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 Robin Kohli, founder and lead developer for E-junkie, the company behind FatFreeCartPro, an online shopping cart. E-junkie is headquartered in New Delhi, India, with its support team based in Tucson, Ariz. According to Kohli, there are roughly 9,000 merchants using FatFreeCartPro, “As well as a couple thousand other users who are in the trial period or have free accounts on the status of being non-profits.”
We’ll also hear from an E-junkie customer, John T. Unger, an artist and designer based in Mancelona, Mich. Unger uses E-junkie’s FatFreeCartPro to sell his artwork at John T. Unger Studio, processing approximately $188,000 annual gross revenue through the online cart.
Practical eCommerce: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Robin Kohli: “E-junkie started as a simple script I’d written for myself to automate the delivery of a software I was selling back in 2003. By 2004, it had become a service that could be used by other sellers, too. At the time, it was only for delivery of digital goods and only worked with PayPal.
“In 2006, we added support for Google Checkout, and we needed a cart that could support both checkout options. We did not like the idea of opening a pop-up window, so that’s when we created FatFreeCartPro, which was the first cart to work inside the merchants’ websites. There were three main considerations:
- For merchants, the cart implementation should be no different than our ‘Buy Now’ button implementation, i.e. ‘Copy-Paste.’
- For buyers, the checkout should not be more than a click away.
“E-junkie did not start with a grand vision. Like most inventions, it was created out of necessity and it is what it is now by constantly incorporating our merchants’ feedback.”
PEC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
PEC: How much does FatFreeCartPro cost?
Kohli: “Plans start at $5 per month, and then go up to $225 per month, based on the merchant’s catalog size. There are no transaction fees or bandwidth limits for any of our plans.”
PEC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Kohli: “We are PCI compliant. We use McAfee and ControlScan for routine audits.” [Editor’s Note: Neither FatFreeCartPro or E-junkie is currently named on Visa’s global list of PCI DSS validated service providers.]
PEC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Kohli: “FatFreeCartPro is easy to implement for merchants, and it’s easy to use for buyers.”
PEC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Kohli: “Being a hosted cart, the user does not have access to the cart’s source code. The primary drawback of that is that users cannot add their own checkout methods and have to rely on the checkout methods we offer.”
PEC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Kohli: “Among the things that I can share, the most important will be adding support for automatic destination-based sales tax calculation and multi-language support.
“However, the big change taking place at E-junkie is not technological but personal. E-junkie technology could be reproduced by an experienced development team in 12 to18 months, but it’s the people who support that technology that make our solution stand out. Right now, our focus is on getting more like-minded people involved who can continue listening to feedback from thousands of merchants, and continue improving the product at the same pace as when we were supporting just one merchant.”
PEC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Kohli: “It would depend on the users’ business requirements. Sometimes their requirements are too custom, and maybe the cart they are using is indeed the best solution for them. But, in most cases, the user-friendliness of our cart increases conversion rates for the merchants.
“One advantage of using E-Junkie’s FatFreeCartPro is that it has the additional capability of selling digital goods (which most carts don’t). Also, the same product can be sold using the same ‘Add to Cart’ button, which can be placed anywhere, from a website to a social network profile.”
PEC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Kohli: “Keep it simple, and pay close attention to user feedback.”
A Customer’s View
John T. Unger is a professional artist who uses FatFreeCartPro to sell his creations at John T. Unger Studio. “My primary product is a line of artisan firebowls hand-cut from recycled steel,” said Unger. “I also use E-junkie for commissions, wholesale, some one-of-a-kind pieces, and for selling a digital magazine I produce called Art Heroes Review.”
Unger provides his comments and opinions about FatFreeCartPro below.
PEC: How long has your company been using FatFreeCartPro?
John T. Unger: “I began using the cart in July 2007. My primary reason was that it was comparatively easy to integrate with my TypePad-hosted site [a blogging service], and because the AJAX window for the shopping cart can process most transactions without sending the buyer off my site.”
PEC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Unger: “The best feature is that when buyers click the ‘Buy Now’ button, the shopping cart loads in an AJAX window within your blog. Buyers can make as many purchases as they desire without leaving the site.
“Another strength is that the cart is equally suited to digital downloads and physical products.”
PEC: How could the cart improve?
Unger: “By adding the ability to process recurring payments or subscriptions. Also, I would prefer a non-Flash interface, especially when I need to edit a listing via my iPhone.”
PEC: How would FatFreeCartPro improve another merchant’s business?
Unger: “It provides a simple, clean and functional cart interface. It is simple to integrate with your site and easy for customers to understand and use.”
PEC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
PEC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Unger: “My advice to merchants would be to use Authorize.Net with E-junkie to process credit cards directly, rather than relying on PayPal or Google Checkout. When I set up my merchant account, my sales jumped 500 percent immediately, and have continued to grow.”