customization capabilities. If you do choose a hosted system, examine it closely to determine how easily you can customize your own shopping cart interface. The best hosted shopping cart software will deliver users their own management portal, which can be used to at least do some basic customization, as well as obtain periodic reports and other management features.