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 built it and use it.
This week, we’ll hear from Paolo Sidoli, chief technology officer of KonaKart, a licensed shopping cart based in Milton Keynes, U.K. The cart’s founders spent three years developing KonaKart to suit medium to large size companies that prefer to use Java-based technology. The first edition of the KonaKart software was released in 2007, and its community edition has many hundreds of users, according to Sidoli.
We’ll also hear the views of Lee Burton, chief information officer of Sounds True Inc., a KonaKart customer.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Sidoli: “In 2004, the KonaKart founders began to create an affordable Java-based ecommerce software solution. Our goal was to provide all of the necessary characteristics for our target customers, and to use the Internet for marketing and sales in order to cut costs and maximize our development budget. The business model we use is to sign up and support implementation partners who have direct contact with the merchant companies using our cart.”
PeC: How much does KonaKart cost?
Sidoli: “The community edition is free and it can be downloaded without registering. We also offer Enterprise Extensions (with features such as multi-store and fast indexed searching for large catalogs) for a one-time fee of £3,000 [$4,958 U.S.] plus £1,000 [$1,652 U.S.] for each additional production server. Support packages are also available.”
PeC: Does your company provide hosting services?
Sidoli: “No, but the KonaKart software can be hosted by [hosting companies] that can support Java.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Sidoli: “Its robust Java technology performs and scales very well, making it a good choice for enterprise systems. KonaKart also supports many database [types], so companies aren’t forced to learn how to manage and maintain yet another [type] of database.
“Another strength is that all storefront and administration functionality is available through a set of APIs [application programming interfaces] which can be Java or SOAP [simple object access protocol]. This allows customers to make major customizations to the storefront application while retaining the ability to easily upgrade to the latest version of KonaKart. It also enables us to easily integrate KonaKart with content management systems, portals, and back-end systems.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Sidoli: “It isn’t 100 percent open source, although we revisit this decision at least once a year and may change in the future. For now, we do sell the full source [code] or make it available under an escrow agreement.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Sidoli: “Our road map includes many new front-end features such as gift registries and dynamic multi-currency. We will also shortly be introducing an integrated batch scheduler, improved multi-store functionality, and tighter integration with Liferay [an open source enterprise portal].”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Sidoli: “This depends on a number of factors, and can only be answered after interviewing the merchant to understand his or her requirements. We have a section on our website to help people decide whether they should consider KonaKart.
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are ecommerce merchants?
Sidoli: We aren’t an ideal solution for a small merchant who is considering a pre-configured hosted solution or a PHP solution that can be quickly [created] on a very tight budget. However, if you are setting up a store that will need to cope with a heavy traffic load and a large product catalog that will require a unique storefront, then you should consider KonaKart.”
A Customer’s View
Lee Burton is the CIO of Sounds True Inc., located in Louisville, Colorado, an online publisher with an approximate annual revenue of $15 million. Burton’s company uses KonaKart to sell spoken word audio, books, music, online courses, retreats, and live webcasting events, as well as a number of miscellaneous items relating to spirituality. Burton offers his opinions and comments about KonaKart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using KonaKart?
Burton: “Seven months.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Burton: “It can handle non-logged in users and also will maintain a user’s cart even if they abandon it and come back later. Also, since it is open source, it can be heavily customized, which we have done. (We rewrote the checkout flow to fit all on one page.)
“And, although our products are sold in both hard form and in digital, downloadable formats, the KonaKart software allows users to search for both hard goods and soft goods simultaneously with collated results.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Burton: “Calculating order totals, taxes and shipping can be tricky at times, and some portions of the code’s Java interface could be re-written to simplify interacting with it.”
PeC: How would this cart improve another merchant’s business?
Burton: “For us, the ability to customize is vital. With KonaKart, you have a great starting point, and if you have some Java resources, you can greatly leverage the existing code and adapt it to your specific business needs.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Burton: “Yes, and we will continue to customize it to fit our needs. We are currently in a development project to integrate it with our ERP [enterprise resource planning] system so that orders from KonaKart get pushed directly into our ERP system using middleware messaging.
“We are also investigating the possibility of having KonaKart get tax, shipping, and coupon information directly from our ERP system, since it is the system of record for that data, rather than having to maintain it in two places.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning KonaKart?
Burton: “One of KonaKart’s biggest strengths is its level of support. [The staff is] very timely in getting back to customers with relevant answers, and will work closely with you to resolve a problem, getting senior management involved if necessary. They are a very customer-focused company.”