We looked at Zen Cart before as a nice, open source shopping cart.  However, there are still plenty of other options if you have specialized products or are looking for something cheap with an easy-to-use interfaace.

The Shopping Cart Alternatives

There are plenty of monthly services that you can use for your shopping cart that may also give you a headstart instead of building the cart yourself.  Among those options are Ebay Stores, Yahoo Stores, MonsterCommerce, and ProStores.  These services are just the tip of the iceberg. 

While each of these services is different, as a whole they do have general advantages over creating your own shopping cart.  Those advantages include:

1. Ease of Design

For the most part, the previously mentioned store applications offer template designs.  Template designs offer an effective, easy way for you to design a nice looking web site and get the web site launched quickly.  There are often templates that can be purchased for other shopping cart interfaces such as Zen Cart, but they still require some adjustments on the part of the store owner.

2. Customization

On one hand, complete shopping cart customization is only provided through creating your own shopping cart.  However, if you don’t have that type of ability or budget, using one of the preceding pre-packaged shopping carts offers plenty of flexibility in design and layout in most cases.

3. All-in-One Solutions

Most of the monthly store shopping carts have one other advantage that can save you time: Credit card processing.  While you may need to install modules or simply configure your account information with shopping carts like Zen Cart, many of the pre-packaged stores listed above do the credit card processing for you and make this process easier.

4. Non-Technical Advantages

Don’t know HTML or some other technologies necessary to design a web site or edit components?  The overriding purpose of these previously mentioned online stores, in most cases, is to give you the ability to design a store without using any code.

5. Safety

In general, using one of these pre-packaged stores is safer than coming up with a design yourself.  The designs provided by these store services have often been tested, so you know whether or not they make effective stores that will lead to conversions.  Also, you can get technical support from the store services if you ever run into problems.

Affiliate Stores

Somewhat closely related to shopping cart stores is the ever-growing affiliate store.  CafePress.com and Zazzle are two very popular affiliate stores that you can use to design your own apparel and sell it to customers.  CafePress seems to be the market leader, but Zazzle is catching up.  Both affiliate stores allow you to customize clothing, cups, and all sorts of other apparel with your logo and other designs.  CafePress lets you setup your own press, while you get a percentage of the sale with Zazzle.  Like the shopping cart stores listed above, these two affiliate stores are easy to setup, design and customize your apparel.

Seth Trachtman is a Web Marketing Account Manager for The Net Impact Web Design St. Louis.

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