Shopping Cart vs. Ecommerce Platform: Which One is Right for Your Business?

Difference Between an Ecommerce Platform and Shopping Cart

For any business that wants to sell online, an ecommerce solution is an absolute necessity. As the gateway between sellers and their customers, the right ecommerce platform helps businesses increase their online sales and drive the growth of their brand.

While exploring options, you might have come across “shopping cart software” and “ecommerce platform” options. The terms are often used interchangeably—in large part because they share the same basic function. Both tools allow you to launch an online store, showcase your products, and manage your ecommerce sales.

But what’s the difference between an ecommerce platform and shopping cart? In this article, we discuss why they aren’t the same and which solution might be the better investment for your business.

What is Shopping Cart Software?

A shopping cart is software integrated into a website that gives customers the ability to select items for purchase on the front side and allows businesses to manage and sell those products on the back end. The software acts as a digital storefront, allowing you to accept payments, compile order details, and organize relevant information.

Designed to be a plug-and-play solution, shopping carts typically come with ready-to-go site design templates and a suite of apps and third-party tools to provide any desired functionality. The simplicity of shopping cart software means it can typically be offered as a free trial, whereas more robust solutions are customized to fit the businesses that use them.

What is an Ecommerce Platform?

An ecommerce platform is not just a shopping cart. Although it serves a similar purpose, as an all-in-one solution, an ecommerce platform can fill a wide range of functions, from inventory management and order fulfillment to checkout optimization and marketing campaigns. An ecommerce platform goes far beyond basic shopping cart functionality to deliver the essential tools growing businesses need to build a unique and competitive online presence.

Who Benefits from Shopping Cart Software?

Shopping carts benefit businesses that need a simple system to list their products and facilitate customer purchases. As a minimum viable solution, shopping carts excel at providing quick and easy website setup with low initial costs. They appeal to up and coming entrepreneurs, budding brands, and small businesses with modest ecommerce strategies.

However, as you begin to scale your business and desire to stand out in a competitive market, you’ll want to add new, cutting-edge features to your site. Because they are run by templates and external apps, shopping carts often lack the flexibility for you to customize an online experience that’s truly unique to your brand. Adding new functionalities can also result in hidden fees and unexpected additional costs.

Why You Might Need an Ecommerce Platform

Unlike cookie-cutter shopping cart themes, an ecommerce platform allows your business to shine and empowers you to sell the way you want. These platforms are designed with the understanding that each business has unique needs and requirements for their website.

The key differentiator with ecommerce platforms is that they store information in one internal database and have functionalities built into their core software. When you’re looking to add features to your site, a ecommerce platform provides a more customizable, fully-featured suite to give you a leg up on your competition.

Functions like updating your catalog size, presenting product attributes, displaying products with merchandising tools, launching special landing pages, customizing the checkout process, and leveraging marketing tools are more accessible, allowing you to be agile with website updates and adapt quickly to new trends and customer preferences.

While selling items with a shopping cart can be a great entry point, your growing business will want to control how your brand looks and functions. An ecommerce platform benefits enterprise businesses that want to differentiate their brand, offer a best-in-class user experience, and pursue long-term ecommerce growth. The flexibility you achieve with an ecommerce platform can be the difference between an order won and an order given away to the competition.

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Choosing the Right Solution

Picking between a shopping cart and ecommerce platform requires a clear understanding of the unique requirements and priorities of your business. As you talk with providers, you’ll want to get a sense of each solution’s ease-of-use, customization capabilities, marketing tools, level of maintenance, data storage, platform pricing and new feature costs, and support availability.

On the market, many shopping cart software and ecommerce platform solutions float on either extreme of a spectrum—either they’re simple but limiting or customizable but too complex.

Learn how Miva can offer a “just right” balance between easy-to-use tools and powerful ecommerce capabilities and allow you to be an agile and adaptable seller.

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