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 Emily Dickinson, co-founder and CEO of ClearCart, a hosted shopping cart platform based in Portland, Ore. ClearCart takes a decidedly feminine approach to ecommerce, and, according to Dickinson, roughly 80 percent of ClearCart users are women.
We’ll also hear from a ClearCart customer, Carolyn Coghlan of Carol’s Rose Garden, LLC.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Emily Dickinson: “Released in June 2005, ClearCart is designed by and for women. It is a hosted-only, fully supported and managed PHP/MySQL shopping cart. Our vision is to provide and support an ecommerce solution that people love, especially women.”
PeC: How much does the cart cost?
Dickinson: “$250 setup, and $100 per month. The monthly fee covers the hosting of the cart, [round-the-clock] support, and upgrades.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Dickinson: “ClearCart stands out because of its clear, elegant, feminine design. The appeal to women is deliberate.
“We steer clear of fancy graphics, and focus instead on making [the shopping] experience clear and straightforward. Customers will know how to login, how to create an account, and how to checkout, because the cart is designed to be consistent and straightforward.
“The attention to design is also carried over into the administrative area. Regardless of your computer background, you will find that modifying your catalog, adding or removing photographs, or configuring payment options for your customers, are all simple and easy to do.
“Another strength is in our support. We work with merchants who make $300 per month and others who make $100,000 per month; but we treat every customer alike, providing quick, intelligent, and respectful support. We’re also committed to keeping the cart 100 percent functional, 100 percent of the time.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Dickinson: “ClearCart’s biggest drawback is that we do not provide the PHP/MySQL source code for more advanced users. This was a strategic decision we made early in the life of our company. By hosting the cart ourselves, we’re able to focus on continual development and support for our existing customers.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Dickinson: “Some of the features in the pipeline include more reports; oodles of plug-ins, including a fan club plug-in to make it simple for you to display your customer’s testimonials on any page of your site; integration with Digital Resources Group’s PCI Compliance tool; and a more seamless integration with WordPress, the popular blogging tool.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Dickinson: “Our merchants tell us all that time that ClearCart is easier to manage, more flexible, and easier for their customers to use. Amazingly enough, many [merchants have said] they switched to ClearCart because they simply could not take orders, could not manage shipping, could not reach their vendor by phone or email, or could not do something as simple as print out an invoice using their former system.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Dickinson: “Your choice of shopping cart solutions is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. When you call our sales desk, our goal is to help you find the solution that works for your business, even if it’s not ClearCart. We believe in win-win.
“ClearCart is a robust platform that excels at selling products where the presentation is a crucial aspect of the sales process. Products less suitable for ClearCart are ones with a high degree of configuration, such as custom computer setups. There are also better solutions if you are exclusively selling music.”
A Customer’s View
Carolyn Coghlan is the ecommerce marketing coordinator for Carol’s Rose Garden, LLC, a provider of stationery, scrapbook kits and gift products made exclusively by Carol Wilson Fine Arts Inc. Coghlan provides her comments and opinions about ClearCart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using ClearCart?
Carolyn Coghlan: “Since June 2006.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Coghlan: “We chose ClearCart primarily for its sophisticated design, its customizing abilities, and its ease of use. The appearance of our ecommerce site is of paramount importance in presenting the image of our company and our products in a design-sensitive way. We were able to easily customize the look of the cart and modify the appearance of our store using the ClearCart administrative area.
“Most of all, we are impressed with ClearCart’s attentiveness in terms of answering our questions for technical support. Their help desk is available 24/7, and whenever things come up, our emails are answered within minutes. They are always professional and cheerful in their replies, which really makes a difference.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Coghlan: “My number one complaint is that there is so much in the administration area, it can be difficult to find what you need. The cart has lots of features—even cool features we hadn’t even thought to ask about when we were first shopping for a shopping cart—but the trouble is that it can be hard to find them.”
PeC: How would this cart improve another merchant’s business?
Coghlan: “Whether you like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover—or a website by its home page. I’ve heard you have about five seconds to get someone’s attention on your home page before they click away. Visit our website and you’ll notice such a difference in comparison to other stationery web sites. [There is] a sense of calm emanating from the uncluttered, simple design of the cart. In short, the attractiveness of the presentation could benefit another merchant’s business because it means more people will stay on your site once they find it.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Coghlan: “Absolutely, yes. We’ve been with ClearCart for three years, which is probably the equivalent of a decade in Internet time. There are free and super cheap options out there, but we know from years in business that you get what you pay for. $100 per month is a pittance to pay for something this beautiful and easy to use, that grows as we grow, and that comes with such friendly and intelligent support backing it up.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Coghlan: “The sheer number of features in the cart is actually a bit daunting, but it’s worked out to our advantage that we are using a cart with so many features, and which is constantly being improved.
“Whatever cart you choose, be sure it’s backed by good customer support. We’ve all slept better at night knowing the ClearCart staff is always ‘on it’ 24/7.”
Other ClearCart Sites
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