The 6 Best Shopping Carts For Books & Video Games
Books and video games: the source of so much quality entertainment for adults and children alike. Who among us doesn’t relish a good read, or enjoy a bout of Tetris every once and a while? However, while books and video games themselves have nearly universal appeal, if either of these is the focus of your store, you’re bound to have some specific needs for your shopping cart.
First off, when choosing an eCommerce software provider, you’ll want to keep an eye out for themes and sample stores that match your needs and vision. Does the platform offer options specifically for vendors of books or video games? Does it showcase clients who sell those things? Do those options and galleries look similar to how you want your online store to look?
It’s also important to check out each shopping cart’s shipping options. This is especially relevant to bookstores, which are more likely to deal with book rates and special shipping costs. However, both types of stores should be aware of shipping zones, payment options, pickup options, etc. The pickup options are especially relevant to bookstores, which have an even more clear online vs brick and mortar dynamic.
Next, look for what types of discounts are available. There are many types of coupon codes out there, along with group discounts, promotional codes, and much more. A big thing to watch out for is product bundling, which allows vendors to combine related products for a slightly reduced cost. This is a great way to combine the individual items in a book series or game controller system.
Customizations are another crucial thing to watch. From variants in product type or color to product bundling to checkout options, these can change the game for many stores.
Finally, it’s crucial to check whether digital products are supported. This is an obvious choice for bookstores selling ebooks, but video game stores should also make sure that downloads for specific games or software are available.
With all those key points in mind, let’s dive into the best shopping carts for books and video games!
IndieCommerce is significantly different from its eCommerce compatriots in quite a few ways. Most importantly, it is geared entirely toward bookstores. In fact, only registered members of the American Booksellers Association are eligible to use IndieCommerce as their shopping cart. The good news is, stores can be either online only or brick and mortar, so worry not about limitations for yours!
Because IndieCommerce specifically works with bookstores, the available features read like a laundry list of necessary functions for booksellers. But never fear, video game vendors, I haven’t forgotten about you. You may not be able to use IndieCommerce, but if you want to read ahead you’ll get a glimpse of some of the benefits that come with such a focused platform. We’ll get to you next.
Themes and Sample Stores
IndieCommerce’s themes are supported by Drupal 7. They are organized in list format rather than a more visually appealing image-based format, but are nonetheless easy to browse (if less easy to understand). The site provides links to the themes and their examples, so exploration is just one extra click away.
Although browsing through IndieCommerce’s themes is a difficult and dry process, their collection of live sample stores is more similar to the collections provided by other shopping carts. The themes allow stores to list locations, provide calendars of events, feature books by their cover and author, and much more.
IndieCommerce works directly with Ingram as its wholesaler, which speeds up the process of shipping. In its page about fulfilling orders, IndieCommerce explains the different shipping options available. Vendors can choose whether customers pay through PayPal, credit card, or at a store.
Additionally, they can choose whether the order is shipped exactly as is, within four weeks, or sometime after four weeks if the product availability is pending. These shipping and payment options are great for bookstores that have either a brick-and-mortar location or an online store or both.
Coupons and Sales
As every good bookstore platform should, IndieCommerce makes it easy to provide coupons and other promotional codes. Everyone loves a book discount, after all! At IndieCommerce, vendors can use coupon codes to entice potential customers with cheap prices and online gift codes to send to literary friends who are inclined toward book buying.
If promotional codes are an excellent way to draw in customers, product bundles are an even better way to encourage them to make more purchases. Vendors can create product bundles by adding automatic coupon to buying certain products together — voila! It’s a great deal for the customer and brings in more revenue for the store.
One of IndieCommerce’s special features is the ability to add holiday catalogs to a navigation menu. The ABA connection really comes in useful here because it means IndieCommerce comes with a ready-made list of regional catalogs. As a vendor, you’ll be able to take advantage of working in these outside deals and discounts in a way that other platforms do not support as easily.
Bookstores often sell more than books (think: T-shirts, tote bags, assorted paraphernalia); consequently, book vendors need more ways to customize products than one might think. Thankfully, IndieCommerce allows custom products, specifically recommending that vendors set up a separate product class for different products and then controlling attributes for each product.
IndieCommerce gives the example of a T-shirt for its explanation of custom products, but the attributes can be adjusted specifically for books as well. There’s even a setting specifically for managing author information, which larger companies are not likely to have.
Since (as discussed above) there are often so many shipping options for book buyers, custom checkout messages come in handy as a way to clarify the method of delivery to customers. Plus, if there are special instructions for special products (like signed books or pre-order pickups), the custom checkout messages allow you to put in a note to explain the process to customers. You can be as clever as you want — you’ll be dealing with bookworms after all!
As a bookstore platform, IndieCommerce well understands the need for eBook support. To make eBooks and digital downloads more accessible, the American Booksellers Association has partnered with Kobo. The Kobo eReading Program is separate from the IndieCommerce platform but serves as an added related benefit for IndieCommerce customers who wish to expand their eReading options.
Shopify (see our review) is one of the biggest and popular shopping cart platforms out there, and for good reason. Its scope means that stores of any sort are welcome and provided for, but it also offers services that are specifically accommodating to sellers of books and video games.
Themes and Sample Stores
While Shopify doesn’t offer themes geared toward books or video games, its theme store nonetheless presents a variety of templates that can work well for any type of store. Bookstores may want to look to the examples at IndieCommerce to get a sense of what they want in a shopping cart. Video game vendors may choose to keep an eye out for image-heavy themes that are visually appealing and communicate the sense of action or adventure that video game stores so often go for.
Unlike its themes, Shopify’s sample stores do provide examples of book-specific sample stores. However, the books are grouped in with crafts, and there is no equivalent for video games. These two categories may not be Shopify’s priority, but the stores and themes are still worth perusing.
Even before getting into shipping options, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge Shopify’s excellent Point of Sale system, which allows vendors to manage payments across sale sites, whether online or in person. No matter where the sale takes place, the POS system syncs inventory so you’ll never have to worry about losing track of what’s available to ship.
Ready to tackle the actual shipping aspect of your store? The Shopify Shipping manual is here to help. It allows you to set up shipping zones, manage shipping rates, create the best possible customer experience on the shipping page, and much more.
The variety of options available in Shopify Shipping, while not necessarily explicitly geared toward bookstores or video game stores, make it easy for merchants in these fields to select the best option for their store’s purpose. For example, booksellers can adjust shipping costs to reflect book rates. The flexibility here is a great sell. Read how to use it, features, and more in our complete Shopify Shipping post.
Coupons and Sales
Shopify offers gift cards that can be used in two ways. They can be purchased and sent to the recipient of the customer’s choice, or they can be issued as part of a rewards system. For bookstores and video game stores both, Shopify’s gift card availability appeals to regular customers or friends and family of regular customers, who might seek the perfect gift.
For those vendors who wish to offer discount options to all customers (not just the regulars), Shopify’s discount codes are a great draw. Discounts can bring in new customers as well as those who generally only purchase when they see a good deal or especially cheap product.
Some notes: Shopify does not allow stacked discounts, vendors can choose to limit discounts per customer if desired, expiration dates are available and always expire at 11:59:59 PM, and vendors can create customer groups and offer discount codes to those select groups. The options are bountiful!
Although Shopify does not offer product bundling as a standard feature, a product bundling app is available in Shopify’s App Store. For $15.99/month, merchants can purchase the ability to bundle items together into one discounted product. This way bookstores can sell an entire series or author’s works all at once for a discounted price, and video game stores can sell games along with consoles. Give it a look; it might be worth the extra dough.
Shopify allows vendors to create product variants for products that fall into the same category but differ slightly. As mentioned before, the most probably use would be for store merchandise like T-shirts and tote bags. However, these variants can also come in handy for books or games that may be the same except for one differentiating category — for example, a book that is available in both hardcover and paperback or a controller that is available in different colors.
Digital products are supported by Shopify but require downloading a free app. Once you’ve got the app, you can set it up so that purchasing either sends customers directly to a download link or sends them a download link in an email.
While Shopify has given the green light to digital products, its system may not be the most supportive of eBooks. especially since most books are already published through a third-party platform (think: Amazon.) Nonetheless, it is a strong option for bookstores. Video game stores may also opt for digital distribution, but it’s a process that may be too complicated for the Shopify app. Regardless, give the app a look and see if it meets your needs.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce (see our review) is a large shopping cart platform with a huge range of options for all sorts of stores. As a result, there are many features available that might be excellent for sellers of books or video games, while other aspects of the platform might be less appealing. Let’s take a look.
Themes and Sample Stores
BigCommerce features a small selection of themes for bookstores. For video game vendors, the closest match is probably in their electronics and computers section, which has a few designs that are visually explosive. (There is a category for toys and games, but do not be deceived! That’s mainly for kids’ toys, not video games.)
Sadly, BigCommerce’s showcase of sample clients does not include any stores in the categories of books and video games. The stores are still worth a peek, but you’ll have to look elsewhere (Shopify, perhaps?) for industry-specific options.
BigCommerce has curated an excellent selection of help documents relating to shipments and shipping processes. The most helpful of these articles is probably the one about shipping options, which lists off the different settings, rates, pickup options, and resources when considering which method of shipping is best.
The help doc goes into considerable details about the pros and cons for real-time shipping quotes vs. flat rates vs. free shipping. This is definitely a discussion to delve into as a vendor of books or video games. Since postal services often provide discounted book rates, bookstores will want to keep that in consideration when determining the best shipping option for them.
BigCommerce also offers the option for local or in-store pickup. For stores that maintain both an online presence and a brick-and-mortar location, this can be an excellent way to establish a strong presence both online and locally. Plus, it gives customers the option to save on shipping.
As a final plus to its already fantastic shipping options, BigCommerce boasts an even more helpful app, ShipperHQ. With ShipperHQ, vendors can manage shipping much more easily, use different carriers, improve customer relations, and more. Prices start at $50/month.
Coupons and Sales
Gift certificates are available for any BigCommerce store. Customers can purchase gift certificates as they would any other product and send to the recipient of their choice in an email that will contain the gift code. BigCommerce clearly lays out the steps needed for purchasing, redeeming, and tracking gift certificates.
BigCommerce offers product bundles under the name “product lists.” The process of bundling items is more complicated and a few more steps than it is under some of the other platforms. Still, it’s offered, which is excellent for bookstores and video game stores.
BigCommerce has some of the best-explained product options out there. Fair warning: many of the descriptions and explanations are better suited for clothing stores. Nevertheless, the ability to differentiate between related products is a handy one, especially with BigCommerce’s help guide by your side.
Much like Shopify, BigCommerce offers digital downloads as a type of product. BigCommerce specifies a few additional options. For example, vendors can choose to add a time limit after which customers can no longer download their purchased item. A maximum can also be placed on downloads for each purchase.
The issues here are much the same as with Shopify. While it is certainly possible to upload eBooks and digital games or software, the process can quickly become more complex than it would be for, say, image or audio downloads. Again, the decision about what is easiest and most feasible is up to you, the merchant. The important thing is that BigCommerce offers this capability that is crucial to many modern stores.
While not at the expansive level of BigCommerce or Shopify, 3dcart (see our review) is a full-fledged eCommerce platform that manages to hit many resonate notes for vendors of books or video games. Here are some of the features that might be especially useful for those particular merchants.
Themes and Sample Stores
3dcart does not sort themes by categories or type of store. Browsing for themes that are ideal for the sale of books or video games is therefore a tad more challenging than it is in other shopping cart platforms. Searching for “book” yields only one result. Likewise, I could only find one result when searching for video games.
The lack of easy-to-find relevant themes is unfortunate but does not mean that you are limited only to those two options. Browse away to find something that works for you. Just make sure you’re aware of whether your favorites fall into the category of free or premium themes; don’t be caught by surprise by a heavy price tag.
3dcart has a solid selection of sample clients, this time sorted into categories. No luck to video game and book sellers though; there’s no category that these products easily fall into.
3dcart has a variety of shipping settings and options, possibly the widest range and most clearly explained of all the platforms in this article. Free shipping is not only available but can be set on specified conditions — for example, if a customer purchases a certain dollar amount, they can receive free shipping.
Merchants can monitor everything from shipping methods to the ability to preview shipping costs and methods depending on location to weight specifications. Another convenient feature: Real Time Shipping Location, which will display the location of the product as it is shipping from the origin point to the customer.
Coupons and Sales
3dcart has plenty of options for promotions and sales for vendors. Its Promotions Manager accommodates a couple different types of promotions, whether automatic application or coupon code.The amount of each promotion can be determined by dollar amount or by percentage.
If your store is working with other companies to present a special discount, 3dcart’s group certificates allow you to create coupon codes that can be used for a group campaign. This is an excellent option if, for example, you have a bookstore that wants to offer special sales for schools.
Product bundling is available using 3dcart’s product option figure. There are several steps to the process of setting up a product bundle, but 3dcart’s excellent Knowledge Base covers those steps in depth.
3dcart provides 10 different product option types that allow vendors to customize products. Whether presented in matrix form or using a simple text box, these product option types give you the ability to add different colors, sizes, or materials of your product. The customizations extend so far as to allow customers to upload a file for specific requests or pay a one-time fee as part of their order.
For your eBook and digital software download needs, 3dcart presents its handy eProduct feature. Vendors first need to enable 3dcart’s eProduct module in the Store Manager. Since books and videogame-related products are the category of choice here, it’s likely that you’ll need to log in to 3dcart’s File Transfer Protocol, or FTP in order to upload non-image or non-PDF files.
Once the eProduct is set up, customers can purchase as they would any other product. They will then receive an email receipt that includes a link to their download. You’ll have the option to set the number of days the link will be active; it’s actually one of the first things you can do when you enable the module in the first place.
WooCommerce (see our review) is not, in fact, a full-on platform on its own. It’s a free WordPress plugin that allows WordPress users to add a store to their pre-existing site with very little difficulty. Although some of the features are more basic as a result, there are still quite a few highlights for the potential bookstore or video games store. And did I mention it’s free? For more information, check out our full WooCommerce Review.
Themes and Sample Stores
WooCommerce offers special WooThemes as part of the extension. The Storefront theme, the standard platform, is free while the rest of the themes can be purchased individually or in a package — all 34 themes together cost $399.
The selling point for the WooThemes, especially the Storefront theme, is the automatic WordPress integration. Beyond that, it’s still an excellent selection with a variety of clean styles and responsive designs. Searching for themes specifically related to books or video games is a little tricky because there are no related categories. Nonetheless, the themes are still solid and may work very well for your purposes.
Unlike its theme section, WooCommerce’s store showcase is indeed searchable. Even better, there’s a special showcase for book-related stores! The sample clients shown include bookstores, authors, editors, book clubs, and more.
There’s sadly no showcase category for video games. The closest match is the digital and software category, which does include video game stores. The electronics section may also be worth a look. The examples are there; just do some searching.
WooCommerce has Shipping Zones so that vendors can have control over shipping costs depending on location. There are also a few different shipping methods that customers can select, all of which work very well for the types of stores in question here. WooCommerce offers local pickup, flat-rate shipping, and free shipping.
Coupons and Sales
Many types of discounts and coupons are available through WooCommerce; however, in accordance with the style of WordPress, most require some sort of plugin or extension.
The most all-encompassing option is the Smart Coupons plugin. With this plugin, users can set up coupon codes, gift certificates, and a variety of discounts. Additionally, it’s easy to manage settings. You’ll easily be able to set the dollar or percentage amount of the coupon, link any number of coupons to a given product, send a gift certificate to customers who purchase a certain amount, set expiry dates, reduce coupon balance automatically, and use with other WooCommerce features such as Chained Products and Subscriptions.
WooCommerce also offers a plugin that provides free gift coupons. The free coupons work exactly the same as the other coupon options in terms of how the customer redeems them, but it takes a little extra setup.
Group coupons are available for members of specific groups or people with specific roles. Restricting coupons by role is easy; no additional extensions or plugins required. You simply select the type of WordPress user (Administrator, Editor, Contributor, etc.) to whom you’d like to grant coupon access, and it’s done! This is one way to provide discounts for your own employees.
The group aspect works as long as you have the group plugin activated. With that plugin, it becomes possible to create groups of customers to whom you can then send specialized coupons. This works well if, for example, you are a bookstore and have a discount you’d like to offer to educators.
In its section on managing products, WooCommerce lays out the different types of products and the ways in which those products can be added and managed. One especially relevant point: Products can be listed as simple products (e.g. a single book or game) or grouped together in a collection.
The simple product vs. group product point is different from product bundling, which is another feature WooCommerce offers via extension and which is a popular feature of other platforms. This handy chart helps differentiate between the different ways to sell multiple products together — other options include chained products, force sells, composite products, and mix ‘n match products.
Using the product bundle extension, merchants can group products together in a defined bundle that limits which quantities and attributes customers can select. It allows users to offer the grouped products at a discounted price.
Since WooCommerce has so many options for multiple product sales, it’s best to read through all the options before automatically heading over to product bundles.
Digital downloads are available through WooCommerce. Once the digital product is added, vendors can choose the path to downloading and can set a limit to the number of downloads available.
Like BigCommerce and Shopify, Volusion (see our review) is a large company that provides services for many different types of stores, including some pretty big names. There are many reasons to choose Volusion, but here are some of the features that stores selling books or video games might look for.
Themes and Sample Stores
As might be expected for a large platform, Volusion has a fairly large selection of themes available for its customers – 75 templates in total. Unfortunately, the themes are not easily searchable by anything other than price, and no results turn up when searching for books or video games.
Volusion’s client gallery is more easily searchable. However, there are again no immediately relevant categories. The closest sample stores shown might be found in the Hobbies or Electronics categories.
In its support center, Volusion offers extensive information on the topic of shipping. The information is laid out in a very straightforward way, which stands in contrast to some of the other platforms.
Like the other platforms discussed here, Volusion offers quite a few features that would appeal to bookstores and video game stores: free shipping, flat rate shipping, fixed rate shipping, in-store pickup, and more!
In case you, like me, are initially confused by the difference between flat rate shipping and fixed rate shipping, here’s the breakdown: With flat rate shipping, vendors can set a specific cost for an order, generally determined by a minimum or maximum weight. Fixed rate shipping, on the other hand, allows for a set shipping cost for a specific product.
Coupons and Sales
Many types of coupons and discounts are available through Volusion. The most traditional coupon/discount option has the benefit of being pretty customizable. Vendors can control the number of available uses, update the category of coupon, set a time limit, define quantity requirements, and identify the type of discount.
Volusion also offers other types of coupons, including coupon codes, free shipping coupons, and site-wide discounts. Any of these are excellent options to a store that wants to offer specific sales or discounts on books or video games.
Like most other platforms, Volusion offers product bundles as a way to package together specific products. As part of the process of bundling products, Volusion allows vendors to include free accessories, which might be an extra perk for some bookstores and video game stores to offer.
Volusion’s digital products instructions give specific steps on how to upload the file in question as well as options for how customers can download. Unlike other platforms, which allow a little more flexibility, Volusion’s digital products can only have one downloadable file each. Downloads themselves can be limited to any amount, as with most other platforms.
Another downside is that each download affects the vendor’s data transfer allotment. Since Volusion prices its hosting plans based on bandwidth, this can potentially be a big deal for some vendors.
Once the download option is set up, an email with the download link is sent to the customer. The “Order Finished” page that customers received is customizable, so feel free to add any sort of store-specific or product-specific thanks or messages!
Which platform you choose depends, as usual, on the type of store you have. IndieCommerce is an excellent choice for bookstores with ABA membership — it may not be your typical platform, but it comes with built-in communities and resources specifically for bookstores. Meanwhile, WordPress users may be drawn to WooCommerce because it is free and easy to add to a pre-existing site, especially with the many available plugins for different features.
That said, if your bookstore or video game store needs something on a grander scale, you might want to go with one of the larger shopping carts. If you sell through more than one channel — online and in a brick and mortar environment — Shopify might be the best bet thanks to its all-encompassing POS system.
For those vendors who most value excellent product customization options, BigCommerce could be the way to go. If in-depth explanations of discount types are a must, 3dcart has your back. And if you’d like to have your shipping options explicitly laid out, Volusion is a fantastic choice for you.
All in all, there are many excellent shopping carts for books and video games. No matter your mission, you should be able to find a cart that works for you. Hopefully the info and tips here will help you make the best decision for your business.