Configuring a Multi-Site, Multi-Store Shopping Cart Environment

If your company is investigating multi-site, multi-store shopping carts, it’s important to understand how web sites, web stores, and shopping carts all fit together.

Consider the diagram below:

Multi-Site, Multi-Store Shopping Cart Configuration

Here we have a multi-site, multi-store installation supported by an e-commerce engine. In this installation, two web sites contain three web stores. Supporting the web stores are two shopping carts, one for each web site. Web Site 1 contains two web stores. These web stores share a single shopping cart. This means that a consumer can buy products from both stores, and use a single shopping cart for check out. Importantly, each store looks and is branded differently.

Web Site 2 contains a single store with its own shopping cart. Since this site is using a different shopping cart, the rules that govern its functioning are different than the rules that govern the functioning for the shopping cart in Web Site 1.

Note again that there is only a single e-commerce engine. In other words, the engine supports multiple shopping carts. The engine also supports the fact that each shopping cart has its own business rules, and each shopping cart supports different web sites, with one of these web sites having more than one web store.

This means that a company can purchase a single e-commerce engine to spawn multiple shopping carts, with each shopping cart supporting multiple on-line stores. Also note that there is a single database. The database supports a single product catalog that can be shared among all web sites/stores. Furthermore, the product catalog can be customized for each web site, such that descriptions, prices, etc. are unique to each site.

Now let’s add a bit more complexity to the diagram:

Multi-Site, Multi-Store, Multi-Vendor Shopping Cart Configuration

In this diagram we’ve added a vendor component. More exactly, a multi-vendor component. In a traditional e-commerce system, the web site operator maintains the product catalog, inventory levels, shipments and returns. In a multi-vendor shopping cart environment, vendors (or partners) can maintain their own product catalogs, inventory levels, and shipments/returns.

In a multi-site, multi-store, multi-vendor shopping cart environment, individual vendors can be assigned to multiple web sites. These vendors have visibility into their own inventories and orders for those web sites. Vendors can ship products to customers, process returns, and tweak the product catalog, all without the participation of the web site operator.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a multi-site, multi-store, multi-vendor shopping cart can vastly change the strategy of an on-line e-commerce business. Think about it for your business. Then check out a few more shopping cart configuration options. Which is the right one for your business?

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