There are more than 500 online shopping carts. And each week we feature one, interviewing both the cart’s developer and a customer. “Cart of the Week” is not a review or an evaluation, but rather an opportunity to learn about a shopping cart from the people who build it and use it.
This week, we’ll hear from Ruslan R. Fazlyev, CEO of Qualiteam Software, a Ulyanovsk, Russia-based developer of several online shopping carts, including X-Cart, featured by Practical eCommerce in January 2009.
In this “Cart of the Week” installment, we feature Qualiteam’s latest release, Ecwid, an ecommerce platform that can be installed on any website by inserting three lines of HTML into the source code. The cart was launched in October 2009 and is currently serving around 6,000 users. Fazlyev said, “The merchant retains his or her existing website host, and the cart’s unique technology allows it to be seamlessly integrated.”
We’ll also hear from an Ecwid customer, Caroline Bell, co-owner of Cafe Grumpy.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Ruslan Fazlyev: “Our intent was to make it easy to create a web store, for IT professionals and store owners alike. We have been producing PHP ecommerce software since 2000, and back then, PHP shopping cart software was easy to use and cost-effective. But, while working on Ecwid, we asked ourselves a question: ‘Isn’t there a way to make Ecwid easy and cost-effective on a new level? Not 2000 easy, but 2009 easy? Not Celeron easy, but iPhone easy?’
“That’s how Ecwid, a SaaS [software as a service] shopping cart, was born.”
PeC: How much does Ecwid cost?
Fazlyev: “Ecwid is free. We will announce paid subscriptions at a later date; however, a free version will always be available.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Fazlyev: “PCI/PA DSS standards apply to systems that collect, process and store credit card information. We rely on third-party payment systems to process credit cards, specifically Google Checkout, PayPal, Authorize.NET, and 2Checkout.com. We use PCI DSS compliant providers only.” [Editor’s Note: Neither Ecwid nor Qualiteam is currently named on The PCI Security Standards Council’s list of validated payment applications or on Visa’s global list of PCI DSS validated service providers.]
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Fazlyev: “It takes less than five minutes to set up. Anyone can use it, regardless of technical skills. In fact, one of our customers said his eight-year-old son was able to set Ecwid up to trade baseball cards.”
“It is 100 percent AJAX technology, with a lightning-fast interface; it has full drag and drop support; it includes a version for mobile devices; and upgrades are seamless.
“Additionally, the cart requires very little to no support or maintenance, reducing the cost for web store owners (and reducing hassles for web developers).”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Fazlyev: “One weakness is there are just a few payment gateways supported at this time.
“Lastly, it is not currently possible for third-party developers to change Ecwid’s code logic. You can alter the appearance only. I’d suggest another cart if you want to modify the software code.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Fazlyev: “We’re going to add more payment gateways, we’re going to add an additional SEO feature, and we’re going to open API [application programming interface] for third-party developers so that everyone can customize Ecwid. And, of course, we’ll keep implementing the top ideas suggested by our customers.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Fazlyev: “Ecwid increases reliability and brings down the cost of ownership for web stores by removing update hassles and the need for PHP programming. And, its AJAX technology takes a load off the web server.
“Ecwid also improves sales by providing customers with a streamlined and easy to use interface. The cart can be added to Facebook, MySpace, Hyves, and lots of other social networks, enhancing the potential for social ecommerce.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Fazlyev: “My advice to those who use open source software (commercial or free) is to carefully consider the procedures for maintaining your store software. A one-time fee (even if it’s free) is not the total cost of ownership.
“Carefully choose your web hosting provider. Open source shopping cart scripts are heavily dependent on the hosting environment, and sudden changes to libraries or other environment components performed by your web host can cause problems that are hard to diagnose. Optimally, use web hosting services provided by or recommended by the software vendor.
“If you don’t have the technical skills and/or full-time developers on staff, choose a software vendor that provides superior technical support for its products. And, use revision control systems such as CVS/SVN to monitor the changes you and/or your developers do to the code, no matter how big or small.
“Regarding security, do not store customer credit card data in database unless you absolutely have to. If your software does not update automatically, ensure that you are subscribed to a mailing list that will notify you of security updates. Apply all security patches when they become available. Avoid shared web hosts unless they are recommended by your software vendor.
“Lastly, if you use vendor-hosted software (SaaS), do careful research before buying. You will be dependent on the vendor for technical support, so make sure it has a good reputation for support.
“Your site is not just a web store. It might need a CMS [customer management system], a forum, a customer support system, or just about any other piece of web software. Make sure that the solution you choose can be integrated with other applications you might need.”
A Customer’s View
Caroline Bell is co-owner of Cafe Grumpy, a New York City-based coffee shop with three brick-and-mortar locations. Her company sells coffee, mugs, T-shirts and gift certificates online via Ecwid ecommerce software, with around 20 items cataloged. Bell provides her opinions about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using Ecwid?
Caroline Bell: “Since November 2009. We wanted to launch an online store that was not only customer- and user-friendly, but one that looked good throughout the checkout process. Some shopping carts look tacky and aren’t streamlined with the website you are buying from.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Bell: “It was quick and easy to implement and integrate into our existing website. Also, our available coffee selections change frequently, and I can add items to the storefront really fast.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Bell: “We would like to see expanded inventory control for product options.”
PeC: How would Ecwid improve another merchant’s business?
Bell: “You can expand your existing website with an online store in far less time than it would take to set up another cart. It is great for a small business, where staff have multiple roles and don’t have a lot of time, because it is fast and simple to navigate.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Bell: “We just recently started using Ecwid, so we don’t have annual figures yet, but we have been pleasantly surprised at the sales over the last few months. Give it a try.”