Practical Ecommerce

Cart of the Week: PrestoStore

There are more than 350 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 Ryan Jones, co-founder of PrestoBiz, the parent company of PrestoStore ecommerce software. The company headquarters are located in Brookfield, Wis., and there is another office in Madison, Wis.

According to Jones, “We’ve served several thousand merchants as of late 2009, and roughly 2 million shoppers visit our promotion networks each year looking to buy products from our merchants.” The PrestoStore promotion networks include the company’s own PrestoMart, which is an optimized collection of PrestoStore merchants’ items and a comparison-shopping site.

We’ll also hear from a PrestoStore customer, Dan Gan, the owner of iBrickshop.com, an online store based in Everett, Wash.

PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones: “Jon Baumler (my business partner) and I started a website development company in 1998 and immediately identified the need for a simple checkout service. In 2002, our ‘PrestoSell’ service evolved into the first version of ‘PrestoStore,’ which provides a website, shopping cart and checkout system. We still offer PrestoSell and even a ‘PrestoCart’ service for people who wish to maintain their own, separate web sites.”

PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?

Jones: “Hosted.”

PeC: How much does PrestoStore cost?

Jones: “The fee is $29.95 per month. There are no setup, listing or transaction fees, and our merchants are free to cancel service at any time.”

PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?

Jones: “We concentrate heavily on promoting and marketing our merchants’ products. We try to drive as much traffic as possible to all our stores, because it’s the best way to increase our merchants’ sales and keep them happy.”

PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?

Jones: “We have been challenged for not offering enough pre-made templates. We initially developed our system with the concept that a merchant would want to select a pre-made ‘style’ as a starting point and then use our online design tools to further customize their PrestoStore for a truly unique look. While many of our merchants appreciate this approach, others would simply prefer to select a template from hundreds of options and be done.”

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

Jones: “We continue to focus on how we promote our merchants’ products online. We are looking into ways we can enhance and expand the PrestoMart promotion network in order to gain even more exposure for our merchants’ products.”

PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?

Jones: “If an ecommerce merchant isn’t getting the traffic they think they deserve, they should try PrestoStore. Merchants who offer popular products at competitive prices often get orders within a few hours of opening an account. I see it happen all the time.”

PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?

Jones: “I always tell new merchants that the most important thing is to get their products listed in as many selling and promotion networks as possible. You don’t necessarily need to cancel an existing service to try something new. For example, if you currently sell solely on eBay, continue doing that; but also open a web store and see what happens. Or, open two web stores using different services. Why not?”

A Customer’s View

Daniel Gan is the owner of iBrickshop.com. His store sells new and used LEGO products, with annual gross revenue of roughly $120,000.

Gan provides his comments and opinions about PrestoStore below.

PeC: How long has your company been using PrestoStore?

Daniel Gan

Daniel Gan

Daniel Gan: “Since 2003. I had a tight budget then, as I do now, and PrestoStore had the price, features and ease of use that I was looking for in a cart.”

PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?

Gan: “PrestoStore’s strengths can be categorized into three parts:

“The admin area. As a small business owner, I started out with a very limited knowledge of how to sell products on the Internet. I did not know anything about HTML, databases and shopping carts. The product area of PrestoStore lets me easily add my inventory, individually or in bulk, into my online catalog and instantly publish products to my online store. The CMS [content management system] within the admin area has many features that can be customized to create a professional looking online store without paying someone an arm and a leg.

“The client-side or public area. PrestoStore, customers do not need to create an account in order to purchase an item at my store. Checking out is as simple as clicking three buttons.

“Customer service. From the initial setup six years ago up until the most recent email server change request, the staff of PrestoStore has been a valuable asset to my online store. Their technical support is top-notch. From a simple question to complex integration, they make sure that the cart runs seamlessly.”

PeC: How could the cart improve?

Gan: “PrestoStore can improve in the area of checkout and processing payments. Right now, the URL changes from my store URL to ‘PrestoStore’ when a product is added to the shopping cart. Customers see the URL change and wonder if they have been taken to another website. And, when they reach the secure page of the cart, the URL changes to ‘PrestoMart’.

“I have a few customers who asked if providing their credit card information is safe since the URL changed a couple of times. Changing where the URL points to and purchasing a separate SSL certificate could improve the sense of safety and security for customers.”

PeC: How would PrestoStore improve another merchant’s business?

Gan: “PrestoStore is affordable and easy to use. Merchants who would like a presence in the ecommerce world should take advantage of the free demo option. It is like test-driving a car. If you are not comfortable with it, there is no obligation to sign up. They will not send you spam emails or force you to use their service. I know this because I am starting another online venture and I used the free demo offered by PrestoStore even though I already know how it works. I did this a few weeks ago and I have not received any spam email from PrestoStore asking me to use their service.”

PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?

Gan: “Absolutely. With my business growing at an exponential rate, PrestoStore has become one of my valuable assets and the staff has become my team in ecommerce.”

PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?

Gan: “iBrickshop has been growing in terms of product selections and revenue year after year, and we only sell one product brand, LEGO. I attribute the success of my online business to PrestoStore because its features are easy to learn and implement. This saves me a lot of time, which I can use to focus on the products I sell.

“Also, the price they charge for their service is very reasonable. This translates to lower monthly overhead. And, the customer service is excellent. The staff goes above and beyond what I pay them to do.”

Other PrestoStore Sites

Kate Monteith

Kate Monteith

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  1. Rhonda Studer December 2, 2009 Reply

    We have been using PrestoStore as our online store solution sine June 1, 2009. I did a lot of shopping around, but was challenged by two issues: most pre-existing store formats didn’t have the flexibility to let us create the look and feel we were going for, and we needed a site that would support ftp uploads from the inventory management service we used.

    The appearance was an important issue. As a graphic designer, I knew what I wanted to achieve, but didn’t have the time or inclination to wade through DreamWeaver to try and create it. So many pre-existing stores had less-than-stellar graphics and layouts, and little ability to customize easily. I was impressed at the ease at which I could set up a clean, professional site with PrestoStore and give it the visual identity we were looking for.

    The ftp upload ability sealed the deal. While PrestoStore didn’t advertise that on their site, I was so impressed with all their other functionality that I contacted them and asked if they could accommodate my needs. It took some time and a great deal of back-and-forth communication, but their responsiveness and willing to work with me was outstanding. I could not have asked for better service – and still get that when the occasional need arises. They have been pleasant, professional, and quick to respond. I’ve worked with literally thousands of vendors and suppliers through the years; PrestoStore easily makes my "A" list.

    I invite readers to visit our store, in addition to the links provided in the article: Lakecountrybooks.com.