By Jen Brister

Almost every business today has its own Web site and your business should be no different. No matter how large or small the company, Web sites are a valuable resource for branding and getting you noticed. If you have a retail company that does not have a shopping area on your Web site, you are losing out on daily sales. Web site shopping carts operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can sell items for you with little or no additional effort on your part.

The shopping cart, in actuality, is a series of scripts that keep track of the items that your customer wants to purchase before they go into the checkout area of your Web site. Shopping carts deal only with the beginning of the shopping process and have nothing to do with online payments. There is a variety of shopping cart software available, which might make it difficult for you to choose the one that is best suited for your company. Prices for this type of software range from free to around $500.

If you choose a free shopping cart software, make sure that you read all of the fine print. Most companies that offer free shopping cart software require a link back to their Web site or other accommodations.

Some shopping carts include features that may improve the profitably of your Web site. Here are a few that you might want to look for.

Suggest/Cross Sell

Many shopping carts offer the chance to suggest additional items to customers before they check out. These suggestions are usually based upon the items that the customer has already selected. Since impulse buying is quite popular, having a suggest function may improve your bottom line.

Discounts

Some shopping carts offer the option of automatically calculating a discount for your customer based on the quantity of items they are purchasing. Quantity discounts are a great way to encourage your customers to buy more and keep them shopping for a longer amount of time.

Coupons

If you like to market a specific item each week, you can offer a coupon code for that item in some shopping carts. Look for software that allows you to easily change coupon codes on a regular basis. Coupons can be a powerful selling point that increase sales and make customers feel as though they are getting a special price.

Newsletters

Look for a shopping cart that automatically stores every customer’s email address. Some programs allow you to create a newsletter and send it out to each and every customer on your list. You will most likely need some sort of newsletter software anyway, so why pay for an extra program when you can have one that is included in your shopping cart software?

Before you purchase software, check with your hosting company to find out what kinds of scripts are allowed. Make sure that your software has excellent customer support, including chat and telephone support in case an emergency arises. Also, keep in mind that you want your business to grow, so choose a shopping cart software that will work for your business not only today, but for the business you want to have five years from now.

About the Author

Jen Brister has been a writer, researcher and Internet marketer for three years. She makes her living writing full time, publishing videos and creating Web sites.

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