Published: Apr 3, 2013 Last updated: Apr 3, 2013 Yan Kulakov

In an online store, product sales are carried out through a website, so it should have specific options and functions to accomplish selling on Internet. Imperative attributes of websites to buy and sell items are a web storefront, a checkout page, online payment gateways, and shipping options. These features are available with modern online shopping cart software.

Best Shopping Cart Software for Embedding Cart Functionality to Your Website

If you plan to start an eCommerce website, you usually have two options: to build an online store from scratch on a shopping cart platform or embed a webshop functionality to your existing website. There is plenty of eCommerce software that allows you to launch an online shop from scratch. But there aren't so many solutions that can be embedded to your existing website. We've found out about these solutions—check out 5 shopping carts that can be embedded to your site:

  1. CS-Cart
  2. WordPress with WooCommerce
  3. Ecwid
  4. Shopify
  5. Magento

What is cart functionality?

A website builder with shopping cart is a web-program that allows you to open your own eCommerce website. On this website, you will be able to sell your stuff to online customers. Proper cart functionality CMS must comply with the eCommerce industry standards and have all the cutting-edge functionality out of the box. It’s important that the best eCommerce platform for small business is self-sufficient and doesn’t require much custom coding. And just bear in mind: there’s no best shopping cart. There’s the most effective cart functionality framework for your business.

You can either build a separate eCommerce site or integrate cart functionality into your existing website. The integration to a website has its advantages and disadvantages: it is very easy and quick to start selling but such an integration can be limited in functionality. There are plenty of website builders with shopping cart out there. So, it’s up to you what kind of eCommerce platform to implement for your business: an embedded widget or a fully functional standalone e-commerce solution.

Types of Shopping Cart Software

If you’re starting an eCommerce business, you have to make an important decision—what type of eCommerce solution to use for your virtual shop. An e-commerce platform can either be self-hosted or SaaS, it can be an open source shopping cart or without access to the code, it can be a simple CMS or a complex eCommerce software. Finally, it can be free online shopping cart software or paid eCommerce solutions for small business.

The first criteria you need to consider is how the e-commerce platform is provided: is it on-premise (most often opensource platforms) or cloud (SaaS e-commerce service). This is a critical choice because both models have their pros and cons. Let’s compare a self-hosted solution to a cloud e-shopping platform.

SaaS VS Open Source

A SaaS web store app is available by a subscription model. This means that the vendor provides you with a backend panel and a storefront 100% hosted on the vendor’s servers. You usually don’t have access to the webshop software code, you just use the platform as provided and pay monthly a certain amount of money. Basically, you rent the platform, you don’t own it.

Pros of SaaS:

  • Quick and easy start
  • Affordable monthly fee

Cons of SaaS:

  • Limited functionality
  • Low level of customizability
  • Monthly payments forever
  • It’s not totally yours—you just rent it
  • Dependence of the platform provider

Open source eCommerce software is the one that you download and install on your own server. It is a bit more complicated than just registering a cloud solution for a website but once you set it up, you have a webshop eCommerce software that is 100% under your control and hosted on your side.

Pros of on-premise open-source digital shopping cart:

  • One-time payment for a license
  • Unlimited customizability
  • It’s your’s forever and hosted on your server
  • It usually beats SaaS in terms of functionality
  • You don’t depend on anyone

Cons of an open-source eCommerce platform:

  • It requires some minor technical knowledge to install the online shopping basket
  • Although you only pay once for the license, the cost is usually higher than a monthly subscription
  • The development and security of your eCommerce site are on you

Components of Shopping Cart Software

A proper online shopping cart eCommerce software has 2 essential components: the storefront and the admin panel. When choosing the best eCommerce platform for startups, make sure it has both because some solutions don’t offer a storefront—admin panel only.

There are also some points you want to consider for the storefront and the admin panel. Of course, the storefront must be convenient and easy to use for your customers, and the admin panel must be convenient for you and your managers. Let’s see the major online shopping cart features of the storefront and the administration panel.

The Storefront

This is the face of your store. This is what customers see when they come to visit your eCommerce website. A shopping cart UI has to be attractive and convenient both on big display screens and mobile devices.

The storefront of an online shopping website

When choosing the best online shopping cart for small business, make sure you can set up a storefront easily without hiring a programmer. This is important: while you set up the design of the storefront only once, you will be arranging the content on your storefront pages regularly. For example, you will test different product offerings on different websites, add the company description, move the menus for the best position, and more. It’s critical that your online shop solution allows you to do all of it without the help of a programmer. Modifying the platform’s code is the last thing you need to do when starting an eCommerce business.

The storefront must have these content blocks by default at least:

  • Header
  • Menus
  • Submenus
  • Full category tree
  • Best-sellers
  • On-sale products
  • Banners with special offers
  • Brands
  • Footer with auxiliary information and contacts

And all these blocks have to be editable so that you could change their content and add new blocks. By the way, this is one of the famous features of the CS-Cart webstore software. Its block manager is very flexible and allows you to add almost any content to the storefront in a couple of clicks without diving into the code.

The Administration Panel

This is your control center. The panel you manage your web shop from. It’s important that the administration panel of the shopping cart application is easy to use and all the settings and features are maximum 3-4 clicks away from the dashboard. If you have other managers besides you, they need to learn the admin panel quickly.

The admin panel of a web shop

By the way, with several managers in your company, you will certainly need the administration privileges feature among other important shopping cart features. This is a function that allows you to assign privileges to your managers to give them access to only those features and settings they need for their work. For example, give the sales manager access to the order management section only, or designers—to the block manager and themes section.

Make sure the administration panel has these major features:

  • Order management section (CRM)
  • Administration privileges
  • Product management section with the ability to add and edit products manually and via import
  • Flexible appearance management page with block manager and the ability to change themes and styles
  • Reports and analytics
  • Admin tools such as shipping and payment methods management
  • Marketing tools such as promotions and reward points
  • SEO tools to be able to optimize the shopping cart website templates to search engines
  • CMS for creating website pages

How to use cart functionality?

Using a cart functionality CMS requires some basic skills. If you are familiar with web interfaces, have worked with a blog CMS or a website builder, then you will learn to use the eCommerce platform easily and fast.

Different website builders with shopping cart have different complexity. For example, the Magento cart functionality framework is a feature-rich platform but it is very complicated with a long learning curve. On the other hand, there's Shopify with the most user-friendly interface and a very short learning curve.

Anyway, all of the platforms have a common initial setup. And here's how to use the website builder with shopping cart right after you deploy it on the server:

  1. Enter your business information and fill the "About the company" page with content
  2. Import products from the data sheet you got from a supplier or create your products manually
  3. Setup the design of your store
  4. Connect your online store to payment gateways
  5. Setup shipping methods
  6. Customize the checkout page for maximum conversions
  7. Login to your store under a customer account and test the buying process
  8. Make the final corrections and setup and open your store to customers

Shopping Cart Prices

There are a number of free online store platforms available but they are limited in one way or another. Some have a lack of security, functionality, or support. Support is the main concern when you look at free eCommerce platforms.

Paid PHP shopping cart software is usually a robust platform with good support and customer care service. So, if your goal is to create a shopping website that will be professional and successful—better to look at paid solutions.

Prices differ much but if you choose an on-premise licensed eCommerce platform, then the prices are as follows:

B2C from $385
B2B from $390/month
Hybrid B2C/B2B from $790/month
eCommerce platform for marketplaces from $1,450

Best shopping cart software 2021

Below, we introduce the most versatile, feature-rich, and easy-to-use shopping cart software in our opinion. Some of them can be used as a standalone platform or can be embedded into an existing website. Check out top 5 eCommerce software 2021.

CS-Cart Shopping Cart

It is an established and widely-known company specializing in e-commerce software development and ready to offer you quality eCommerce website builders for your particular online project with any specific requirements. Moreover, depending on the size and type of your web store we can suggest you take advantage of one of 4 standalone CS-Cart editions available:

  • B2C
  • B2B
  • Hybrid B2C/B2B with multiple storefronts
  • Multi-Vendor for marketplaces

Standard Edition is designed specifically for small and mid-sized web projects with standard functionality. If your future eCommerce project is going to expand to several independent web stores working in B2C and B2B, then the hybrid B2C&B2B edition is an obvious choice. And finally, Multi-Vendor Edition comes perfectly for sophisticated online shopping malls with multiple independent vendors managing their sales through a single common online marketplace.

CS-Cart shopping cart based online store

House of CB is a famous fashion house and a fashion retailer in London. The store works on CS-Cart.

All the editions come fully packed with the most cutting-edge eCommerce options and features to ensure you have anything you may require to manage your store, product inventory, sales, orders, customers, marketing campaigns, financial transactions, shipping methods, etc.

You can easily integrate your storefront to your other website or blog. CS-Cart platform features a widget: just copy it in the admin panel and paste it into your website’s HTML code.

Here are some customer shopping cart software reviews:

I used this platform for many years, and it is my favorite software. I have tried various software. But CS-Cart is the best. It is easy to use, to move something off the page, translation, addons, etc. All is very easy to do it. — Yi Sheng We moved from X-Cart to CS-Cart and we found a big difference with it. There are lots of add-ons that can add value to your store. The customer service is also very responsive. I have been with CS-Cart for less than a year but so far we are satisfied with what they are offering. — Drees Laby
Our website had an unusual requirement in that we were looking for an e-commerce platform but without the purchasing part! CS-Cart was the only product on the market which had multi-vendor capability as well as being able to operate in a catalog mode. — Russell Scott The CS-Cart Multivendor - best CMS for the web shop. My company uses this platform for more than one year. The best program code, best SEO optimization. My best recommendation! — Valery Voloboev

WordPress Shopping Cart

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world. It is also suitable for shopping cart integration. This feature is implemented in WordPress via various plugins. The most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress is WooCommerce. There are other popular plugins as well.

It’s super easy to add webshop technology to a WordPress website: you just get the plugin, upload it to our website folder and install it on your WordPress copy.

WordPress shopping cart eCommerce store

An online store based on WooCommerce

These plugins are really easy to install and use on your existing website but unfortunately, they often don’t have enough functionality and security for a large web shop. Support is also can be a concern. Anyways, if you need a simple shopping cart for a small web store, then this is your choice.

Ecwid Shopping Cart

Ecwid can be easily embedded into your existing website. What you need is to register a store on their website and embed it to your site as easily as you embed a video.

Your store is hosted in the Ecwid cloud and you just insert it to our website just like you do it with a CS-Cart widget. You can get a free account with some functionality limitations or subscribe to their paid monthly plans.

Ecwid shopping cart webshop

Online store based on the Ecwid shopping cart integration

Shopify Shopping Cart

One of the most popular shopping carts in the US and Canada. Shopify is a cloud eCommerce platform with monthly payments. The Basic plan costs $29 per month + $0.30 per transaction. This platform is quite intuitive to use and is designed for non-technicians.

If you want to start a basic online store with a great interface and easy setup—Shopify is a good choice. It has all the necessary basic features and integrates with over 100 payment services. But because of its cloud-based nature, this platform is not that scalable. You can't develop custom functionality, you don't have access to the platform's code. The only way to extend Shopify is to use plugins from their app marketplace.

Shopify is not available worldwide. For now, it works for the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and Singapore.

shopify shopping cart

An online store based on Shopify

Magento Shopping Cart

Magento was developed in 2007 and today it is one of the most feature-rich and flexible eCommerce platforms. It supports all the major payment gateways and basic and advanced eCommerce functionality. And it is free and open-source! Due to these pros, Magento is very popular worldwide: it is used by over 250,000 merchants including Nike, Ford, and Cisco Systems.

Unfortunately, Magento has a serious con: it is not that easy to install, use, and customize. If you don't have coding skills or a team of developers that specializes in Magento, it is better to avoid this platform. Magento may seem cheap at first glance but further development can cost you a fortune if you don't have a dedicated development team.

In other aspects, Magento is a powerful shopping cart solution with great scalability potential.

magento shopping cart solution

An eCommerce website built on Magento

How to add a readymade Shopping Cart to Your Website

If you already have a working website with good traffic, it’s a great idea to add an eCommerce functionality to it. Shopping cart integration to the existing website can be very easy thanks to modern eCommerce solutions.

You can integrate a readymade eCommerce store to your website in 3 ways:

  1. Embed the existing storefront to your website. This is the easiest way to add a readymade shopping cart integration as it usually doesn’t require any advanced programming skills. But unfortunately, not all eCommerce solutions have the functionality of a widget. A good example of the platform that can be embedded to any website as a widget is CS-Cart. You just copy the widget code from the admin panel and paste it into your website’s HTML code on any of the pages.
  2. Add eCommerce functionality to a non-eCommerce website via a plugin. This method works great on websites built on WordPress. WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS for simple websites and blogs and it has dozens of webshop plugins—WooCommerce, for example. You can add online shop features to your WordPress-based website easily via a plugin: just download it and install it to your website through the WordPress dashboard.
  3. Integrate a standalone shopping cart software with your website by putting it on a subdomain. This method will require some coding skills but as the result, you will get a standalone web shop on a subdomain of your main website. In this case, you will need to make a design for your online shop website so that it would correspond to the colors and style of your main website.


What is shopping cart software?

It is a web program that allows you to launch your own online store. How to set up a shopping cart on my website:

  1. Download and install the platform on your server (for standalone solutions) or download and install the eCommerce plugin
  2. Make the initial setup: add products, payment, and shopping methods
  3. Finalize the setup: configure the design, marketing tools, taxes, and other things you can’t start selling without.

How does a shopping cart software work?

The eCommerce platforms are hosted either on your own server or in the provider’s cloud. But they work exactly the same way: your online store is available at a certain address on the Internet, where your customers can browse products, put them to the basket, and use the checkout to place orders. Simple as that.

Why do I need to use shopping cart software?

If you’re really serious about starting a profitable online business, then the web store software is a must. You just can’t start an eCommerce website without proper shopping software. Of course, you can develop the platform from scratch but this way you will spend a fortune. These days, there are tons of readymade solutions available—just pick the best online shopping cart.

How do I make an online shopping cart?

If we talk about the eCommerce website platform, then you can develop it yourself if you have expertise in this field or a team of professional programmers. But it is better to use a readymade eCommerce platform for your project. If we talk about online buying and selling websites, then the easiest way to start one is to build it on a ready-made e-commerce solution such as CS-Cart.

Which shopping cart is best?

There’s no best online shopping cart software. There’s a solution that works for your business the best and most effective way. The solution that doesn’t require much investment. The platform that allows you to scale your business and reach your goals. To find the best solution, you need to make research:

  • find out more about eCommerce software companies
  • study top eCommerce platforms
  • test some online store solutions
  • read an eCommerce solutions comparison
  • and finally, choose the one that you think will work best for you.