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An ecommerce cart, more commonly referred to as an ecommerce shopping cart, typically forms the foundation for any online store. It acts as the virtual retail assistant for the merchant while simplifying the purchasing process for the customer. There essentially are two types of carts available: licensed software and hosted solutions. Knowing the difference often can help an online merchant determine which type is right for their particular needs.
A licensed ecommerce cart refers to software that can be downloaded from a vendor and installed on a Web server computer. Some of these applications call for a one-time fee, and others are completely free for a merchant to use. The products that require a fee generally are geared toward enterprises that generate large monthly sales volumes. These carts typically come with premium support and upgrades for as long as the product is under license.
Free ecommerce carts usually are available under an open-source license that allows the user to modify the software to suit their individual needs. As long as it meets system requirements, this type of cart normally can run on any server platform. The most notable disadvantage to free carts is the lack of official support, which essentially forces the user to rely on community assistance.
Unlike a licensed ecommerce cart, a hosted software program cannot be downloaded and installed on a Web server. This variation is hosted by a service provider and typically is paid for on a monthly or yearly basis. Hosted software tends to be highly sought after by Internet entrepreneurs and small business owners who lack technical computer experience. This primarily is due to all the advantages that come along with the service.
In an ideal arrangement, hosted ecommerce shopping cart software offers premium technical support and continuous free updates of the product. The major draw to this type of ecommerce cart is the hassle free environment. For example, users normally do not have to worry about any software or hardware maintenance as these tasks are handled by the provider. Most importantly, there is no expensive investment on infrastructure, which often makes this a very cost-effective option.
Each type of ecommerce cart has its advantages and disadvantages. Licensed software tends to be more flexible while the hosted versions typically are cheaper in terms of upfront expenditure. Many online store owners find that the most effective way to pick from the two is to base the decision on the unique requirements of the business and its customers.