Practical Ecommerce

Cart of the Week: ShopFactory

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 Steffan Klein, CEO and co-founder of ShopFactory, an ecommerce platform produced by 3d3.com. More than 229,000 shops have been created with ShopFactory, according to company personnel, and more than 100 million people visit ShopFactory shops every month.

We’ll also hear from a ShopFactory customer, Bob Parsons, vice president of ORE-Office Resources and Equipment located in Ajax, Ontario, Canada.

PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.

Steffan Klein

Steffan Klein

Steffan Klein: “ShopFactory has been designed to make ecommerce fast and easy for non-programmers. ShopFactory has been continuously developed since 1995, and it is currently in use all around the world. It is even distributed by the International Finance Corporation, a division of the World Bank, to help establish ecommerce in developed countries.”

PeC: Where is your company located?

Klein: “We have several offices all over the world including in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and France. Our head office is located in Australia.”

PeC: Is the cart hosted, licensed, or both?

Klein: “Licensed. ShopFactory is a Windows-based editor you maintain your store with. It also has some additional hosted secure services you can add to extend the functionality of your shop, including delivery of digital goods, reseller tracking and a few other secure hosted services.”

PeC: How much does the cart cost?

Klein: “The ShopFactory Total Care package ranges from $19.95 per month to $79.95 per month, depending on the number of products you have and the services you want to use. Total Care includes optional free hosting, URL, support, updates and upgrades to the latest version. You can also buy a license outright for $999.00.”

PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?

Klein: “ShopFactory allows shop owners to build and maintain their shops on their own computers, and hosts the order management online in a PCI-compliant environment for improved security. Building a shop on your own computer is much faster.

“And because ShopFactory uses a client-side shopping cart (a technology similar to the solutions provided by Google), it is also considerably faster for customers to make an order. A faster ordering process, of course, means more sales.

“The hosted order management also adds many extra ecommerce functions, including services such as selling event tickets, setting up a network reseller scheme or tracking advertising expenditure.

“Another strength of ShopFactory is its ability to create search engine-friendly shops out of the box, with many users achieving top rankings in search engines.

“And, while ShopFactory has one of the biggest ranges of functions available in an ecommerce product, it is so easy to use that even a beginner can use it to start selling on the Internet.”

PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?

Klein: “If you buy ShopFactory outright, you do not get the services which come with the hosted Total Care solution.

“Also, to start using ShopFactory you have to download the shop building component first from the Internet and install it on your computer. This means you can’t start straight away. On the plus side you will be able to build your shop much faster, once the software is installed.”

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

Klein: “All our development is based on market needs and research. As the market changes we react by improving, developing and implementing new features on a regular and ongoing basis. Our current development plans are to provide support for a broader range of new platforms including mobile phones. Another development focus is on more after-sales order management tools and customer relationship management (CRM) features.”

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

Klein: “With ShopFactory you can build and maintain your shop on your own computer, which saves a lot of time. When you are done you can publish the changes, and your workflow is not being constantly interrupted.

“If you already have a shop builder that builds shops on your own computer, [it will most likely] contain many ecommerce functions which require a hosted solution. As ShopFactory combines the advantages of building a shop on your computer with the advantages of hosted services, you gain access to many more ecommerce functions.”

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

Klein: “There is a huge number of ecommerce solutions out there, and it can be an exhausting and frustrating process to figure out what is best for your needs. We have developed ShopFactory with the aim to make it as easy as possible for a do-it-yourself shop owner.

ShopFactory has been developed and proven itself longer than just about any ecommerce solution on the market. We offer a free trial version which can demonstrate the advantages of our dual approach.”

A Customer’s View

Bob Parsons is vice president of ORE-Office Resources and Equipment, an online store that sells high-end office equipment, including paper shredders, paper folding equipment, telephone systems, and other specialized office equipment. ORE grosses more than $500,000 annually, and Parsons offers his opinions and comments about the cart below.

PeC: How long has your company been using the cart?

Bob Parsons

Bob Parsons

Bob Parsons: “Since 2004.”

PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?

Parsons “Ease of use and quick check-out. It is really simple and easy to set up and make changes to our live site within a few minutes. Many of the features we don’t use, but it’s great to have them available when we do need them. We can activate a feature within seconds, without downloading modules or fussing with code.

We always look at our site from a customer’s perspective, as that is the most important thing in making a sale. ShopFactory has met our requirements over and over again.”

PeC: How could the cart improve?

Parsons “Themes and templates are sometimes an issue, but if you have some advanced HTML and CSS experience, you can create pretty much any design you want.”

PeC: How would this cart improve another merchant’s business?

Parsons “We have grown from start-up with this business, and ShopFactory has made that all possible. We find that we can focus on marketing and selling offline more, and with the search engine tools in ShopFactory, we simply spend less time updating our site than we have with other solutions we have considered.”

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

Parsons “Yes. We can foresee our business continuing to grow for the next ten or more years using this cart.”

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

Parsons “Learn to use the features and tools ShopFactory has included in the software. Also, do some research on search engine optimization and online marketing. This solution has all you need to get a site up and going, and to grow with. Like any other business tool, if you use it properly, you will benefit from it greatly.”

Other ShopFactory Sites

Kate Monteith

Kate Monteith

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. cpedley November 8, 2010 Reply

    A good overall product which has obsolete templates and an archaic re-registration system whenever you have to reinstall the product on a new hard drive or computer. For the hundreds of dollars you spend on this product I believe they could spend a bit more on the templates it comes with. Xara WebDesigner which costs less than $50 has absolutely beautiful easily changeable templates. Of course it does not have a shopping cart.

    The cart technology is very good. However Shopfactory or 3d3 could certainly use an overhaul in its basic provisions. We have spent over $1000 on product, one upgrade to V7 Gold, and yet still have to create new headers for our pages because the ones provided are so out-of-date and few in number.

    It certainly is easy to change the design quickly but with out-of-date designs, one must still take time to measure the size of each header as they are all different, and then take time to create a newer-looking header.

    Also since no instruction manual is provided it took a lot of emails and waiting to find out how to use or change features of the program.

    Also even freeware programs allow the insertion of html affiliate adds and widgets. When I have done this and the page freezes which happened to be my landing page, there is NO way to unfreeze it or even use html easily to replace it and upload a new first page.

    I had to wait weeks to get a fix with my Christmas page and a notice above the Christmas "decorations" that the development company was working on a fix. What an embarrassment.

    Its strength is the ability to create a shopping cart relatively quickly and apply taxes or not depending on the location of the buyer. If you have an expensive enough version [we switched to Gold for this at a cost of hundreds of dollars extra], you can upload CSV or possibly even other formats of complete inventory databases. Although I do not think it will accept photos [I stand to be corrected on this one.]

    With Magento and other free or almost free open-source technologies in the shopping cart area I believe Shopfactory has to seriously update the overall components provided for the price it charges.

    I would say it is generally overpriced for what you get and I could not recommend it now. My partner and I are working on switching to Magento or a combination of Xara for web interface and another shopping cart possibly opensource.

    I am sure it will not take any longer to learn than it took us to get through the Shopfactory problems we have encountered.

    Charles Pedley
    Church-mart.com

    One slightly frustrated but medium-happy user.

  2. cpedley November 8, 2010 Reply

    I just had to re-install ShopFactory Gold V7 on my new computer. I still cannot believe the run-a-round I get. We updated from V6 Standard to V7 Gold which allows up to I believe 10 websites owned by other individuals. For this privilege we paid in total over $1000 to be conservative.

    IN spite of registering the original AND the new Gold product, we still have to not only give our NEW Gold Serial Number but ALSO our old v6 number.

    To top it all off, you have to remember or have a record somewhere of the ORIGINAL EMAIL ADDRESS you bought the V6 with.

    Why can’t ShopFactory like everyone else simply record current email address and serial number and let you reinstall as needed.

    Suppose Windows has to be reinstalled. Or you get a new computer like I just did OR you get a laptop and want to work on your sites on the road.

    Then suppose you have a partner who shares the use of the program, due to its high cost and he has to do the same.

    I had trouble reregistering. So I emailed support and was just told it is because of their "anti-piracy" program.

    However get this, they will allow us to reinstall 5 more times! Huh! I thought we owned the program? We should be able to install it as many times as necessary.

    Imagine the problem with this scenario. You are upgrading prices or information on their site and Windows goes bonkers. So you re-install Windows and all your programs including ShopFactory.

    Suddenly you discover it will cease to be usable in 30 days because you cannot register it for thee 6th time?

    Is that a cause for a panic attack or what?

    I emailed them to clarify the situation but I am NOT at all pleased.

    I feel like I am unimportant to them as long as they can insure than no one can "pirate" their software. And yet Microsoft knows that within a few days or weeks of any new version, someone WILL figure out a way to do it.

    As for us, we suffer hardship and anxiety because of the perceived guilty piraters.

    Very Very unhappy with SF right now.

  3. Littlecomfort January 23, 2011 Reply

    My link is in the article as a Shop Factory website – Little Comfort. I have now left them, if you click on the link above it goes to my site that is now hosted by Volusion.

    I had so many problems with ShopFactory. First of all you really need to know how to manipulate images, know a bit of html, that is of course if you want a decent looking website. However if you don’t care and will use the template as it is (which are rubbish to say the least) then just add products decide how to receive payments and away you go.

    I needed a wholesale section and this proved to be really difficult. I had nest 2 websites into the main one so that different customers logged into different areas. If i didn’t do that, I was only able to set discounts, instead of stating Product A, and three different prices for different customers. With Volusion I have the freedom to set the prices to whatever they are and not by discount off the retail price only, which is ridiculous.

    I had also purchased the full program outright and as a consequence those that did were punished. They kept on developing their subscription service and forgot about those that spent hundreds of euros on their program. So we got none of the new developments.

    You couldn’t produce individual gift vouchers, which was a problem for me and I was told "it’s too complicated – we’ll do when when we’ll do it". I used their payment gateway, Globecharge and their credit card processing company Wirecard, they took 5% commission and they kept 5% reserve for 6 months! They are still releasing money to me every month from this reserve. Ridiculous, businesses need their cash flow and these guys made money from interest on the back of our hard work. I am now working with SagePay and get paid every 5 days and no reserve held back. If you don’t pay for their subscribed services even if you bought the program outright, you will not be able to have any of the services it provides, so even after spending hundreds of Euros you still need to pay monthly fees. Rip off! (they don’t tell you this until you buy the software and realize what is included and what isn’t).

    The headaches I have had with SF, it took me over 3 years to get my website look half decent, every time I sat with it I spent hours figuring out how to do this, that and the other. I don’t mind if I was techno phobic, I’m an I.T Engineer by trade with also a Multimedia Studies background, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know how to find my way around computers or software, but this software just was ridiculous.

    I am so happy now with Volusion, website looks really professional, I did get someone to design the template because I just didn’t have time, but the rest of the design work and product uploading I did all by myself. Their service is second to none, they have 24 hour chat support, which has helped me in 99% of my queries, only a couple of times did I need to submit a ticket. With SF, you need to pay for your support tickets, LOL (I think it was €10 blooming euros or something like that), in the end I had resolved the issue before they contacted me and they did no refund the money, aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    Seriously do not touch them with barge pole, especially if you expect your business to grow and will need extra features. If you want a plain basic website and don’t mind the look then go ahead (wouldn’t recommend it though if you want to make some money as people do not have confidence in websites that look like they have been designed by some newbie, it is a complete put off).

    Apart from Volusion there are various hosted solutions out there. I am not link to Volusion in any way apart from being a happy customer.
    I am so glad I have cut the cord with Shop Factory, the stress of it all was driving me crazy.

    To be quite honest it’s winding me up just writing this whole comment but I just had to voice my experience, and a bad one at that!

    Monica,
    http://www.littlecomfort.com

  4. Le Breton Hollandais February 20, 2013 Reply

    Shopfactory 9.3.6 Build 13015

    Software is pretty easy to use, but has a lot of bugs, giving dead pages, be careful optimized picture function is actually removing most of your pictures without being able to undo it.

    Mentioned as a semi-pro software, be aware that the tool is windows only, (meaning no real support for Apple products, Linux or Android OS.) Also to be notice that the tool cannot be used as a web-based software, so forget your mobility, and be careful if your windows crashes you might loose everything. Option is to run it from a server, but this is of course slowing down the process (as well on a fast gigabit network environment) and has quiet some bugs such as ( to edit pictures your picture database has to be local…)

    Slow to No reaction from Shopfactory support on missing features such as deactivating scripts (this might fully slow down your navigation navigation within the tool), automatic random order number… FAQ is old dated, globecharge (kind of CRM tool ) is giving you option to deal with your customers data is expensive for small businesses and as well very limited for others, you cannot change the address of customer, converting your data to an financial software is really basic, meaning you will still have to buy a third party software.

    New features such as slide-show on your home page, option to ask for cookies acceptance are not build in.

    Be careful support from your site on smartphone is limited to only a few templates those not Flash items.

    New template are regularly posted, however they seem to all look the same…
    The upload function is very handy when this one function, recommendation is to use a third party FTP software (some extra step are needed to have a smooth upload).