There are a lot of terms to describe the systems used for creating your online shop/business: shopping cart, ecommerce solution, online store builders and others. But regardless of what you call it, a shopping cart helps you do the same thing: sell products and services through the internet.
What is an ecommerce shopping cart?
A shopping cart is a software that helps you build your online store, add products and perform online transactions. There are myriad of shopping carts you can choose from nowadays, offered by software companies and they all come with smart and useful features and functionalities.
Shopping carts are the connection between the seller and the buyer and allow you to accept online payments, organize your merchandise, create catalogs and they all come with customer management features.
What to look for in a shopping cart
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a web hosted shopping cart (SaaS – software as a service) or a self-hosted one.
In the first case, your shopping cart will be administrated online by a third-party, which means you’ll have fewer problems to worry about. Someone else is going to host the shopping cart, will take care of all the potential issues, errors, will handle server maintenance, security, upgrades and so on. All you have to do is pay a monthly fee to the hosting company and that’s it. You don’t have to pay for hosting and you get reliable customer support in most cases. However, when your customers order something on your website, they will be redirected to another domain when they have to pay, for the payment to be processed.
Self-hosted solutions are pretty self-explanatory. You will be responsible for hosting, operating and maintaining everything. Most of them are open-source so you can download them for free, but you’ll have other costs such as add-ons, SSL certificates, hosting and others. However, self-hosted solutions are highly customizable, unlike web-based shopping carts which are more limited.
SaaS solutions are more suitable for beginners or users who don’t want, don’t have time or the necessary skills to build and administrate their own online store. They do have their costs and limitations, but they are more user-friendly. Depending on your needs, you can choose the best option for your business.
Other aspects to consider when choosing a shopping cart are:
- Available themes and whether they are mobile-friendly
- Included bandwidth and storage
- The quality of the customer support (in the case of SaaS)
- Available payment methods
- Security and backup
Ashop – Is it a good shopping cart to consider?
Ashop Intelligent commerce is a web-based shopping cart. Ashop has been on the market since 2004. The company is from Australia but also has offices in the United Stated and the United Kingdom.
There are 3 plans offered by Ashop: Starter, Professional and Enterprise.
The most basic one is of course the Starter plan. It is priced at $25/month or $249/year and includes up to 500 products, 1 GB storage, unlimited bandwidth and ticket, phone/live chat customer support.
The next upgraded option is Professional. This plan costs $69/month or $690/year and includes up to 1000 products, 2GB of web space, blog features, mobile storefront, gift certificates, digital goods and all the payment gateways, not just selected, as in the case of Starter.
The most complex and expensive option is Enterprise, which is billed at $249/month or $2,490/year. For this amount you get up to 10,000 products, 5 GB web space, no Ashop branding, B2B and fraud protection.
Regardless of the plan you are considering for your business, Ashop offers a free 14-day trial, with no credit card requirements.
Features of Ashop
All plans offered by Ashop come with unlimited bandwidth, which is great news. A not so good piece of news is the fact that the storage is limited with all their plans. Even the Enterprise plan has a limit of 5GB. This is a shame because in case you have a lot of data, videos, large images and so on, you will be bothered by that limitation. Same goes for their limitation in terms of number of products allowed.
All these aside, Ashop does have a lot going on in its favor. It allows you to use your own domain name and you can upgrade or downgrade any time you want.
There are over 80 payment gateways and third-party processors to choose from: PayPal, Braintree, Pin Payments, Google Checkout, eway, WorldPay, Authorize.Net, Bank of America, SecurePay and others.
The WYSIWYG editor is in real-time and the startup wizard will guide you through all the steps when you first start to build your store. You can choose between a plethora of themes (over 80 free ones) and all of them are mobile responsive or you can edit in CSS and HTML, if you’re good at that and prefer to have more customization access.
Customers can sign in with their Facebook account if they want.
In terms of security, Ashop uses 128-bit SSL certificate from DigiCert and it also offers daily monitoring and backups, which is a very important thing.
You can sell digital items as well, but not with the Starter plan, only with the Professional and Enterprise plans.
Depending on the plan you sign up for, you also get gift certificates, coupons and discounts. There’s basket recovery and a mobile storefront. With the mobile storefront feature you can create a different template just for mobile shopping.
SEO tools such as meta tags, sitemaps, crawler-friendly URLs are also available and you’ve also got SMS alerts for new orders.
Ashop offers pretty much everything you need to build a solid online store.
When it comes to customer support, Ashop is also commendable. It offers 24/7 top-notch customer support, via phone and live chat, even with their cheapest plan.
There clearly are some drawbacks in Ashop: the limitations in storage and number of products, the discrepancies between features included with their most basic plan and their most expensive one and the fact that they don’t have as many add-ons and integrations as some competitors. On the other hand, Ashop offers all the basic features you need in a shopping cart and more. It is secure, scalable and offers a free 14-day trial.