View Full Version : Looking for shopping cart alternatives

02-10-2013, 12:12 AM

My husband and I have a small website that we sell some products on. We are currently using PayPal for the shopping cart, but we would like to investigate other options. We were having issues with PayPal charging our customers more for shipping than should have been charged, but it looks like PayPal has created a new way for creating buttons, so that may 'fix' the problem. I am going to change and update the buttons and hope it fixes the problem, but would still like information on what people are using for their product websites.

There is a lot to learn about shopping carts, and I am hoping that I can pick up some good information here. I am not really well-versed in web design, although I can do basic design, and I understand some of the concepts.

Here is the link to our website: Mountain Trails Outfitters Supply (http://mountaintrailsoutfitterssupply.com/) . My sister designed the website, and as it is basic HTML/CSS, I can handle making small changes, but am not able to handle more complex design yet. (Think kindergarten!)

Thank you for any help or thoughts you may have on what may work best for our site.

02-10-2013, 01:13 AM
Welcome to the forum Tamlyn.

PayPal will probably be your easiest option. A shopping cart is going to mean big changes to your site. There are 2 basic options. One is installing shopping cart software on your site, which is going to mean leaving the basic html/css behind and moving toward something that also includes a server side language like php. The other option is going to be paying monthly to use a shopping cart as a service. Neither is necessarily a bad thing, but it will involve changes.

I guess a 3rd option is selling your products through another site like eBay.

If you sign up for a service like Shopify (http://www.shopify.com/) much of the work of building the site is done and managed for you. You'll probably just login and add your products and your text and images and you'll end up with a nice site. The downside is the monthly fee and that the control you have over your site is limited to what the service allows. That might not be a big deal. The one thing you definitely want to make sure you can do with a service is use your own domain, one in which you own and can take with you if you end your relationship with the service.

If you want to install software on your site the first step is finding software. The good news is there are plenty of free or low cost options. I like WordPress, which is easy to install and use and also has some free and low cost shopping cart add ons (plugins). WordPress isn't the only option. There are others. Most will allow you to change the default look through something called a theme. There are free and commercial (also low cost) themes so you can get a nice look without having to touch any code. Again you'd most likely be logging in and adding products and text and images. If you host your own software you'll have more control since you can edit the flew even if you don't want to. You won't have to, but you'll be able to. However you'll also have to do a little more work to set things up. It's relatively easy and if you prefer to have someone else set it up, it shouldn't cost much. It'll ultimately cost less than paying monthly for a shopping cart service.

One downside to both is shipping, which is often a lot more difficult than it should be. Don't expect perfection even if you go the shopping cart route. You'll also need to set up a merchant account of some kind if you host your own software and possibly with a service, though I'd think most services take care of this for you.

Since you only have a few products PayPal is probably going to be easiest, especially if the shipping is the only issue.

One last option is to switch from PayPal to something like Stripe (https://stripe.com/). I've not used it myself, but I generally hear good things. Similar to PayPal you'd be copying code they provide and adding it to your site to take payment. It might be a bit more involved than PayPal, though the site has a lot of documentation. It looks simple enough to me, though I design and develop websites for a living. If it is more than you want to do, I don't think it would cost much to have some add this to your site and it looks like you'd be able to stick with an html/css site (with some Javascript added)

02-11-2013, 07:07 AM

Vangogh has given a pretty good overview of your options. While I install a lot of shopping carts, one downside to consider is security and bugs. You will need to keep on top of any upgrades that are released, especially if there are security concerns. So if your sales volume is low, and you can't afford to keep a programmer in your back pocket, you may find yourself spending too much money maintaining the website.

I like the ebay store idea - even though you'll lose a bigger % of the sales, they bring in a lot of customers, and you don't need to advertise a whole lot. You can also "auction" individual items you want to clear out.

Anyway, just a few thoughts, but the above post really covers your basic options.


Harold Mansfield
02-12-2013, 11:10 AM
The first thing I see is that Pay Pal doesn't charge for shipping. You do. Pay Pal only calculates the charges that you put in based on whatever methods or services you are using.

The second thing is if this site is designed by your sister and you aren't ready for anything "complex", installing a shopping cart system on your current HTML website is going to be hard and probably difficult for you to run on your own. It's also not recommended on your current site. If you are going to install an ecommerce script, you may as well get the website up to snuff as well.

But it won't matter until you get your shipping charges in order or you'll keep having the same problem.

From what I can see, it looks as if you are charging your shipping per product, instead of as a percentage of the order. That will make shipping charges escalate quickly for people ordering multiple products.

Since it looks like you are shipping your own products, and are already using Pay Pal, I'm going to agree with VG in that Pay Pal is going to be the easiest solution for you, and also agree that a WordPress site using Woo Commerce is what I'd recommend because you can learn to run it yourself, have full control of your store, and can offer multiple shipping options. It's also the most affordable.

This is also the best option so that you don't have to give up a percentage of your sales, or have any monthly other charges from using other 3rd party systems.

This of course means that you will need to redo your website in WordPress, however, you will get a much better online store with the ability to add a lot more options for your shoppers and give an overall better, credible, presentation.

I also noticed quite a few links on your site that go to pages that are incomplete, broken links, and get an overall impression that this was bootstrapped together and no one has paid much attention to it since. This greatly affects your credibility, Basically, you've outgrow what you have and it's now time to get serious and build yourself a fully functioning store and up to date website.

Of course this isn't the only solution. There are probably 20 or so ways to go, but, for someone running their own site, their own store, with limited tech knowledge, who doesn't want to pay an outside company a percentage every month to run their ecommerce, and need to keep their own identity and control, this is by far the one I'd recommend.

02-13-2013, 12:34 AM
Thank you for the very useful information Vangogh. I have recently learned that with the new postal changes, shipping charges can actually be done through stamps.com or pitneybowes.com, and it is less expensive to go that route. We have been doing the shipping by weight, but it didn't work correctly. I have since gone back on to PayPal, and they have changed their system too. So I am working on changing that end and will see what happens. Stamps.com works with several shopping carts, including PayPal, so will see what happens when I integrate them into our PayPal account. I will check out Stripe.com too. Thank you for that lead.

We do sell our products on e-bay, but we would like to get people to come to our store. We have actually done fairly well without any advertising with sales on our website.

Harold, I only found one link that no longer worked, and that was due to the fact that the company no longer sells the book that is listed there. Could you please let me know what other links you found that were broken or incomplete? I am puzzled, as all seems well when I click on the links. And no, we don't pay a whole lot of constant attention to it, as it is up and running fine from what I can see.

Harold Mansfield
02-13-2013, 10:37 AM
Harold, I only found one link that no longer worked, and that was due to the fact that the company no longer sells the book that is listed there. Could you please let me know what other links you found that were broken or incomplete? I am puzzled, as all seems well when I click on the links. And no, we don't pay a whole lot of constant attention to it, as it is up and running fine from what I can see.

My intention wasn't to pick apart your website, but that was the one. Also this page with the "This page is still a work in progress" message that kind of seems as if it's been there for a while.
Mountain Trails Outfitters Supply: Resources (http://mountaintrailsoutfitterssupply.com/resources.html)
which links to this page:
Mountain Trails Outfitters Supply: MORNINGS (http://mountaintrailsoutfitterssupply.com/tutes/tute1.html)

None of that is what you asked for help with, I just happened to notice it.

02-13-2013, 10:10 PM
Harold, I was hoping to get more tutorials up, and we do have some up. Don't see the one that you have saying "Mornings." Thank you for the observation.

02-15-2013, 12:23 AM
Shipping is something that causes a lot of problems for people so don't feel too bad about any of this. It sometimes seems like the only way to get an accurate shipping cost is to take the exact order in and find out how much it will cost. Obviously that's impossible.

Harold Mansfield
02-15-2013, 10:10 AM
Shipping is something that causes a lot of problems for people so don't feel too bad about any of this.

ALWAYS. If you change the formula to say... a percentage of the total, you need to look at it for a few months and make adjustments where you see fit, and generally after a few tweaks you'll get it just right.

It's not the same for everyone. It's going to be dependent on your volume, how your customers are ordering ( whether you get more multiple item orders or single item), and what you are paying for shipping depending on what service you are using, where you are in the country....there are all kinds of variables. You may even have to tweak it a little higher just for one or two products that may cost more than average to ship.

There is no way that you can set it once and have it be just right. You have to do the math based on your history.

And as volume increases, you may have to make adjustments again. It's not a constant calibration, but it is something that you need to check frequently just to insure that you are on track.

02-15-2013, 11:44 AM
There is no way that you can set it once and have it be just right. You have to do the math based on your history.

Yep. You wouldn't think you should have to do this, but it seems like it happens with every ecommerce site that deals with shipping. The first time I worked with a shopping cart where shipping was needed it seemed simple. You added the login to whichever shipping service you were using and figured you were done. Then you see what gets calculated and think something isn't right. Some people seem to be getting charged more for shipping than you really pay and others pay less.

02-15-2013, 12:26 PM
Ya, I just inflate the price and do free ground shipping. For express shipping I come back and make a second charge when I know what the shipping was, but that is a pain. Sometimes I just guess at the express shipping and error in the customers favor. I'll just say "how's $100 in shipping sound"? They usually go for it and come out ahead in the end.

04-10-2013, 04:59 AM
I don’t know what traffic your product has but I suggest to put your product on ebay and configure with your site.. Here I have amazone script witch I can configure with my site astorescript.com..You just need to find one script in which you can integrate your existing site.

Georgias Gifts
04-16-2013, 09:05 PM
I do my shipping based on the dollar amount ordered. When setting it up I looked at a lot of other sites and their amounts to get me started. Then through the years I have "tweaked" it as needed. It is not perfect, sometimes the customer pays more & sometimes I pay more, but it evens out in the long run.

Another way to do it, depending on your product, is to offer a flat rate shipping amount. I think one of the most important things is that the customer knows in advance what the shipping amount will be.

Another word of advice- ship in the smallest (but secure) box you can use. I have found going over a certain weight by even 1 ounce can increase the shipping amount by a couple of dollars.

Also, you can print shipping labels on paypal, which makes it extremely easy if they have paid that way. Their shipping address is already there. I also use the USPS website for printing labels. It is free, just set up an account. I order all my priority boxes online (free) and have them shipped to my home.

03-28-2015, 10:20 PM
I have been using Mal's shopping cart for the past 8 years or so on a couple of different sites. The things I like about it are:

1. It is free. They do have a premium version for $ 8.00 a month but I am fine with the free version.

2. It is easy to set up without knowing any HTML. If you can create a hyperlink you can incorporate Mals into your site as a shopping cart.

3. It uses their secure servers so I don't have to fool with any of that.

4. I don't need to "look for a template that has some similarity to my site" I can just insert a graphic of a buy it now button into a standard page and hook a simple hyperlink to handle the online sale.

If any of this sounds interesting and you want to check it out the url is Mal's E-commerce (http://www.mals-e.com)

07-02-2015, 11:20 AM
Hi @Tamlyn, good to meet you. Going for a vendor lock-in solution like Shopify is not a good choice. I would suggest a from a list of OpenSource e-commerce CMS and shopping carts, you'd find below. Some of them are freeware, some of them are available for on a software as a service base. I would suggest you to review them and decide based on the back end functionality and the design templates you'd find. Then you can get Unmanaged (regular web hosting plan) or to sign up with any Managed service provider which would start developing an e-commerce website for you on top of the software app that you liked most.

Here is a list of the E-commrce Apps: AbanteCart, PrestaShop, Magento, WHMCS, ShopSite, CubeCart, osCommerce, Loaded 7, Zen Cart, TheHostingTool, OpenCart, TomatoCart, BoxBilling, Avactis, Quick.Cart, LiteCart, SimpleInvoices, X-Cart, CS-Cart, AlegroCart, Open Source Point of Sale, Axis, phpCOIN, Blesta, Zeuscart, SeoToaster Ecommerce, Open eShop, Invoice Ninja, Thelia 2, ClientExec, Shopware.