Shopping cart widgets

When you look at it on its most basic level, what is a webstore anyway? It’s some product listings, a few pictures, some text… all of which are pretty simple to set up without any fancy tools. What separates a webstore from just a list of products on a static webpage is the ability to purchase those products and that checkout process is almost always referred to as a shopping cart. At the least, a shopping cart functions like a buy it now button that directs the buyer into the payment and checkout process. On the more advanced end, the ideal shopping cart allows your buyers to add items to their cart as they shop, combining purchases, offering discounts for orders grouped together and more.

Because a shopping cart is really the meat of any webstore, a wide variety of widgets and add-ons exist that let you easily add shopping cart functionality to any website, even a blog or free site. Should forgo a whole webstore package and instead just you add a shopping cart to your existing website?

shopping cart photo

Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Advantages of shopping cart widgets

  • Easy install. Copy and paste a few lines of code into your existing website and you’ve got the ability to sell. If you have multiple websites it’s simple to add your items to each of them.
  • No need for customization, it already matches your brand. There’s no need to spend the time or money making your webstore look like your existing website if your website itself becomes the store. Since you’ll be hosting your store in your space instead of trying to figure out how to make an external storefront showcase your brand, your job will be that much easier.
  • Lower costs than a webstore package. While every service varies, there are some cheap to free shopping cart options out there that let you turn your site into a store for a fraction of the cost of a website package. It makes sense since you aren’t paying for all the extras like hosting, domain and advanced features that you may not need. In most cases, the end product won’t look all that different from an expensive webstore package anyway.
  • Works with just about any kind of site, including free sites like blogs. While you’ll need to check the Terms of Service to make sure you’re permitted to sell whatever wares you are looking to peddle, shopping cart widgets are the only way to sell from a free website such as a blog like, Blogger, or Tumblr. As long as you have the freedom to edit or add HTML, you can sell from your site.
  • Save you time and money on marketing. You’ve already been bringing traffic and readers to your regular website or blog. Turning it into a store means you can benefit from your existing traffic instead of starting over from scratch with an external webstore.
  • Sell from whatever pages you wish. Wouldn’t it be cool to let your readers buy those lamps you have up for sale directly from your blog post about interior design? Or your book from your testimonials page? Or your art from your sidebar? You’ll be able to insert products anywhere you can edit the HTML for the most seamless e-commerce integration you can imagine.

Disadvantages of shopping cart widgets

  • Simpler, with less features. While many of these widget have a few advanced features such as sales, discounts and inventory management, most are limited to just a shopping cart’s most basic function: checkout. If you’re only selling a few items and don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, that may not matter to you but, if you have a need for some of the more advanced features a webstore package offers, they may be an additional expense.
  • You’re still dependent on an external service. If your shopping cart widget goes down or otherwise makes a change that effects how you sell, you’re powerless. On the plus side, in the event of a cart outage, at least your store is on a website that you control so that you can quickly put up a message or activate an alternative.
  • Just as with any standalone webstore, the entire burden of getting buyers to your store and to find your items falls on you and your marketing. But, on the plus side, instead of having to drive traffic both to your website and your store, these would both be hosted in the same place.

Want more? This is an excerpt from Beyond Amazon, eBay, and Etsy: free and low cost alternative marketplaces, shopping cart solutions and e-commerce storefronts.