There are more than 350 online shopping carts. And each week we feature one, interviewing both the cart’s developer and a customer. “Cart of the Week” is not a review or an evaluation, but rather an opportunity to learn about a shopping cart from the people who build it and use it.
This week, we’ll hear from Alex Vinokurov, chief visionary officer for Simbirsk Technologies Ltd., a software manufacturer based in Ulyanovsk, Russia. The company sells CS-Cart shopping cart software, and, according to Vinokurov, there are currently more than 7,000 CS-Cart-based online shops in operation worldwide.
We’ll also hear the views of David Finley, CEO and founder of World Net Enterprises Inc., a CS-Cart user.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Vinokurov: “CS-Cart is a PHP/MySQL shopping cart software with modular architecture and template-driven design. The first version was released in 2005, and now we’ve grown to version 2.0, with updates taking place regularly. We also provide a whole set of accompanying services, including technical support, installation, web design and custom programming.”
PeC: Is the cart hosted, licensed, or both?
Vinokurov: “It is licensed along with the full source code, and we maintain a list of recommended hosting companies.”
PeC: How much does the cart cost?
Vinokurov: “A license for CS-Cart software costs $265 U.S., and additional licenses are $165 each. Lower pricing ($100-$135 U.S.) is available for resellers. Each license comes with a technical support package and a one-year period of free access to software updates, after which license holders can purchase an extra subscription plan.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Vinokurov: “The CS-Cart makes it possible for users to move forward from simple to complex [designs]. The initial setup is quite easy, so the CS-Cart is fine even for novices. However, CS-Cart software also has a large number of built-in features, including AJAX-based interface elements, one-page checkout, SMS [short message service] notifications, and block manager software, just to name a few. The architecture allows users to modify the cart’s functionality on a modular basis, without interfering with the existing source code and avoiding many common upgrade issues.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Vinokurov: “A number of built-in third-party integrations are yet to be developed. Amazon Payments is probably the most demanded example. Also, the selection of third-party skins, modules and services is still quite limited, and we need to build a stronger developer community. Finally, we do not yet offer a hosted version.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Vinokurov: “Some noteworthy improvements on our road map are to include performance optimization for highly-loaded and large (more than 100,000 items) online stores, advanced product sorting and appearance options, support for recurring billing, and Google Translate integration.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Vinokurov: “First of all, our license is very affordable and the software includes a wide range of features which other carts may not have. Each license includes access to all skins (we add new ones regularly) and modules.
“Secondly, due to its flexible customization mechanism and simple upgrade procedure, upgrades to the CS-Cart software do not require users to rebuild everything from scratch or perform re-implementations.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are ecommerce merchants?
Vinokurov: “Choosing shopping cart software is one of key steps for an online merchant. Try to pick a suitable platform that is able to grow along with your business, right from the start. Also, choose a vendor that will provide a helping hand and expert technical assistance in a friendly manner.”
A Customer’s View
David Finley is CEO and founder of World Net Enterprises Inc., in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The company’s website promotes online sales of more than a million products, with an approximate annual revenue of $800,000. World Net Enterprises currently holds seven CS-Cart licenses, and products sold range from security cameras at WNENannyCam to vacuum cleaners at VacSite. Finley offers his views and opinions on CS-Cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using CS-Cart?
Finley: “We purchased our first CS-Cart license nearly three years ago.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Finley: “The courteous, professional and efficient staff is one of the biggest strengths the CS-Cart has. No matter what the question or request, the staff is always swift to assist.
“Additionally, the many add-ons that can be enabled with the click of a button are a big plus, including bestsellers, comments and reviews, customers also bought, gift certificates, gift registry, and live help. Also, the cart loads quickly, even when all the add-ons and tables are enabled.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Finley: “There is one needed change that could benefit all users who offer a large number of products. To explain, the cart currently positions links on the left side of the page only, and we prefer a top link bar that includes main categories and first level subcategories, then the remaining subcategories positioned on the left side. We paid the CS-Cart custom development staff to install a top link bar to our specifications on all our websites, but the newest version of the cart still positions all category links on the left. We also had them add the ability to import product cost and calculate bottom line profit reports, but these features are still not included in the newest version of the cart.”
PeC: How would this cart improve another merchant’s business?
Finley: “Although many businesses only offer a small number of products, utilizing a cart that has the appearance and options offered by large, well-known shopping sites is a must. Instilling confidence in your business is an essential ingredient for success.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Finley: “Yes. We plan to possibly add as many as 15 additional CS-Cart shopping sites.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Finley: “When we purchased our first CS-Cart license, we weren’t sure about the efficiency of working with a company located half way around the world. We have found this not to be a hindrance in the least. We simply submit tickets by the close of our business day, only to find a response waiting for us at the start of the next business day.”