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Guide to Shopping Cart Software

What is a shopping cart?

An online shopping cart is a collection of scripts that allow website visitors to choose items for sale on your site and to proceed to the "checkout" process. Shopping cart software can be used as either a component of your website, or as an entire e-commerce website. AlphaDrive offers several shopping carts to its web hosting customers, available for installation through the cPanel interface.

While some shopping carts handle the whole financial transaction, most simply act as a front end which passes information via a secure connection to a payment gateway - a separate service altogether.

What is a payment gateway?

A payment gateway service channels payment information requests and transfers from your shopping cart to the relevant financial networks, including your Internet merchant account with your bank. It then sends a confirmation or denial back to the shopping cart software.

How do I choose a shopping cart?

AlphaDrive provides its web hosting customers access to a wide variety of shopping cart packages. Each shopping cart is available using our One-Click Installer in your web hosting control panel.

What other features should I look for?

Some integrated elements that may benefit your online business include:

Availability of Addon Modules

While shopping cart software today comes with countless features to help make your business successful, there may some features that you would like to add down the road. The more popular packages support the integration of addons and modules to increase the software's functionailty beyond the out-of-the-box feature set.

Product Suggestions / Cross Selling Functions

Impulse buying via the Internet is quite common, just like in a physical store. Some shopping carts will suggest another product to complement a customer's current selection. If offered at a discounted rate, this strategy can be quite successful.

Coupons and Quantity Discounts

Coupon functions allow you to issue special offers as part of your marketing campaigns, and to track their success. Many shopping carts also allow for the calculation of discounted rates based on the number of units a customer wishes to purchase. Usually, a code is created that is matched against a particular item or group of items, or is used to provide an overall discount rate. Offering coupons and discounts can be part of a successful online marketing strategy.

Autoresponder and Newsletter Functions

Some shopping cart software has integrated autoresponder and newsletter capabilities. They will email customers after a purchase has been made, and give you the ability to email your customers in the future. Of course, you must follow all relevant anti-spam laws.

Affiliate Modules

One of the most effective, low cost ways to advertise your product is through an affiliate program. Your upfront cost is minimal if you only pay on performance, such as when a sale is generated. An affiliate module can handle the signup process, provide statistics, and keep track of payments to be made to affiliates.

Inventory Tracking

If you have an online-only retail location and carry a certain amount of inventory, you may want to consider a shopping cart that tracks your inventory. You can choose to receive an email notification if a product is about to sell out, and you can opt to remove an item from the storefront once it is sold out.

Sales Tax Calculation

Many shopping cart packages will calculate sales tax for you, though you are responsible for setting up the rates, if any, that you want to charge. Sales tax collection laws vary based on your location and the types of products or services you sell. Often, sales taxes are only collected if the shipping and delivery locations are in the same state or local tax zone.

Product Reviews

Do you like to read customer reviews when looking at online products? So do your customers! You way want to find a shopping cart that allows customers to place reviews, as they can be helpful to others when making a purchase. However, keep in mind that not all product reviews are positive, and if you don't force a customer to log in before reviewing an item, you will open yourself to fake/spam postings.

Shipping/Delivery Options

If you are selling a product that needs to be shipped, handling flat & variable shipping and handling rates is fairly standard among shopping carts. If you are selling a downloadable product, you may want a shopping cart that provides the customer with a link to the download so you don't have to. Many shopping carts have modules available that extend the shipping functionality.

Which shopping carts are offered by AlphaDrive?

You can view a full, updated list of all ecommerce and other software that is included with your web or reseller hosting account at For your convenience, we also break down the features of the most popular shopping carts for you on our Shopping Cart Software page.