Shopping cart software
In online marketing, a shopping cart is a piece of e-commerce software on a web server that allows visitors to an Internet site to select items for eventual purchase, analogous to the American English term "shopping cart."  In British English, it is generally known as a shopping basket, almost exclusively shortened on websites to 'basket'.
The software allows online shopping customers to accumulate a list of items for purchase, described metaphorically as “placing items in the shopping cart” or “add to cart”. Upon checkout, the software typically calculates a total for the order, including shipping and handling (i.e. postage and packing) charges and the associated taxes, as applicable.
History and Definitions
The development of web shop systems took place directly after the Internet became a mass medium. This was a result of the launch of the browser Mosaic in 1993 and Netscape in 1994. It created an environment in which web shops were possible. The Internet therefore acted as the key infrastructure developments that contributed to the rapid diffusion of the e-commerce. E-commerce (as a subset of e-business) describes all computer-aided business transactions. In 1998 a total of 11 e-business models were observed, one of which was the e-shop business model for a B2C (Business-to-consumer) business - also called the “online shop”. The two terms “online shop” and “electronic” or “e-shop” are used inter-changeably. The term “online shopping” was invented much earlier in 1984; for example TV shopping often used the term before the popularity of the online method. Today the term primarily refers to the B2C transactional business model. In order to enable “online shopping” a software system is needed. Since “online shopping”, in the context of the B2C business model, became broadly available to the end consumer, internet-based “online shops” evolved.
For online shopping systems in this context the narrower term “web shop” is used. No term has become solidly established for a B2C e-commerce software system. Whereas in the German-speaking region terms such as “web shop software” or “online shop software” are used, the term “shopping cart software” has become established in the USA.
These applications typically provide a means of capturing a client's payment information, but in the case of a credit card they rely on the software module of the secure gateway provider, in conjunction with the secure payment gateway, in order to conduct secure credit card transactions online.
Some setup must be done in the HTML code of the website, and the shopping cart software must be installed on the server which hosts the site, or on the secure server which accepts sensitive ordering information. E-shopping carts are usually implemented using HTTP cookies or query strings. In most server based implementations however, data related to the shopping cart is kept in the session object and is accessed and manipulated on the fly, as the user selects different items from the cart. Later at the process of finalizing the transaction, the information is accessed and an order is generated against the selected item thus clearing the shopping cart.
Although the most simple shopping carts strictly allow for an item to be added to a basket to start a checkout process (e.g. the free PayPal shopping cart), most shopping cart software provides additional features that an Internet merchant uses to fully manage an online store. Data (products, categories, discounts, orders, customers, etc.) is normally stored in a database and accessed in real time by the software.
Shopping Cart Software is also known as e-commerce software, e-store software, online store software or storefront software and online shop.
- Storefront: the area of the Web store that is accessed by visitors to the online shop. Category, product, and other pages (e.g. search, best sellers, etc.) are dynamically generated by the software based on the information saved in the store database. The look of the storefront can normally be changed by the store owner so that it merges with the rest of the Web site (i.e. with the pages not controlled by the shopping cart software in use on the store).
- Administration: the area of the Web store that is accessed by the merchant to manage the online shop. The amount of store management features changes depending on the sophistication of the shopping cart software chosen by the merchant, but in general a store manager is able to add and edit products, categories, discounts, shipping and payment settings, etc. Order management features are also included in many shopping cart programs. The administration area can be:
- Web-based (accessed through a Web browser)
- Desktop-based (a desktop application that runs on the user's computer and then transfers changes to the storefront component).
Licensed vs. Hosted Shopping Carts
Shopping cart software can be generally categorized into two main categories.
- Licensed software: The software is downloaded and then installed on a Web server. This is most often associated with a one-time fee, although there are many free products available as well. The main advantages of this option are that the merchant owns a license and therefore can host it on any Web server that meets the server requirements, and that the source code can often be accessed and edited to customize the application.
- Hosted service: The software is never downloaded, but rather is provided by a hosted service provider and is generally paid for on a monthly/annual basis; also known as the application service provider (ASP) software model. Some of these services also charge a percentage of sales in addition to the monthly fee. This model often has predefined templates that a user can choose from to customize their look and feel. Predefined templates limit how much users can modify or customize the software with the advantage of having the vendor continuously keep the software up to date for security patches as well as adding new features.
The PCI security standards are a blanket of regulations set in place to safeguard payment account data security. The council that develops and monitors these regulations is composed of the leading providers in the payment industry: American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. Inc. International. Essentially, they define the best practices for storing, transmitting, and handling of sensitive information over the internet.
VISA International can hold shopping cart software providers responsible for liability that may occur as a result of non-compliance to VISA's regulations. For this reason, VISA may require that online merchants use shopping cart software providers from their List of PCI DSS Validated Service Providers.
- Farris, Paul W.; Neil T. Bendle; Phillip E. Pfeifer; David J. Reibstein (2010). Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 0-13-705829-2. The Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) endorses the definitions, purposes, and constructs of classes of measures that appear in Marketing Metrics as part of its ongoing Common Language: Marketing Activities and Metrics Project.
- American Marketing Association Dictionary. http://www.marketingpower.com/_layouts/Dictionary.aspx. Retrieved 2012-11-29. The Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) endorses this definition as part of its ongoing Common Language: Marketing Activities and Metrics Project.
- MF Treutner, H Ostermann. Evolution of Standard Web Shop Software Systems: A Review and Analysis of Literature and Market Surveys. Retrieved 25 October 2011.