The Difference: E-Commerce Solutions vs. Shopping Carts

About the author: Dan Cannon is the Lead Web Applications Developer for Nicasio Design and Development. Nicasio provides web based solutions for both individuals and businesses. Nicasio owns and operates the E-Commerce solution NicE-Comm.

More and more people are becoming interested in E-Commerce in this day and age. An E-Commerce website certainly has its advantages over a brick and mortar store (see our E-Commerce category archives for more information about the benefits of E-Commerce). With all of this interest it is inevitable that terms will get thrown around and be misunderstood. I would like to clarify two E-Commerce terms that are often interchangeable, but can also have very different meanings.

What is an E-Commerce Solution?

By definition an E-Commerce solution is a software solution (usually web based) that allows you to control all aspects of an E-Commerce Website. A shopping cart is a component of an e-commerce solution that allows your customers to compose a list of items by ‘adding them to their cart’ and then buy all of the items in their cart. All E-Commerce solutions should feature a shopping cart, but some shopping carts are offered as stand alone products that can be integrated into your website.

Why Do I Want an E-Commerce Solution?

Now that you understand a little bit more about what exactly a shopping cart is and what an e-commerce solution is you are probably asking yourself which one you need to meet your business objectives. There are a few main points that need to be thought about when determining your needs.

1. Will online sales be the main function and objective of your website?
Or is your website a blog first and an e-commerce website second? If you already have a website and just want to integrate the ability to sell a few items and don’t need a lot of frills then a basic shopping cart integration may be for you. If you are looking to actually use your e-commerce website as a storefront first and foremost then you will probably want to consider a comprehensive e-commerce solution.

2. What tools do you need?
Many E-Commerce Solutions offer you a rich tool set to help your e-commerce website succeed. These could include report generation, inventory management, customer database management, or coupon creation and distribution. If you think you may want to take advantage of any of these tools then you will probably want to consider a full featured e-commerce solution. Most E-Commerce solutions will also allow you to create content pages on your e-commerce website to help drive search engine traffic to your website.

3. How will your customers find your e-commerce website?
If you are going to be relying on organic search results (naturally occurring, non-paid search results) then you will probably want to consider an e-commerce solution since most modern e-commerce platforms take search engine optimization into account. Writing good content and product descriptions is also important for a successful e-commerce website (look for my upcoming article on writing search engine friendly e-commerce content).

What Now?

Now that you have an idea about the differences, advantages and disadvantages of both e-commerce solutions and shopping carts you may be interested in moving forward with your own e-commerce site. If this is the case, Nicasio Design and Development is ready to help you get started. We have developed a full-featured in-house e-commerce solution that we like to call NicE-Comm. If you are interested in learning more just visit the NicE-Comm Website or Contact Nicasio today!

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