Shopping cart software is a computer program or series of programs designed to make online shopping possible. People use it to purchase goods or services via the Internet. The process of buying and selling through the Internet is known as e-commerce.
An online shopping cart mimics a physical shopping cart by allowing the customer to add items to a list for later purchase or to remove items from the cart if he or she finds something better or changes his or her mind about purchasing items previously added to the cart. The customer can review the list of items and the cost for each, as well as the total cost for all items. The software also allows the shopper to complete the order at any time or to continue shopping.
Most shopping cart software lets customers use a credit card to pay for their purchases. Other systems might employ additional payment methods such as direct money transfer services. After the purchase is complete, the shopping cart software relays the order information to the seller, or merchant, so that the order can be filled. This information includes the item and its price, any applicable shipping costs or taxes and the information that the merchant needs to fill the order correctly.
Online shopping involves the transfer of money and personally identifiable information across the Internet. This is fundamentally not a secure process, so it might be possible for criminals to intercept this information and use it to steal the money and identities of purchasers. Good shopping cart software provides a way to ensure that information that could be stolen is secure during this transfer. The industry standard for transmitting information securely is called secure socket layer (SSL). Web browsers indicate the use of SSL on a site by displaying a lock icon and by displaying "https://" as the first part of the address of the web page.
Some shopping cart software keeps a record of the merchandise even after the purchaser has closed the browser. The use of small files called cookies by online shopping carts is common. Cookies contain various types of information that the shopping cart uses to make the customer experience convenient. Such data might include the username of a customer, the items intended for purchase, and the identification number associated with the customer’s computer, called the Internet Protocol (IP) address. Users have the option to keep or delete cookies if privacy is a concern.
Shopping cart software can be obtained separately to integrate into a website. It also can be specifically designed for a particular content management system used by a website. There is a variety of shopping cart software on the market designed to meet a diversity of needs. The cost and complexity of shopping cart software varies greatly. It is possible to use a simple shopping cart program for just one product or service or an intricate one to handle thousands of products and services.