Practical eCommerce counts over 300 different shopping cart platforms. In this ongoing “Cart of the Week” feature we profile—but not evaluate—a specific shopping cart, asking about its strengths and weaknesses.
For this installment, we asked Rinalds Uzkalns, owner of Lithuania-based UAB Integrity Systems to explain the benefits of his company’s cart, LiveCart. We then asked Rich Halsey, a LiveCart user, for his evaluation of the cart. Halsey owns Marricorp LLC, a niche online retail firm with three different stores currently using LiveCart.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Uzkalns: “LiveCart is a fairly new cart that was first released a little over a year ago. It was architected from ground-up to match today’s ecommerce requirements and to make use of new technologies like AJAX from the start. LiveCart is currently only available as a licensed solution, although we are looking forward to expand our offering in the coming few months to add a hosted service as well. The license costs range from $169 to $249 including free lifetime updates. Since it’s a new cart it doesn’t have as many users as the carts that have been around for a long time. There are only a few hundred clients at this time, most of them being early adopters.
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Uzkalns: “Actually, there are quite a few especially strong sides. The one that applies to most merchants is customizability. Besides other options, LiveCart has a feature called Live Customization mode that allows making changes to page design in WYSIWYG mode, point-and-click style. You can edit page templates directly from store pages, change translations, and there’s an important new addition that has just been released—CSS styling can be edited, tweaked and saved using the massively popular Firebug extension of Firefox. This set of tools really speeds up design customization tasks.”
“Our clients like the AJAX-ified admin backend, which offers a desktop application experience. Complete page reloads are only necessary when switching between distinct admin backend sections, which helps to improve the admin users workflow efficiency. Another standout capability is internationalization. LiveCart is especially popular for multi-language stores as it makes multi-language content entry and management simple. And no more upgrade horror stories. All custom changes are separated in LiveCart, so version updates won’t break the design or functionality customizations.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Uzkalns: “Being a new cart, we still lack some features and extensions that our competitors offer like a built-in affiliate system and integration with accounting software like QuickBooks (though it is possible via third party software). Also, we have fewer payment processor integrations and ready-made design templates. However, we are catching up fast, releasing new versions with significant updates about every two months.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Uzkalns: “One of the key priorities is increasing the number of available integration options—payment processors, shipping services, accounting systems, data export feeds, etc. We’re also looking forward to improving the performance and scalability of LiveCart, so it could be used to power extremely busy stores. Another priority we have been working towards since the latest release is improved business analysis features. We already have around 20 types of customizable reports by now.”
PeC: How specifically would using LiveCart improve a merchant’s business?
Uzkalns: “One of our largest merchants has mentioned around a 30 percent increase in sale after switching to LiveCart from a well-known commercial shopping cart solution. We have tried to improve the user experience both at the customer and admin sides. Browsing the product catalog and finding products is easy for customers, especially using the attribute-based layered navigation that allows to drill down the product list by manufacturer, price or product parameters. The checkout process does not explicitly require new customers to register, so completing an order is easier for first-time buyers. Also, LiveCart implements a powerful business rule engine, which allows merchants to set up custom pricing, discount schemes and promotions.”
“At the admin side, the heavy use of AJAX really speeds up the admin workflow. For example, the page-less data grids filter and sort data like product, order and customer information on the fly and to view the 1000th record just by scrolling down the grid. Opening an order or product for detailed modification doesn’t reload the page, so when you’re done with managing an order you can continue with the next one in the list right away. Lots of things are re-orderable simply by dragging and dropping (like product images). Overall, there are many small convenient things like these that add up as a whole.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers?
Uzkalns: “LiveCart also offers complete and automated data migration from five different shopping cart programs, so even if you’re already using another solution, you can possibly switch to LiveCart and still keep all the customer accounts and order history.”
The View of a Customer
PeC: What are LiveCart’s biggest strengths?
Halsey: “The quick loading of products, being able to ship to multiple addresses and how easy to change a template. I think you can develop some appealing stores, and this has improved my convergence rate. Being able to do the live WYSIWYG customization, you don’t have to know much code. “
“Also, there aren’t many bugs. Rinalds is extremely quick to get it taken care of if you find something. When I used other carts, they were so buggy I couldn’t get them to run half the time. What drew me to LiveCart is that there are maybe three bugs in an upgrade. Rinalds writes good code, and his support is second to none.”
PeC: What are some things it could improve?
Halsey: “To be honest, that’s kind of a tough one. Every time I see something I want fixed, Rinalds does it right away. One of the things I wanted fixed was that I had a problem with Google Checkout. On some servers the code would cause a problem. In less than a day and a half he took care of it for me. Also, when I first started with the cart, I was only able to upload 400 to 500 items at a time. He tweaked it, and now I can upload about 7,000.”
PeC: How specifically would using LiveCart improve a merchant’s business?
Halsey: “The thing that I think has helped my conversion rate is that the navigation is easy. You can put the attributes you want to sort your products in like color, price ranges, brand and style. You can’t get that on every cart. Some of the buyers have commented that it’s easy to get around the store because of that. It’s easy to add things and change the templates.”
PeC: Do you plan to continue using LiveCart? Why or why not?
Halsey: “Yes, I really like it. Depending on how many products you want, you can be up and running in an hour. With one of my stores, I did it in a day.”
PeC: Any other thoughts on shopping carts for our readers?
Halsey: “I think you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good cart with a lot of features. One thing that drew me to LiveCart was the price. I don’t mind telling you, I spent a fortune on other carts.”