Hosted shopping carts are preferred by e-store owners, who want a solution that’s easy to set up and administer, without requiring technical skills. Choosing a hosted solution will give you more time to develop your business instead of developing your e-shop. If you’ve decided to rely on a hosted solution, you have to choose the exact one you want. Let’s go through the features and benefits of one of the most popular hosted shopping carts: Shopify.
Shopify is one of the most popular and easy-to-use hosted shopping cart solutions. It is fully-hosted, you pay a monthly fee, and the host takes care of everything in your e-shop – from hosting to security. The platform hosts more than 40,000 retailers like Gatorade, Foo Fighters, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Amnesty International, Evernote, LMFAO and others. Their customer list speaks for them, don’t you think? Well, Shopify provides a complete and secure shopping cart environment, and here’s a list of the main and most important features that you get with this solution.
Benefits they provide:
- 14-day free trial. First, give the platform a try – if you don’t like it, you won’t use it.
- Great choice of templates. Shopify is completely customizable with full HTML and CSS tweaking, which gives you the opportunity to design your online store in whatever way you like.
- Plan according to your needs. Shopify has four levels of monthly payment plans: Basic, Professional, Business, and Unlimited. You can choose the plan that suits you best and pay only for what you really need. Depending on the plan, the company charges fees ranging from 0-2% on each transaction. All of Shopify’s plans include unlimited bandwidth and free setup.
- 24/7 support. Shopify also offers live chat and a Guru program. According to the program, every Shopify store has a Guru – a coach, who’ll help you to set up your online store and advise you on ways to increase sales and marketing. You get not only technical support for your e-shop, but also help for your overall business.
- CMS and payments. Shopify’s built-in Content Management System is easy to use and allows you to create web pages, edit HTML and CSS code, accept payments, create coupon and discount codes, etc. The platform is built on Ruby on Rails, a powerful web framework. Shopify integrates with over 50 payment gateways and accepts all major credit cards and PayPal.
- Security. With Shopify you don’t have to worry about security and technical stuff. The store includes 128-bit SSL encryption, you receive an SSL certificate for free, and the platform is Level 1 PCI compliant.
- Shopify API and App Store. The API platform allows developers to create custom applications for Shopify stores and then sell them in the App Store. Currently there are over 150 free and paid apps, which can help you to add further functionality to your e-shop.
- On the go. Shopify stores have built-in mobile commerce features, which include an iOS app and mobile storefront. The app allows e-shop owners to manage their stores from their iPhones and iPads.
- Analytics. Shopify has built-in analytics that help you to keep track of your customers – where they come from, how they searched for you and which pages they visited. Analytics can help you a lot in optimizing your e-shop performance and generating more sales. Shopify also fully integrates with Google Analytics.
- SEO & marketing. Shopify’s shopping cart comes with built-in SEO features, which give you a lot of traffic from Google, Bing and Yahoo. New sign-ups receive a $100 credit for additional advertising in Google and a $50 credit for Facebook advertising. Shopify keeps track of customers who’ve subscribed to your newsletter, so you can get their e-mail addresses and include them in your e-mail listing. With the Shopify coupon engine you can create coupons and discount codes to promote your products. You can define the type of coupon (for example: save the customer a fixed amount of money, provide a percentage discount, or offer free shipping), a date range for validity, maximum number of uses, etc.
- Automatic backups and free updates. Shopify makes automatic backups of your e-shop so you can be sure your website and its data are safe. Updates of the software are regular and completely free.
In summary, one of the main benefits that Shopify offers is security, which includes the free SSL certificate. The Guru program and App store are something that will help your e-shop to generate more sales. Shopify works closely with Google, so if you’re a Google fan and like to use their services, you’ll like this shopping cart. A lot of Google products are fully integrated with Shopify. If you have a budget available, standard knowledge of HTML and you’re looking for a complete shopping cart with support for your technical and business needs, Shopify is the ideal decision for you. What are the cons of Shopify? Well, like any other hosted solutions – the monthly fee, less control, and you take the risk of losing your e-shop if Shopify should happen to close its business. So, if you want a hosted solution, do give Shopify a try and get the 14-day free trial period. That’s the only way you can decide whether this solution suits you best or not.
What other options for hosted solutions should you consider? Read about them in Building an e-shop: Hosted solutions (part 2).