Practical Ecommerce

Debate: Licensed Carts Offer Flexibility and Portability

ProductCart is a licensed shopping cart used by thousands of ecommerce merchants. We asked its CEO, Massimo Arrigoni, whether licensed shopping-cart software is better for smaller businesses than hosted cart solutions.

PeC: Why should an ecommerce business consider a licensed shopping cart, versus a hosted cart?

Massimo Arrigoni

Massimo Arrigoni

Arrigoni: “Flexibility, portability, and cost. In many cases a licensed shopping cart allows you to modify the system to better meet your needs, which gives you tremendous flexibility. Flexibility not only to alter an existing feature to address a specific scenario, but also to add new functionality over time or integrate third-party solutions as your business grows. A licensed shopping cart is also portable: You choose where to host it and can bring it with you if you change your web hosting company. On the cost side, a shopping cart is normally a medium-term investment (at least 2-3 years using the same solution): Multiply the monthly fee of a hosted solution times 24 or 36 and the cost of a licensed cart very often represents a much cheaper alternative, although the start-up cost is higher.”

PeC: Critics say licensed carts are difficult for small-business owners to implement, and, when coupled with hosting fees, SSL fees, and other charges, can actually be more expensive.  Is this true?  Elaborate, please.

Arrigoni: “I disagree. Do you build and maintain your own website? Then you most definitely have the skills to install a licensed cart and nicely integrate it with your website. Do you instead use a web designer to build and maintain your website? Then they are the ones that can easily help you add a shopping cart to it. In other words: Nothing changes from your current approach to using the Internet for your business. As for the other charges: A dedicated SSL certificate is a cost that you will incur even if you are using a hosted shopping cart (I don’t consider a shared certificate a good way to go, for a variety of reasons), and the cost has come down dramatically to under $100 per year for many certificates. Hosting fees are already being paid as typically the company already has a website. It is true that if the ecommerce store becomes more successful over time, an upgrade of the hosting environment might be needed (e.g. a switch to a dedicated server), but that is always a good problem to have!”

PeC: How much does ProductCart cost? Price ranges?

Arrigoni: “A standard license costs $695 and includes hundreds of features that make it one of the best solutions out there. There are no limits in terms of products, sales, etc., unlike many hosted shopping carts. The price can go up to around $2,600 for a version of the software that contains a complex product configurator with conflict management capability (e.g. to handle the sale of a custom computer where the configurator knows which selections are incompatible and dynamically informs the visitor). The standard version is fine for the vast majority of ecommerce stores. Comparable hosted solutions typically run for $100/month or more. Do the math and the cost savings are substantial, on top of the incredible flexibility of having full access to the source code.”

PeC: By Practical eCommerce’s count, there are over 300 hosted and licensed carts available. How can a smaller business know which of these is the best fit?

Arrigoni: “I used to say: “Write down the features that are most important for you, then see which shopping carts represent the best fit….” Well, that’s not possible anymore with so many solutions available, as you pointed out. It would take forever. So, I recommend a completely different strategy. Let’s focus on companies that are keeping their systems updated with the latest technology as a way to filter out older or less sophisticated systems. For example: Take the carts that have been integrated with Google Checkout regardless of whether or not you plan to use that payment system. What matters is that you’ve now narrowed down the list to about 30 shopping carts that have been actively updated over the last 12 months or so to support Google Checkout. Of those, some will be hosted and some licensed, so you can quickly narrow down the list even further. When you are down to about 10 carts or so, then you can start looking at features, demo stores, live stores, etc.”

PeC: Other thoughts on hosted or licensed carts?

Arrigoni: “Do you see your ecommerce business as something that will evolve and grow over time? If so, a licensed shopping cart that gives you access to the software’s source code definitely gives you more control over the future of your online store.”

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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Comments ( 13 )

  1. Legacy User August 28, 2007 Reply

    I love ProductCart! Thanks for the awesome interview. I recommend this cart to anyone. The admin works both on a Mac & PC even though it's written in ASP. It's also easy to customize even if you don't know ASP.

    — *L.Winegar*

  2. Legacy User September 14, 2007 Reply

    I'm thinking of buying ProductCart. Any other users out there who would care to share their experiences (good or bad)? Most of what I've read so far seems great, but it's always good to hear from people who haveve gotten their hands dirty with it! Thanks!

    — *A. Gonzalez*

  3. Legacy User September 26, 2007 Reply

    I just learned ProductCart is not compatible with the Mac. Does anyone recommend licensed software that is? Thanks!
    http://www.greenandchic.com

    — *Carla*

  4. Legacy User October 14, 2007 Reply

    A clarification on the comment above: a ProductCart-powered store can definitely be run using a Mac. The Web site must be hosted on a Windows server, but store managers can certainly use a Mac to manage their stores as the ProductCart Control Panel is a browser-based application.

    — *Massimo Arrigoni*

  5. Legacy User November 3, 2007 Reply

    Oddly enough, I just read this article AFTER researching EVERY shopping cart solution listed on the Google Checkout Site (there's 35 to be exact). I was really getting burned out after the first day of research. Many of the vendor's website claim the same things. Since Product Cart logo was positioned in the middle, it took me awhile to get to it…I'm glad I did! After visiting all the other 34 sites, it appears to me that Product Cart is the winner! What I appreciate most is their honest approach to sales and marketing. They just tell it like it is and let the product speak for itself. I'll be looking to purchase and implement this coming week.

    — *Scotte*

  6. Legacy User December 9, 2007 Reply

    There is no link to the web site where I can find Product Cart.

    What is the name of the company?

    — *Kevin*

  7. Legacy User December 9, 2007 Reply

    Hi Kevin, you can find ProductCart at http://www.earlyimpact.com

    — *Massimo Arrigoni*

  8. Legacy User December 12, 2007 Reply

    As a professional web developer (www.ows.net), the best solution is what fits the clients needs…period. The best solutions are those best thought out and are what I would consider best of breed. I want to offer a solution that is being improved by professional programmers on a regular basis, that is safe from being hacked, and that allows growth and add-on functionality. I used several carts and I can't play programmer…don't have the time or resources no matter what I could charge. I want long term, solid relationships with my clients and want a solution that fits that.

    — *Barry Orlando*

  9. Legacy User January 6, 2008 Reply

    Hi Massimo Arrigoni,

    We are starting a business as an eCommerce Solution Provider.
    We will be a "GoDaddy" reseller of services, but we want a different "cart solution/product" to offer our customers. Will your cart integrate with the godaddy products/system?

    Thanks,
    Brian

    — *Brian*

  10. Legacy User January 17, 2008 Reply

    You may have read my previous post from 10/14/07. Well I'm back to say I've switched to ProductCart and am thoroughly impressed. We were previously using a hosted solution. Based on the price we were paying per year for the hosted cart, we could have paid a one-time license for ProductCart. In researching all the stuff out there, I also found it to be much easier to use and implement. Some of what I saw out there was downright scary, technically speaking.

    As a note to Brian above: Yes, ProductCart is indeed compatible with GoDaddy hosting (both virtual and dedicated). I have two stores hosted there. The only problem I've ever encountered was with Google Checkout integration (which was totally a GoDaddy issue, not ProductCart). Basically, Google Checkout requires that Basic Authentication in IIS be turned off. It took quite a few calls until I finally reached someone who knew how to make the change for me on a virtual account. But it can be done. Since then, not a single issue!

    — *A. Gonzalez*

  11. Legacy User May 13, 2008 Reply

    I am almost ready to buy ProductCart but am nervous about the technical installation and running of it. How easy is it to manage?

    For example I gave up on Zen cart as it was just too difficult and I kept encountering problems with only forum support to call upon. I do manage my own site and I currently sell via Click Bank and PayPal. Now I need a shopping cart. What technical ability is required?

    — *Elizabeth*

  12. Legacy User July 7, 2008 Reply

    Can I buy ProductCart once and use it on multiple websites I design without paying more?

    — *Bennett Beckenstein*

  13. Massimo Arrigoni March 13, 2009 Reply

    This thread is somewhat old, but the topic is certainly current. I just thought I’d point out a tool that we recently updated and that can help you figure out the actual <a href=’http://www.earlyimpact.com/productcart/total-cost-calculator.asp’ target=’_blank’>cost of using a hosted vs. licensed solution over time</a>. It’s not perfect, but it can help you get an idea of the total investment over time.