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Understanding Ecommerce Shopping Carts



Understanding Ecommerce Shopping Carts

Whether you’re just starting to sell your first product online, or you’re an established player in the world of ecommerce, there’s one common feature your website has with just about every other one; a shopping cart.

The ecommerce shopping cart is a collection of software that manages critical aspects of your online transactions. Covering everything from accepting customer payment and managing shipping information to the distribution of that information to merchants, payment processors, and other third parties, the shopping cart is fundamental to the world of ecommerce.

And while all shopping carts fundamentally do the same thing, not all shopping carts are created equally. Given that how your cart functions will have a massive impact on customer satisfaction and your bottom line, it’s critical to understand what options are out there and which one makes sense for your business.

Types of Carts

In the world of online shopping carts there are two key categories you’ll need to be aware of; readymade and custom built. The names provide some idea of the differences, but the impact of those differences can affect your business’ performance dramatically. In this week’s post we will be diving into those differences and providing you with the information you need to make the right choice.

1. Ready-made Shopping Carts

The first type of carts we’ll be looking at is ready-made carts. For new businesses looking to test the ecommerce waters, this is the cart for you. Ready-made carts come with several advantages that make them a great choice for organizations that have limited technical resources or simply want to stay as lean as possible.

Key Advantages:

  • Less Expensive

The biggest advantage that comes with ready-made shopping carts (especially if you’re just starting out) is their relatively low cost when compared with custom built solutions. A ready-made cart is a generic piece of software that is designed to meet a wide range of requirements, meaning a developer can deploy their cart across many sites resulting in a lower cost to the business.

  • Easier to Setup

Another key advantage of a ready-made system is that they are designed to work right out of the box with minimal effort. After a simple setup many options will have you accepting orders in less than 15 minutes. Just download the software, hit the install button, and after a few minutes the program will be up and running on your site.

  • Easier to Maintain

Finally, ready-made solutions have the advantage of being supported and updated by the original developer meaning you can focus on running business. Updates, security patches, and new features will often be pushed to your site automatically and will require minimal (if any) development skills to apply.


As outlined above, ready-made solutions are a great option but purchasing a standard software can come with a few issues. Because ready-made carts are widely distributed across the ecommerce space, one of the biggest disadvantages of these systems is they tend to be larger targets for hackers and other criminal activity. While developers will do their best to keep the system secure, as the business owner you’ll want to stay up to date on the latest news and always update to the latest version of the cart software.

2. Customized Carts

Customized shopping carts are the solution of choice for large-scale enterprise businesses and well-established ecommerce organizations. The major appeal of a fully customized cart is that it provides your business with full control over every aspect of the user experience and provides an open pathway to integrate features into the platform.

Key Advantages:

  • More Flexibility

While certain ready-made carts let you tinker with some basic settings, they simply can’t compete with a cart built with your specific business in mind. If you opt for a customized shopping cart, you have full control to create the checkout experience you want for your customers. You’ll also be able to make frequent changes for A/B testing, run special promotions from within the cart software, and leverage the latest marketing tools.

  • More Control Over Your Data

In addition to the checkout experience, an important role of your shopping cart software is managing your customer database and a customized cart gives your business full control in this space. While most generic carts provide limited access for modifications, a custom shopping cart gives your business the freedom to protect and manage your data exactly the way you want.

  • Easier to Scale

One of the biggest advantages to using a customized solution is their ability to grow and expand at the same pace as your business. Because the shopping cart has been designed specifically for your business, it essentially comes with unlimited support (provided you have the developer who built it working in-house) and this allows you to scale (and even pivot) as often as you like.


While a customized cart offers a number of advantages over generic ready-made solutions, these advantages do come at a cost. A customized cart will always cost considerably more to setup, maintain, and update. To get the most out of a customized solution you will need an in-house developer who understands the platform and understands your business as the benefits of a customize cart can be lost if you are always outsourcing the maintenance to a third party.



As with all things ecommerce each cart option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The right choice for your business will boil down to your unique requirements and the resources you have at your disposal.

Do you prefer a ready made or customized shopping cart for your ecommerce store? Is there anything we missed about ecommerce shopping carts? Let us know in a comment below or reach out to us on Twitter @PAYFORT to share your thoughts!


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Dalia El Gammal

Sr.Marketing Specialist PAYFORT

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