Best Shopping Cart Software for Small Business in the UK

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Best Shopping Cart Software for Small Business in the UK

If you’re thinking about setting up an eCommerce store, you’re going to need some way of making payment easy for your customers. That means you’re going to need shopping cart software.

What is shopping cart software?

Firstly, let’s clear up exactly what we mean by shopping cart software. Whether you’re selling dog toys or detergent online, an effective shopping cart is key to the success of your eCommerce business.

How your shopping cart works and how it integrates with the rest of your business, particularly your online catalogue and your payment-processing gateway, can make or break your online operation.

Of course, you might get shopping cart software lumped in with your web-hosting platform. That might be fine for your needs, but you’re more likely better off taking a close look at the nature of your business, your intended audience and how you want to sell.

Identify features important to you

These days, shopping cart software does far more than simply accept payments. So you’ll need to think carefully about which features matter most to your online business.

Is it necessary for you to be able to track and manage your inventory, fulfil orders, track sales, maintain a marketing or loyalty programme, sell offline or manage a blog?

Many of today’s shopping cart software packages will do all this and more. You can even buy turnkey bundles that include web hosting, payment processing and fulfilment. But it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. So let’s assume you’ll be buying standalone shopping cart software.

Why you need shopping cart software

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Let’s imagine you’re buying a coffee-maker on the web. You’ve chosen the machine that will deliver your perfect super-latte macchiato and placed your order. But what’s this? You’re being asked to phone up with your debit card details. No way, Nellie.

Making your customers jump through hoops like this is a sure way to lose sales. Of course, there’s always good old PayPal. It’s a decent first step. But good shopping cart software will do more. It can handle several types of payment, collect tax and work out shipping costs.

If your shopping cart software isn’t doing this, then you’ll need to do it yourself. And we’re pretty sure you’ve got better things to do.

Joyful woman enjoying online shopping in bed

How does shopping cart software work?

The best shopping cart software allows customers to browse without being locked into buying before they’re ready. That’s why you get that dinky little shopping basket in the top-right corner of the screen.

Customers must be able to add or remove products from the basket easily. They must also be able to pick from various options: sizes, colours, widths and heights. A running total on each page can help buyers navigate the process.

What about those tax calculations?

If you’re UK-based and selling within the EU, the best shopping cart software will automatically enable B2B  (business-to-business) EU tax fields. It will charge your assigned tax for B2C (business-to-customer) sales and let EU buyers validate their EU VAT number, so they’re exempt from paying VAT on their purchase.

And shipping?

When it comes to shipping, today’s shopping carts can make calculations based on look-up tables that you’ve set, or make real-time calculations according to information from shippers and couriers.

These shipping calculations may consider:

  • Weight
  • The number of items
  • By weight and area
  • Fixed prices

If you do plenty of shipping, it’s especially convenient to use the plug-ins provided by the major shippers. Companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL offer this as a free service. You’ll usually be able to limit the shipping options customers see, even when the shipper offers other options.

Secure checkout

Let’s not forget being able to check out securely and quickly. To do this without making the hackers happy, your shopping cart software will need:

  • A secure SSL connection between your website and the buyer
  • A payment gateway to communicate with the card processor
  • Card number protection
  • Secure order retrieval that works without exposing card details to hackers. This is usually achieved with a secure SSL connection, although XML, secure FTP or encrypted e-mail are alternatives.

Happily, most carts come with these features as standard.

Payment gateways

When choosing your payment gateway, make sure you don’t pick one before buying your shopping cart software, as some might not be compatible. Always go for real-time card authorisation, as you’ll benefit from:

  • Time saved retyping details
  • Eliminating errors from re-entering orders
  • Time saved processing orders, with authorisation a given

Email confirmation

Your shopping cart software will almost certainly also come with on-screen and email receipts that confirm the sale. If you can find one that also confirms shipping, so much the better.

The best features of shopping cart software

It’s horses for courses where shopping cart software is concerned. Some systems are better for selling physical objects, while others shine when selling the digital and virtual, such as eBooks, files and services.

Some are suited to migrating data from an existing cart, while other software has tools to help you set up a brand-new storefront.

You’re also going to want SEO tools, integration with Google Analytics and the ability to call someone up if things go pear-shaped – at any time of day or night.

If there’s a trial period on offer, take it. Use the time to figure out the shopping cart dashboard. And always look for great security, in the shape of a web host that offers you an SSL certificate.

Hand on smartphone using shopping cart software app

What’s the best shopping cart software for UK businesses?

Here are a few quick reviews of the best shopping cart software for UK business.

GoDaddy (£19.99/month)

GoDaddy comes with a wizard that makes site-building so easy, a Teletubby could handle it. Alongside easy navigation and a clean dashboard, it gives you Facebook commerce pages, SEO scans and email marketing.

However, there are no mobile apps or point-of-sale support. And there’s no Application Programmer Interface (API) and just the one pricing tier.

In summary

GoDaddy is a sound choice for new sites and start-ups, but bigger players won’t be impressed by the lack of functionality.

Shopify (£19.99/month)

Shopify’s the most-searched-for eCommerce platform in the UK. That could be because it’s so easy to set up and customise. You could have the coding skills of a chimp on coffee and be able to fix up an online store while picking from a good variety of themes and apps.

On the downside, Shopify isn’t the cheapest shopping cart software on the UK market, when you take into account various add-ons, such as transaction fees. But you can dip your toe in the water before diving in, with a 14-day free trial.

In summary

For an easy-to-set-up, all-in-one platform, Shopify is hard to beat.

PinnacleCart (£34.99/month)

PinnacleCart comes with a 14-day trial and some nice-looking templates. Available is an easy-to-grasp dashboard and good tools for SEO and email marketing.

On the flipside, there’s no built-in point-of-sale system and no free shared SSL certificate.

In summary

A simple, fun way to manage and market your eCommerce store, but you might think the lack of a point-of-sale system is a drawback.

Wix Stores (£12.50/month)

Wix Stores’ shopping cart software is easy to pick up and great for simple customisation. It also supports point-of-sale systems and doesn’t charge you for transactions.

Cons? Storage is limited to 20GBs and you can’t sell during your free trial.

In summary

Very slick shopping cart software that’s great for small businesses wanting to get up and running quickly. If you’re after something more advanced or with better customisation, though, best look elsewhere.

3dcart (£25/month)

On the plus side, 3dcart comes with a generous 15-day trial and good SEO features. Less impressive is how the advanced features are available only on the higher tiers. Third-party apps could also be better. And there’s a limit on the number of users per plan.

In summary

The templates aren’t fantastically beautiful and the dashboard isn’t very intuitive. However, it’s a solid cart at a decent price.

Man using smartphone shopping online

BigCommerce ($29.95/month quoted on UK site)

With a 15-day trial, advanced features on every plan and plenty of third-party apps, BigCommerce holds plenty of appeal.

However, the Plus plan costs almost three times as much as the Standard. If you want the Pro package, be prepared to pay in the hundreds. Don’t even ask about the Enterprise version.

In summary

A good choice of advanced features for small businesses and a powerful platform. However, the higher plans come at a cost.

XCart

With XCart, you can choose from hosted or self-install options. There are 30-day trial periods, refunds and even a free plan.

Unfortunately for some, the downloadable software requires some HTML editing and coding knowledge.

In summary

It’s a powerful package, although probably a bit complex for some. Smaller businesses might be put off by the need for manual coding.

Ecwid

There’s a free plan available on Ecwid, along with handy plug-ins for WordPress and Facebook. A responsive design gives the site a tasty look, whatever it’s viewed on.

On the minus side, there are no add-ons available and you’ll need some ability to code.

In summary

The USP here is that Ecwid works with your existing site. It’s also easy to manage, but you’ll need to know the basics of coding.

Which shopping cart software is best for you?

The shopping cart software you ultimately plump for will depend on the size of your business, what you want it to do and how skilled you are at coding and site-building.

Let us know when you’ve toppled Amazon.

Nigel Graber

Nigel Graber has been a freelance copywriter and small-business owner in the UK since 2003. He works with sole traders and start-ups right through to blue-chips and multinationals.

MileIQ’s blog does not constitute professional tax advice. You should contact your own tax professional to discuss your situation.

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