The shopping-cart platform that an online business chooses can have a significant impact on its sales success.
Select a cart that is too simple or basic and it may not scale as your company grows or it may not offer the features you need to cross-sell, merchandise, or engage loyal customers. Select a cart that is too complex and you could be putting out a lot of extra money in development costs and licenses fees as well as carrying more performance-sapping baggage—in terms of the underlying code—than makes sense for your business. Both scenarios can sour your online ecommerce operation.
Enter LemonStand, a new licensed shopping cart that offers a balance of features and flexibility that both site owners and web designers will appreciate. In fact, I like this new cart so well that I am awarding it four out of a possible five starts in this “The PeC Review.”
“The PeC Review” is my weekly column devoted to introducing you to the products and services that I believe can help you improve your ecommerce business. This week, let me show you why I think LemonStand could be a great choice for merchants considering a redesign or a new project.
Easy Order Flow
LemonStand has a simple, unencumbered order flow. For example, order status information is color coded so that it is easy to identify pending orders, processing orders, and paid orders, just by looking at the order table.
And the order table itself includes a number of filters so that I can isolate orders by date, status, products, categories, and even by customers.
It is also simple to move from one order status to another, even going backward in the workflow if you need to—a little trick that a surprisingly small number of shopping carts allow.
Individual order pages are managed from a simple tabbed administration page that is equally clear and understandable. So that processing orders should be a snap.
Easy to Understand Reports
LemonStand includes an easy-to-read sales and traffic dashboard that tracks sales over the past week, and places traffic data and daily sales totals on the same Flash-based chart.
If you need more in-depth data, LemonStand’s reports section enables you to generate reports on anything from coupon usage and customer status to product performance and order subtotals. All of the reports can be downloaded as a CSV file, and you can have your choice of Flash-based bar, pie, and line charts for on-screen viewing.
If you tend to be a visual person, LemonStand’s reports will make it much easier to understand how your business is trending.
LemonStand is one of the most flexible shopping cart platforms that I’ve seen. In almost every way, it seems to be designed to let you decide how the site should look and behave.
Navigate to the platform’s CMS section, select any page template, and you will be presented with a series of tabbed, syntax-highlighting code editors that allow you to modify, change, or create your store, your way. There is even a built in editor for AJAX handlers in case you want to create a drag-and-drop or sorting feature.
They platform does use is a semi-custom PHP library, which a designer or developer will need to learn, but there is a handbook tab on the page that provides help.
LemonStand is also extendable with a series of modules that add features, functions, or connectivity. The company has built a limited number of modules and both plans to build more and encourage others to build more.
On the one hand, modules mean that merchants won’t have to support or even deal with lots of extra code that they are not using, which may improve site performance. On the other hand it does mean that you’ll have to pay more for some additional features—since most modules will be sold.
LemonStand is presently free to download and develop with. But if you bring up a functioning store that is taking orders, you’ll need to pay a onetime $300 license fee.
Of course no ecommerce platform is perfect. LemonStand does not have a good packing slip or invoice printing solution. You just print off the order screen. This is something that needs to change quickly.
There was also no clear way to operate more than one storefront from a single backend, which is increasingly a feature merchants want.
LemonStand is a great new shopping cart that is both flexible and easy to use. It’s a good choice for small-to-midsized merchants that have some basic web knowledge. If you’ve never used anything but a software-as-a-service ecommerce solution, LemonStand will be more work and require more design expertise. But it will also provide much great latitude in your design, which can make for a better store.