Practical Ecommerce

Cart of the Week: EC Express by Mercantec

Practical eCommerce counts over 300 different shopping cart systems. In this ongoing “Cart of the Week” feature, we profile a specific cart, asking the cart’s owners and users about its strengths and weaknesses.

Here we profile EC Express by Mercantec, a Naperville, IL company that first began offering ecommerce solutions in 1995. Launched in 2006, EC Express is a free, hosted cart created with new ecommerce merchants in mind. We asked CEO and co-founder, Bill Tait, to explain the benefits of EC Express. We then asked Beth Dell, a manager of a non-profit theatre currently using the cart for ticket sales and program registration, for her views on the cart.

PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.

Bill Tait
Tait: “EC Express is an on-demand ecommerce system. It uses the software as a service [SaaS] delivery model, so there is no software to download or install. This approach allows Mercantec to roll out frequent updates without our customers needing to do anything.”

“There are two implementation options. The first are Snippets [widgets] that perform the major shopping cart functions, such as “Add To Cart” and “View Cart.” These are code snippets that can be copied and pasted into web pages, blogs, emails, MySpace, Facebook, and other sites. This lets merchants drive sales from many sources, yet still have a single admin interface and order manager.”

“The other implementation option is Instant Storefront, a simple, hosted storefront that can be created in one click. Mercantec provides customers with a choice of domains to use, so a merchant can create an Instant Storefront such as Customername.safestorefront.com.”

More than 12,000 EC Express seller accounts have been created over the last two years.

PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?

Tait: “We created EC Express based on the belief that there were plenty of complex, advanced shopping cart systems but not many simple systems that would allow mere mortals to get started quickly and easily. Based on that premise, EC Express was developed to be accessible to non-technical DIY-ers.”

“EC Express is offered as a completely free service. It offers direct credit card processing for Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, and Discover, as well as the leading alternative payment and checkout options, including Google Checkout, PayPal Express, TrialPay, Checkout by Amazon, eLayaway, and others.”

“EC Express greatly simplifies the PCI [payment card industry] compliance process because it is designed to accept payments while never storing, transmitting or processing cardholder data. It’s foolproof and cannot be incorrectly configured.”

“Once the storefront is built, we help merchants focus on making sales by incorporating automated feeds to leading marketplaces, including Google Product Search and eBay. And, whether using Snippets or Instant Storefronts, EC Express sites are very search engine friendly.”

PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?

Tait: “EC Express lacks some advanced features, such as inventory control or digital download. However, that is largely because of our focus on simplicity and ease of use.”

PeC: What plans to you have for future cart development?

Tait: “One of our future development plans is to offer optional premium tiers with more advanced features, while continuing to offer a free level of service.”

PeC: How specifically would using EC Express improve a merchant’s business?

Tait: “EC Express provides merchants with a simple way to sell online without any learning curve. It also helps non-traditional sellers leverage the Internet for commerce.”

PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers?

Tait: “Mercantec released the first commercial shopping cart system, SoftCart, in 1995. We helped many of the earliest online merchants to sell online and eventually deployed over 50,000 merchants with SoftCart. When we began developing our next generation platform in 2006, we took over a decade of Internet retail experience and applied it to EC Express.”

The View of a Customer

Beth Dell, managing director for the Beowulf Alley Theatre Company in Tucson, AZ, offers her thoughts on the cart.

PeC: What are EC Express’s biggest strengths?

Beth Dell
Dell: “The ease of set up and of integration to our website, multiple clearing houses, transactions from multiple sources all in one place, and easy download for data collection and financial reporting. It’s free, secure and has excellent support. They charge for a module that allows you to download reports. We functioned quite nicely for over a year without using the download capability, and it is very reasonably priced. I’ve been really pleased with this organization.”

“Before this, I had no ecommerce experience at all. It was really easy for me to learn and to show the volunteers who staff our box office. It’s a really good beginner cart. You have to use every available resource, especially when you’re in a nonprofit organization with such limited resources.”

PeC: What are some things it could improve?

Dell: “Establishing maximum inventory quantity per item. In our theatre, we only have a maximum number of seats available for each night of a performance. The cart doesn’t set a purchase limit. so I monitor sales online and get notices by email to make sure we don’t oversell. I don’t see that as a negative or a major inconvenience, just as a growing opportunity.”

PeC: How specifically would using EC Express improve a merchant’s business?

Dell: “EC Express allows customers flexibility to make purchases through various purchasing services, reduces the need for labor through ease and speed of online purchasing, and provides reports for all online purchasing in one place.”

PeC: Do you plan to continue using EC Express? Why or why not?

Dell: “Absolutely. We have such a growth capability at our theatre, but I can see this continuing on for many years without us outgrowing it. We are doing a lot of educational programs, and we find the cart works just as conveniently for program registrations. It takes me 15 minutes to take a telephone registration, but with customers registering online, I can use my time more productively.”

PeC: Any other thoughts on shopping carts for our readers?

Dell: “Merchants should be looking for clear written instructions in a cart’s support base online, good site search and answers to their emails. When you’re not so technologically sound, you need someone who will understand.”

“EC Express has proven to be an effective tool for our small theatre, not only to increase ticket purchasing capabilities but also to reduce or eliminate the amount of phone time per customer. I see them as being a valuable partner and resource.”

Other Merchants Using EC Express Cart

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

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