There are more than 350 online shopping carts. And each week we feature one, interviewing both the cart’s developer or management 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 Jamie Whitney, owner and developer of Squirrelcart, a shopping cart by Lighthouse Development. The company is based in Westerly, R.I., and its cart has approximately 6,000 users.
We’ll also hear the views of Andy Bents, director and founder of Go Planet Go and a Squirrelcart user.
PeC: Please provide some general information about Squirrelcart.
Whitney: “Squirrelcart is a PHP/MySQL-based shopping cart. We’ve been around since 2002. We just released a major version 3 update in April 2009.”
PeC: Is Squirrelcart hosted, licensed, or both?
Whitney: “It is licensed software that a merchant can install (or have us install) on their web server.”
PeC: How much does the cart cost?
Whitney: “Regular Squirrelcart is $129 U.S.; Squirrelcart PRO is $289 U.S.”
PeC: What are Squirrelcart’s biggest strengths?
Whitney: “We’ve tried to make the storefront as customizable as possible. Novices can change quite a bit of what goes on in the storefront via the CMS [content management system] features and by changing theme settings. Web designers familiar with CSS and HTML can change the appearance of just about everything via template files.
“Also, it has a powerful rule set feature that controls when shipping rates, discounts, and downloadable goods are offered. For instance, you could give a discount to a customer if they spent a certain amount in the past, if they are a member of a particular group, if they live in a particular city, if their last name contains certain characters–you can add multiple rules, each containing as many conditions as you like, and then specify formulas to control how those rules and conditions are used.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Whitney: “It does not have a QuickBooks feature and we get many requests to add one. It’s very high on our list to add as soon as possible.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Whitney: “[In addition to QuickBooks support], our plans include better reporting, a better export/import feature, a contact module, and a FAQs module. Additionally, we plan to add the rule set feature to other aspects of the cart that will allow a merchant to control when certain categories and products appear and when to offer particular payment methods.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Whitney: “We’ve tried to make the control panel as easy to use as possible, and I think most merchants that have left other carts for Squirrelcart find our software easy to use and customize. From a price perspective, we intentionally offer lower pricing than most comparable carts.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Whitney: “One thing is that, while we have a large customer base, we are actually a small business. I am the owner and the developer, and am committed to making customers happy. When you request support, you aren’t routed to a call center with a person reading from a script. Instead, you get assistance from someone that knows the software in and out – the developer. We offer software and support, and both are equally important to us.”
A Customer’s View
Andy Bents is the director and founder of Go Planet Go, a division of Blue Planet Web Ltd., located in the United Kingdom. Bents uses the Squirrelcart to sell travel-related accessories and gadgets, and holiday items, with an annual gross revenue around $130,000 U.S. Bents offers his opinions and comments about Squirrelcart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using Squirrelcart?
Bents: “Since January 2005.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Bents: “I chose Squirrelcart initially after evaluating quite a few of the carts available at that time, including some open source [free] ones. I had several requirements in mind, including:
“Simple administration. I wanted a cart that didn’t require a lot of time spent in adding products and updating. Squirrelcart makes it easy to add, amend and copy products, which saves a lot of time.
“Ease of customization. I wanted to be able to customize the cart to my requirements and was able to do this. The main help files are very comprehensive and the forums are useful if you get stuck or need help. Version 3.0 provides the ability to buy a set of themes and change the display and color of a website with just a couple of mouse clicks. Also, you can move sections and content around easily and quickly.
“Speed of deployment. [With Squirrelcart], I managed to get the customized site up and running and taking payments in a matter of days.
“Supported payment processor. Just a few months [after we signed up with Squirrelcart], I switched payment processors to one that wasn’t supported. I posted my requirement for my new payment processor in the Squirrelcart forum and, within a day or two, the Squirrelcart team wrote the functions to handle my new payment processor.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Bents: “One area that could be improved is the reporting. Although the cart does provide some basic reporting, it would be useful to have more reports available so that we can quickly make business decisions and judgments based on the hard figures.”
PeC: How would Squirrelcart improve another merchant’s business?
Bents: “You don’t have to be a web developer or designer to get this cart up and running. The installation process is just a matter of uploading the Squirrelcart files, running the installation page, following the on-page instructions, and bingo.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Bents: “Yes, because it doesn’t stand still. The Squirrelcart team is always working on improving it, and incorporating new features to make things easier and less time consuming. In business you don’t want to have to worry about cart administration and upkeep – you just want to keep the everyday tasks as simple and quick as possible. Squirrelcart allows me to do this. In fact, I recommend Squirrelcart to my clients as well.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning Squirrelcart?
Bents: “Anyone can use the cart and customize it to their requirements. And, if you have experience in HTML and CSS, you can have it singing and dancing as you want.”