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 Matthew Stanigar, vice president of e-business solutions for J Street Technology. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company is the maker of CartGenie, a hosted ecommerce solution with approximately 300 users.
We’ll also hear from CartGenie user Jeremy McKinley, director of advertising and promotions for Gregg’s Cycle Inc.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Matthew Stanigar: “CartGenie is a complete storefront solution rather than just a cart. From the moment a merchant gets started, they’re looking at a fully-functional, hosted storefront.
“Our primary customers are small to mid-sized merchants, and the person managing the store is generally non-technical. Our administration tool makes it easy for merchants to take full control without needing to hire a web designer or developer. Our primary goal is to provide as much functionality to the non-technical user as possible, but also leave enough flexibility in the architecture so that if a designer wants to get in and go further they can.”
PeC: How much does the cart cost?
Stanigar: “There are three versions of CartGenie, all hosted options. The pricing is currently $39.99 for the Standard version, $59.99 for the Pro version, and $79.99 for the Enterprise edition. Monthly fees include the software, hosting, upgrades, and support.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Stanigar: “Ease of use is by far our greatest strength. We’re one of the few companies to offer a desktop application as the admin tool. For a non-technical business owner who is used to using desktop applications like QuickBooks, this is one of the most important reasons to choose CartGenie.
“We include lots of the same features as our competitors, but we also have unique functionality like allowing shoppers to create side-by-side product comparisons. We also focus on integration so that merchants can send orders to QuickBooks or configure CartGenie to automatically pull quantity-on-hand and pricing data from their primary point of sale system.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Stanigar: “If you’re looking for something with ultra customization capability, then we’re probably not the best solution. There is a lot that you can do to customize the appearance of the storefront but there are definitely limitations. We’re looking for ways to support deeper levels of customization, but it’s tricky to do that at our price point.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Stanigar: “We’ve got two new tools coming out before the end of 2009. The first is called CartGenie Virtual Terminal, which is a web-based, mini point-of-sale. It’ll be really helpful for phone orders, as well as sales reps out in the field who need to enter wholesale orders for customers, and for merchants who display at trade shows and want to enter an order.
“The second tool is CartGenie Order Exchange, which is an API [application programming interface] that allows other systems to retrieve orders from CartGenie. You can use it to pull an order into your primary point-of-sale, process the order, and then call the API again to update the database.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Stanigar: “The vast majority of our customers are non-technical business managers and owners, and our admin tool makes daily management very easy for them. That is by far the most important part of selling online because, once the site is up and design is done, it’s all about how fast can we process orders and manage products.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Stanigar: “Focus on developing a niche for yourself instead of trying to be all things to all people. Our most successful customers are the ones who specialize and know their niche inside and out. They don’t necessarily have the flashy site, but they have great product selection, good content, great product photos, and very competitive pricing. They’re also good at developing community ties through a blog or by providing e-newsletters so that shoppers remember them.”
A Customer’s View
Jeremy McKinley is director of advertising and promotions for Gregg’s Cycle Inc, a seller of bicycle parts, accessories and clothing located in Seattle, Wash. Gregg’s Cycle grosses approximately $10 million to $15 million annually. McKinley offers his comments and opinions on CartGenie below.
PeC: How long has your company been using CartGenie?
Jeremy McKinley: “Since 2001.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
McKinley: “The biggest strengths have to do with the adaptability and ease of use of the system. For a business our size, any tool that we use has to be easy to use because there isn’t always a lot of time for all the jobs that need to get done. I need to be able to get in, update the site and get out easily, so that I can get on to the other things on my list.
“We also need our tools to be flexible. The way that J Street Technology has built CartGenie lets us customize our site and cart in ways that work best for us.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
McKinley: “One of the ways that CartGenie could be improved is by allowing the user to fine tune the reporting features.”
PeC: How would this cart improve another merchant’s business?
McKinley: “By making the management of his or her website faster and easier.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
McKinley: “Integration between our point-of-sale system and website is very important to us because a lot of customers go to our site before they come into one of our [bricks-and-mortar] stores. We have thousands of items and operate three stores. CartGenie pulls the data from our POS daily so that customers can check pricing and stock availability anytime they want. This link between the site and the POS is one of the most important parts of our online presence because it really helps our customers and saves us a lot of work.”