What is an Online Shopping Cart?

B. Miller

An online shopping cart is a virtual method of keeping track of one's planned purchases on a website. Multiple items may be added to a shopping cart on a website; then, when one is ready to check out, it is simple to purchase the items in one easy step. Nearly all online shopping websites offer the option of an online shopping cart to customers, because of course, it is beneficial to the business to allow the customer to purchase more than one item at a time. To access the shopping cart on a website, usually one only needs to click on a small "shopping cart" icon near the top of the page.

An online shopping cart is a virtual device that holds products until a consumer is ready to buy.
An online shopping cart is a virtual device that holds products until a consumer is ready to buy.

Usually, an online shopping cart works in a very simple manner. When a customer is browsing on a shopping website and sees something that he or she likes, he can generally just click a button that says "add to shopping cart." The item will then be saved for later access in the online shopping cart; when the customer checks out, her or she may adjust the number of a certain item in the order, add or remove more items from the shopping cart, choose different shipping options, and then complete the order by paying with a credit card.

The online shopping cart is often saved, even after the user leaves the website.
The online shopping cart is often saved, even after the user leaves the website.

An online shopping cart is often saved even if one leaves the website, at least for the day. In other cases, it may be necessary to create a username and password for the site in order to log in and save the shopping cart. Some stores also allow users to create more than one shopping cart and save them for later. For instance, one might create a shopping cart containing gifts that will eventually be purchased for the holiday shopping season, as well as another shopping cart with items that will be purchased immediately.

Many pizza restaurants offer online food ordering and delivery.
Many pizza restaurants offer online food ordering and delivery.

An online shopping cart can be edited right up until one is ready to check out and pay for the purchases. It is important to remember to enter any coupon codes, discounts, or gift certificates during this time as well, because it can be difficult or impossible to edit an online order once it has been submitted. Usually, online shopping carts are used on websites where only one merchant is selling items; however, some larger auction or community websites now offer a shopping cart option as well, allowing users to save items from multiple sellers. Each item typically needs to be paid for individually, though, even if everything is saved in one online shopping cart.

Online shopping allows people to buy items in their pajamas from home.
Online shopping allows people to buy items in their pajamas from home.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


The way a site has their shopping cart and checkout procedures setup makes a huge difference for customers. My wife and I run a small online store and we used to get about one-third of the traffic we get on the site now, after we had our checkout setup redone.

Customers want the shopping experience to be easy, convenient and attractive to the eye. It's what makes them come back. I've learned that if I want to keep up with the expectations of my customers, I need to make my shopping cart experience as simple as possible but with a high-end appearance that matches the dependability and great customer service of the store.

My profits have gone up and I plan on making additional changes to make the site and shopping cart even more user-friendly and maybe even fun.


I think the online shopping cart system was designed to provide a very similar experience to actual shopping. It's not exactly the same, I mean you can't actually hold the product in your hand and smell it, for example, but it's still pretty similar. Websites generally provide plenty of information about products and they have multiple pictures of the product with close ups.

One thing I like to do right before I checkout is to actually click on my items in the online shopping cart and take a quick look at them once again before I purchase.

It's funny because I do the exact thing when I'm shopping in physical stores. I always pull my cart aside and review everything in it before I go to the registers at checkout. When I'm online shopping, I feel like I'm really shopping. I'm actually doing more online shopping these days than real shopping.


Some of the issues I experience often with online shopping carts is if the cart doesn't save my items for more than one day and if I am directed to a new page without the option to return to shopping when I click on the "add to cart" button.

Often times, I look around online stores, compare products and prices when I have free time. Since I am comparing different websites, I rarely buy something immediately that day. That's why I love it when it saves my products, even without logging in or creating a user account. I sometimes don't remember which products I liked, so if the cart doesn't save them, that means I have to go back and look through the products all over again.

Something else I don't like is when I add something to the online shopping cart and I am taken directly to the cart. That's fine if they have a button that takes me back to the page I was looking at. If it doesn't though, again I will have to go back and search for it. It's just not the best way to do it because it wastes my time. Some online stores however, add the item to the cart but don't take you to the cart. That way you can keep shopping and keep adding products.

Finally, when you're all ready to check out, it's easy to click on the cart button. I wish every online store was set up this way.

Post your comments
Forgot password?