Once you decide to start selling products or services on the Internet using your own shopping cart and payment gateway, you have entered what I call the Online Seller’s Cycle. If you get with the right shopping cart that’s the perfect fit for your business model, you’re lucky! You’ll be able to stick with that single cart for five or ten years or more.
Get the wrong advice from a friend or so-called “guru” who cares more about pitching his affiliate program than actual functionality and you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands. You could find yourself at Phase 5 within just a few weeks ready to go through this whole cycle all over again.
I hate to see people wasting money. Even worse, I hate to hear of people losing money due to lost sales opportunities resulting from a poorly designed shopping cart or with a cart that was not the best fit for their type of sale.
My hope with this post is to provide those just starting with selling online to have the right expectations going into it. For those already unhappy with their current cart system, well, hopefully you’ll accept my invitation to take a look at the cart system I’ve been supporting for the past few years.
So, here we go…
The 5 Phases of an Online Shopping Cart User
Phase 1: Researching Shopping Cart Options
This is the starting point. All online sellers had to start at this point sometime in their business life. So, if you are here, you are definitely in good company!
You know you have products and/or services to sell and you have to figure out a way to accept those online transactions. At the same time, your business is new (or selling online is) and your budget demands that you spend as little money as possible to get your first sales.
So, you go on a research spree by searching Google, starting with the search phrase “free shopping cart” in your search.
If you DO have a budget to play with, your researching phase goes a bit differently. You become more interested in what your friends are using where you will wind up choosing a product name over functionality. Whatever shopping cart your friend recommends, you will choose that path for online transactions too. Whatever the up-front licensing fee is, whatever the monthly or annual subscription fee is, whatever the up-front setup fee is, you’ll pay it because that’s what your friend did. So, it must be the right solution for you too.
Whether your research brings you to the cheapest solution available or you pay whatever your friend suggests, a decision is made and you are now onto the next phase.
Phase 2: Configuring Your Shopping Cart
All online transactions systems need to be configured before you can start using them. You will either need to learn how to setup things on your own or pay someone to do the work for you. PayPal can usually be setup to work with your website in as little as a couple of hours. More complex systems could require a few weeks to even a month or more before being able to receive your first order.
The key thing to remember with the configuring phase is that there will be surprises along the way no matter what cart option you choose. You just really don’t know what you don’t know until you get into the setup process of a shopping cart.
Eventually, quite possibly after a few hundred (or a few thousand) additional dollars spent, you’re ready to use your shopping cart.
Phase 3: Using Your Shopping Cart
Once the configuring is complete, the online selling can begin. This is the phase where sales begin to trickle in and you put all your web marketing know-how into place. You bring traffic to your website, attract people to your product sales pages, have an attractive opt-in.
Speaking, writing, coaching and consulting opportunities emerge. Single products develop into product lines. You become the recognized expert in your field. Your business is growing!
Getting used to any shopping cart system and learning all its components takes a few months. So, give yourself some time.
Be ready, too, for discovering things you like about your shopping cart solution and things that really just baffle you. You’ll find yourself throwing your hands up in the air saying, “How could anyone make a shopping cart that doesn’t [insert missing functionality here]?”
This is where you enter the Wishing Phase.
Phase 4: Wishing for More Features
There’s one big problem with the Wishing Phase. When it comes to most shopping cart systems, your wishes will only remain wishes. Try to get even the smallest new feature added to a shopping cart system and you’ll be waiting for months, if the feature ever appears at all.
With open source software, you can sometimes pay your developer to customize a feature for you, but then you are at the mercy of your developer. If he or she leaves the business or gets hired away from your company, you run the risk of new developers wanting to charge you to re-write the feature instead of support the work of your former developer.
Both scenarios present an important problemthat you need more functionality now that you’ve learned what selling online is all about and your current solution is no longer the best fit.
That brings us to the “changing” phase.
Phase 5: Changing Shopping Carts
Transferring your sales process to a new shopping cart system typically takes 3 times as long as what it took to get setup originally. You have contact information, sales history, products, and sales paths to consider. Likely, you will upgrade to a solution that costs more up-front and you’re okay with that because you have some funding from your current online sales. Part of you will wonder why you didn’t just start with this solution in the first place.
My point to bringing up Phase 5 is that there is always a better shopping cart to go to! Nothing is cast in stone on the web.
What Shopping Cart Phase are You in Now?
I’ve used more than 30 shopping cart systems over the past nearly 20 years ranging from open source software to 3rd party systems to fully customized ordering systems. Want to know what makes most people switch away from the most popular cart systems? Here’s a short list for you:
PayPal – A certain percentage of people will simply refuse to buy anything through PayPal. It’s just a known fact for whatever reason. This is one of the primary triggers that moves people away from using PayPal as their main cart. Potential customers will tell you they want an alternative! Yet, there is also a percentage of people who will ONLY buy from you if you offer PayPal. So, PayPal merchants typically keep their PayPal accounts connected to product purchases to allow it as a payment “option” but switch to another shopping cart to provide a more acceptable payment method.
1ShoppingCart – People seem to leave 1SC when they discover most of the emails sent from the system never arrive at their destination. Email coming from 1SC has been blacklisted by all the major email carriers for years. Need proof? If you’re using 1SC, setup a test email account in Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Gmail and see if your broadcast email delivers to any of them. I personally ditched 1SC when a Firefox user called me saying she couldn’t place an order on one of my websites. 1SC reported to me that they “didn’t develop their system to work with Firefox.”
Infusionsoft – One thing I’ll say for IS is that once someone starts using it, they’re stuck using it forever! They have to be, because, by the time they’re live and taking online orders, they’ve spent so much money that they can’t afford NOT to use the system to attempt to get sales.
People look for an alternative to IS when they lose their help staff due to low sales, layoffs, or employees getting hired away from the company. For many, it just becomes too expensive to launch and too costly to maintain. Rarely do I run into people that were able to setup IS on their own and are able to run it themselves. IS requires a ton of support and carries a $2,000+ ramp-up cost before the first online sale even happens. You become reliant on the highly skilled help to manage the system. Surprisingly, in accounts I’ve supported, I find their actual cart pages to be limited in what can be customized compared to others.
If you have a question about a particular cart, add your comment here or submit a question in my contact form. I’d be happy to contribute what I can.
If you’d like to know more about the cart system I use now and recommend to most clients because of its built-in CRM (no more Goldmine or Act! needed), auto-responders and email broadcasting (no more MailChimp, aWeber or Constant Contact), scheduler (great for coaches and consultants) membership site system (great for speakers and authors), project manager (great for web services companies), AND fully integrated website (!!), you can check out my recorded software demo here >>
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Marty Dickinson is the Here Next Year Web Marketing Club manager and author of Lions Always Win: How to Spot What You Want in Business and Life…and Get it Too!. Without knowing what you truly want, and the tools to get you there, your business is guaranteed to fail.