Practical Ecommerce

Field Test: Shopping Carts, Part One Of Three

In Field Test, Practical eCommerce has gathered twelve seasoned ecommerce merchants and asked each of them the same questions around a given topic. This month’s topic is shopping carts.

The participating ecommerce merchants are: Dave Norris, House of Antique Hardware; Justin Hertz, MuttMart; Chris Stump, Only Hammocks; Mike Feiman, PoolDawg; Dan Stewart, Xtreme Diesel Performance; Cindy Barrileaux, Write Your Best; Claudette Cyr, Gear-Source; Kristen Taylor, Juvie; Jeff Muchnik, RedBox Tools; Kara English, Candles & Such.

Here are three responses, chosen randomly and published anonymously to maintain candor.

PeC: What shopping cart do you use?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: Miva Merchant 5.5.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: GravityMarket by Netconcepts.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: Yahoo! Merchant Solutions.

PeC: How long have you used this cart?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: We have been a Miva customer for nearly three years now. We just made the switch to the upgraded 5.5 version recently.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: More than two years.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: Two years.

PeC: Why did you choose it?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: We went through our share of trials and tribulations with other carts, and this ended up being the third solution we tried. They say third time is a charm, and it certainly has been for us.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: Our previous cart was no longer meeting our needs, and as a result, we ended up doing a rebuild with Netconcepts.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: It came with our store.

PeC: Are you pleased with it?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: Yes, absolutely.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: We are extremely happy with GravityMarket.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: Yes.

PeC: Which aspects of the cart are you most pleased with?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: It’s a highly customizable shopping cart solution, and compared with others, it is quite affordable as well. Out of the box, it’s fairly robust, but the vast number of modules allow you to add any feature you could imagine at a very minimal expense. As a small business owner, I appreciate the way they set up their solution in an “a la carte” fashion because I only have to pay for what I need.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: Since the launch, we’ve seen conversion increase, cart abandonment decrease and have seen drastic improvements from a search engine optimization perspective.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: It was easy to incorporate our custom web design into the shopping cart, so it is seamless when customers check out. The shipping calculator feature has been a wonderful tool for our customers. They like that they can check shipping cost before they check out. I also like that the cart accepts coupons. For us this has been a terrific feature that has closed many sales.

PeC: What would you change about it?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: Six months ago, I would have said their support needed a revamping. But they have a new management team in place and have revised their support entirely, making it all in-house.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: We are constantly working with Netconcepts on upgrades and improvements to the site. Most recently, we had Netconcepts add “Bill Me Later” as a payment option. We’re also looking at making some minor visual changes to the checkout pages.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: As most everyone remembers, Yahoo! was down on Cyber Monday, so I guess the change I would like to see is more reliable services on high traffic dates. Other than that, we haven’t had any problems with the shopping cart.

PeC: What advice would you offer merchants who are seeking a new shopping cart?

  • FIELD TESTER 1: Rather than having to experience the pitfalls of a poorly functioning shopping cart solution and then needing to switch, do your research first. Read reviews online and in magazines, and then go with a cart that other merchants are truly happy with. Taking the time to have a little diligence in advance can save you from years of heartache and stress down the road.
  • FIELD TESTER 2: Find a platform that is scalable and flexible, and most importantly, find a development partner you are comfortable with.
  • FIELD TESTER 3: Look at your options from your customer’s point of view. The shopping cart needs to be easy to understand, simple and fast so converting the sale is easy. The cart should also match the look and feel of the rest of your site. Customers don’t like feeling like they have left your store when they are ready to purchase.
Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

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Comments ( 14 )

  1. Legacy User May 22, 2008 Reply

    Answering Dave. We use Miva 5.06, getting ready to update to 5.5. 1. Miva is easy to add products one at a time or by uploading spreadsheets. 2. We chose to move to a private server instead of multi-servers with excellent support from Verio.com. 3. I can't think of a customer management issue that Miva's modules can't solve. The modules range from free to a couple hundred dollars. Most of the ones we use cost around $25. 4. Order processing is great, easy downloads and uploads, very customizable. 5. We don't use EDI so you'll have to check on that yourself. Miva has good SEO features (google: discount beauty products) Miva seems like it can do it all for us.

    — *Pat from http://www.BeautyDepot.com*

  2. Legacy User May 22, 2008 Reply

    All good points. I'd like to see some more of these. Here are some suggested questions: 1. How easy is it to add new products with your existing cart? Do you create products manually, one at a time, or do you upload a spreadsheet of product data to launch multiple products at a time. 2. How scalable is your solution? Ie. If your traffic increases and you need another server, how well will your software work on a multi-server platform? 3. Do the selected carts have integrated customer management systems? 4. How efficient is the order management system on each cart? 5. Are the carts EDI compatible?

    — *Dave from Wholesale Furniture Brokers*

  3. Legacy User May 22, 2008 Reply

    I'm a happy Miva customer as well (http://www.bettercoffee.com/) and I highly recommend it. With any cart though, finding good service providers is tough. We've been EXTREMELY pleased with Hostasaurus.com for hosting and our business would be lost without the EXCELLENT application "Shipworks" from Interapptive.com Both those firms provide above-and-beyond support and I can't say enough good things about them.

    (FYI: I have no affiliation with any of these firms… just a happy customer!)

    — *David*

  4. Legacy User May 22, 2008 Reply

    We are looking for hosted ecommerce platform to integrate with a order management solution.

    We want something that we can customize to meet our needs because our cart does not support everything we are looking to do. We use OrderMotion for backend processing (which we are very happy with).

    Does anyone have any recommendations for that can integration to OrderMotion?

    — *James*

  5. Legacy User May 22, 2008 Reply

    We use Yahoo Store for (http://www.ToolsForWellness.com/) and have been with them since 2000. We'd like to have more flexibility in the cart.. such as being able to register, better updating and displaying of shipping options, etc. Overall, however, we're very pleased with the system.

    — *Andrew from http://www.ToolsForWellness.com*

  6. Legacy User May 22, 2008 Reply

    GoDaddy QuickShopping – Shopping Cart. I am interested in feedback about GoDaddy products.

    — *Nina*

  7. Legacy User May 23, 2008 Reply

    Someone was enquiring about feedback on Go Daddy Quick Shopping Cart. I have been using it for a few months and think its ok considering the cost on a per month basis. I would suggest it for a long term solution but great to get up and running really quickly to generate some revenue. Its relatively easy to use but the customisation is limited. Also, it is tailored for US and Canada shoppers only.

    — *Corinne Streichert*

  8. Legacy User May 23, 2008 Reply

    We also have Yahoo! Shopping Cart and find it to be a quick and easy flow for our customers to checkout. I agree with the disappointment over Yahoo's lack of preparation for Cyper Monday, but it cost them dearly, so I expect they will be on the top of their game this year. Anyway, thanks for the insight on some of the other carts out there.

    — *Lauren from http://www.EmbraceThePositive.Com*

  9. Legacy User May 23, 2008 Reply

    I agree with David that finding a hosting partner who is knowledgable with your chosen shopping cart is very important. I don't know about other carts, but Miva Merchant has hosting partners who are specialists in hosting their cart — be sure to check into that when choosing a cart. Wish we had known that when we had been looking for a cart.

    We have used Miva Merchant as our shopping cart for 5 or 6 years. Our first host claimed to support Miva Merchant, but the reality was that they didn't know anything about it including properly setting it up on their servers. I posted to Miva's forums and that is where I found our current host. Vic from WolfPaw Computers (www.wpcomp.com — A Miva Merchant Premier Hosting Partner) was the only person who answered my request for help. He offered to look into the set up of our cart for free. Vic found errors that he was able to fix, plus errors that he couldn't unless we switched. From that simple free service we switched to WolfPaw. That was 4 years ago. We haven't ever looked back. When I have had questions from module recommendations to problems with the website they have always provided me with honest answers even if the truth is not good. We rarely have down time.

    Note: No affiliation… just a happy customer.

    — *Stephanie*

  10. Legacy User May 23, 2008 Reply

    An intriguing look into the shopping cart selection process!

    — *Jennifer D. Meacham*

  11. Legacy User May 27, 2008 Reply

    Bobcat,

    Your experiences with shopping carts sound like they could be beneficial to other merchants going through the same difficulties. We'd like to talk to you a little more about your previous cart problems. Please email me at bgibbons[at]practicalecommerce.com or post your store URL in a comment on this article.

    Thanks,
    Brendan Gibbons
    Staff Writer

    — *Brendan Gibbons*

  12. Legacy User May 27, 2008 Reply

    I am on my third attempt at adding a shopping cart to my web site. The first two applications – StoreFront and Miva – were disasters. The lessons I learned was not only to research the shopping cart itself in detail (rather than relying on a slick salesman to tell you how great it is), but to research the web developer you hire to do the job for you. This is CRITICAL. I found out later that StoreFront had an horrendous Better Business Bureau record (along with very buggy software and lousy support). Miva is actually great software, but I had chosen a developer partner that simply had no time to get my cart off the ground (two years and no shopping cart.) I had purchased the add-ons for well over $1,000 and still had no cart. I simply don't have the money to hire an in-house development staff. Third time is a charm, I hope, – I picked a Yahoo Store and one of their partners to pull it together. I am extremely happy with my choice with Yahoo and Solid Cactus as my partner (I did my homework this time.)

    — *Bobcat*

  13. Legacy User May 29, 2008 Reply

    I am a somewhat of a newbie to ecommerce and find these interviews very informative.
    I used go daddy and their deluxe shopping cart (up to 100 items)
    I did have to call tech support to figure a few things out that I think could have been
    more intuitive but nothing major. tech support was very helpful and courteous
    ( I chose to use the phone in support)
    Order processing, payments and checkout all work seamlessly.
    It is very easy to make changes and import images.
    I am very satisfied overall and just purchased another cart for my other business.
    If you're new to ecommerce and want to do it yourself I reccomend go daddy
    (no affiliation- just pleased)

    — *Linda from Barkstreetbistro.com*

  14. Legacy User May 29, 2008 Reply

    I have used miva for our shopping cart for about 4 years. Last year I converted over to Miva 5 and very happy! Yesterday I upgraded to 5.5 and love it. What I most like about Miva is that I can customize my store almost any way I want. I use Hostasaurus.com and very happy with them.

    — *Bill Dodd from Christinalynn.com*