Design & Development

Cart of the Week: AspDotNetStorefront

Practical eCommerce counts over 300 different shopping cart systems. In this ongoing “Cart of the Week” feature, we profile a specific cart, asking the cart’s owners and users about its strengths and weaknesses.

Here we profile AspDotNetStorefront’s ML shopping cart. We asked COO and Executive Vice President Dan Van Kuren to explain the benefits of the cart. We then asked CEO Dana Greaves of Vortx, Inc., a development company that uses AspDotNetStorefront to build online stores, to also evaluate the cart.

PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.

Dan
Van Kuren:AspDotNetStorefront ML is the premier shopping cart for Microsoft’s ASP.NET Platform and has been used by more than 10,000 merchants and 6,000 developers since it became commercially available in 2003. Unlike many other ASP.NET-based and open source shopping cart solutions, AspDotNetStorefront ML is Visa PABP (now PA-DSS) certified, assuring customers that we comply with stringent security and development practices. As a licensed cart solution, merchants aren’t locked into contracts or revenue sharing arrangements, and developers have the option of purchasing full source code to extend the feature set to suit specific business requirements. Version 8.0 is available in four flavors (ML/Express, ML, ML/64, and ML/DNN for the DotNetNuke content management system), starts at $695, has full support for .NET 3.5, IIS7 and SQL 2008, and is available in both 32- and 64-bit versions.”

PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?

Van Kuren: “The security, features, extensibility, and performance of the application are its biggest assets. We take security very seriously, including compliance with Visa PABP [Payment Application Best Practices] mandates as well as undergoing annual independent audits of our security measures and processes. We also perform regular scans of our software and undergo internal code reviews to ensure our developers follow well-defined secure coding practices. ”

“The cart (a) includes over 900 different configuration parameters that users can change to modify the behavior of the cart (b) supports over three dozen payment gateways (c) integrates with real-time shipping providers such as UPS, FedEx and USPS out of the box, and (d) includes content management features that allow users to build an entire site instead of just a store. We also have great SEO/SEM features, such as the ability to set keywords and descriptions on individual pages, static URLs, Google, Yahoo!, and ROR [Resources of a Resource] site map integration, and support for generating product feeds for comparison shopping engine submission. ”

“The application is appropriate for large deployments, and yet lightweight enough to function in most shared hosting environments. We even support cloud-hosting providers such as Rackspace’s Mosso. ”

PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?

Van Kuren: “Whenever you support as many features as we do, there is always a bit of a learning curve that needs to be overcome. It is by no means insurmountable, but AspDotNetStorefront was developed as a tool for serious merchants. We do offer an Express version that is more suited to smaller stores with fewer than 500 products, but if you are only selling a couple of products or have very low order volume, then AspDotNetStorefront is probably overkill. ”

PeC: What plans to you have for future cart development?

PeC: “Notable features in future releases include integrated blog support, a pluggable shipping, payment, and tax provider interface, multi-lingual and multi-currency enhancements, user-defined URL generation rules to facilitate easily moving from a competing shopping cart without losing your URL structure, and a more powerful reporting engine. ”

“Also coming is something we like to call ERPS [ERP Synchronization Specification], which is a set of standard contracts, add-in interfaces, event notifications, and web services that allow developers to integrate AspDotNetStorefront ML with basically any back-end accounting or ERP application without ever touching a single line of our code.”

PeC: How specifically would using AspDotNetStorefront improve a merchant’s business?

Van Kuren: “AspDotNetStorefront provides ultimate flexibility for developers and couples it with thousands of features configurable via an easy-to-use web-based administration console for merchants. And, because we don’t charge monthly or transaction-based fees that erode margins, our merchants can be more competitive while achieving higher profitability. ”

“Finally, its SEO capabilities allow many of our customers to achieve first page Google rankings using nothing but our built in SEO features to publish their own content. ”

PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers?

Van Kuren: “Whether you are looking for an out-of-the-box solution, or a platform to use as the basis for extensive modification, AspDotNetStorefront can meet the needs of nearly all merchants and developers. ”

The View of a Customer

Dana Greaves, CEO of Ashland, OR-based development company Vortx, Inc., said his company has used AspDotNetStorefront to design nearly 200 sites.

PeC: What are AspDotNetStorefront’s biggest strengths?

Dana Greaves
Greaves: “The significant feature set. We believe every client has three objectives: increasing the flow of targeted traffic, maximizing the potential to convert browsers into shoppers, and increasing the lifetime value of the shopper. The beauty of AspDotNetStorefront is that it is very effective in terms of organic SEO. It also comes with a mail manager, up-sell promotion, coupons and everything you can do to bring customers back again. The cart includes WYSIWYG editors, but it also provides very deep and comprehensive administrative tools. ”

PeC: What are some things it could improve?

Greaves: “The cart is built for DotNet developers, but if I were a complete non-techie store owner, it might be more difficult.”

PeC: How specifically would using AspDotNetStorefront improve a merchant’s business?

Greaves: “It’s a great first cart and a great cart to migrate to. It brings significant opportunities for growth. While I think it’s a cart intended for developers, the admin allows most users to really use it well. All data is at the storeowner’s fingertips. It helps to have a developer on hand, but the out of the box capabilities around information architecture and content management system are enormously valuable for the end user. ”

PeC: Do you plan to continue using AspDotNetStorefront? Why or why not?

Greaves: “Absolutely. We’re really looking forward to the next significant version that will come out probably at the end of this year.”

PeC: Any other thoughts on shopping carts for our readers?

Greaves: “We want a cart that keeps clients from coming back to us for every small change, and AspDotNetStorefront is a great cart for that. We take clients every week that are moving away from their first cart because it doesn’t give them the independence they need. They’ve got to have a platform that allows them to create fresh content.”

AspDotNetStorefront Sites

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

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