There are more than 500 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 Karen Snyder, president and CEO of PDG Software of Tucker, Georgia. The company has sold its PDG Commerce shopping cart program to roughly 12,000 users since its public release in 1997.
We’ll also hear from a PDG Commerce user, Zack King, web designer and developer for Klean Kanteen.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Karen Snyder: “The first version of the shopping cart was written for my father-in-law in 1996. He owned a textile manufacturing business and wanted to sell his seconds and over-runs online. I had attempted to set him up an online store using the ‘carts’ that were available at the time. It was impossible without a programming background. So my husband, David, wrote the first version to be very merchant-friendly so we would not get stuck answering a thousand questions from his father.
“In the summer of 1997, we took the plunge and started PDG Software. Over the years we have focused on meeting the needs that our customers bring to us. One of the big areas we saw as a problem for the merchants was data management. If you already have the information in one location, it is a real waste of time to re-key it into another program. This paved the way for PDG Commerce’s integrations with companies like UPS and QuickBooks.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
PeC: How much does PDG Commerce cost?
Snyder: “Pricing for a lifetime license ranges between $599 and $1,799, depending on the number of items a merchant is selling within their storefront and various optional services the merchant may choose to include.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Snyder: “We’ve always considered the security of our merchants’ data, and that of their customers, very seriously. PGP/GPG encryption of all sensitive customer data has been available in all PDG Software products for many years, as well as compatibility with all major SSL certificate brands. More recently, we were pleased to become certified to the PCI Council’s PCI PA-DSS (Payment Application Data Security Standards).” [Editor’s Note: Practical eCommerce has verified that PDG Software is named on PCI Security Standards Council’s list of validated payment applications.]
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Snyder: “One of the biggest strengths is that the software is a culmination of over 12 years of real-world merchant feedback. While we’ve initiated many developments based on our own thoughts of doing business online, nothing compares to the feedback we’ve received from thousands of merchants using PDG, such as UPS Online Tools for ecommerce merchants and real-time synchronization for Intuit’s QuickBooks and QuickBooks Point of Sale products.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Snyder: “Many web developers have demonstrated a preference for developing in PHP and other interpretive languages. PDG’s core system, however, was developed in ANSI C and utilizes standard HTML templating. As a result, we have not always offered a convenient bridge for developers constructing other portions of the site in PHP. We’ve since added support for an include system that allows these developers to embed their existing coding into PDG’s HTML based templates. However we’re still looking into other methods of enabling a more seamless integration with PHP developed sites, especially those utilizing popular content management systems such as Joomla and WordPress.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Snyder: “Although our merchants have the luxury of building their own template sets, we look forward to offering more ‘market ready’ templates for merchants that are not proficient with HTML and/or don’t have a web designer that they work with.”
“We’re also continuing to work on expanded marketing capabilities that will allow merchants to increase conversion rates with their existing visitors and help simplify the process of marketing additional products/services to their previous customers via newsletter/email marketing services.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Snyder: “The PCI PA-DSS certification offered with PDG Commerce will be critical for merchants as service providers begin enforcing the mandates issued by the major card brands. Starting with a secure application greatly simplifies the process of merchants becoming and maintaining full PCI DSS compliance and can help ensure their continued ability to process credit card transactions.
“Also, the seamless integration of PDG with Intuit’s QuickBooks and QuickBooks Point of Sale have saved some of our merchants tens of thousands of dollars by eliminating unnecessary duplicate entry, and have helped avoid costly errors that impact customer service and brand loyalty.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Snyder: “Look for your niche and serve it well. With the impact of social media on ecommerce, customer service plays as important a part, if not more important, than it ever has before. A single user’s tweet or Facebook post has the potential of making thousands of potential customers aware of your products/brand, and can also alert them to the extreme level of customer service that you bring to your customers.”
A Customer’s View
Zack King is web designer and developer for Klean Kanteen, a company based in Chico, Calif. that sells eco-friendly stainless steel water bottles and accessories. Klean Kanteen has around 120 SKUs on its website and it processes approximately 50,000 transactions annually via the PDG Commerce shopping cart. King provides his comments and opinions about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using PDG Commerce?
Zach King: “A little over one year. We chose it because of its integration with QuickBooks and we wanted to upgrade the existing cart at the time.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
King: “The support team. Also, the ease of customization, order processing functions, and the administration interface.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
King: “It could provide better gift certificates, better coupons/discount options, stronger documentation, and more out-of-the-box advanced features, like user login/accounts, and email notification formats.”
PeC: How would PDG Commerce improve another merchant’s business?
King: “It has quick integration with QuickBooks, and the cart is easy to setup, launch and install.
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
King: “Yes, in the foreseeable future. We have done lots of work with custom templates and scripts, and we recently performed an integration with Sage MAS accounting system (after leaving QuickBooks).”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
King: “It has a wonderful support team with great technical knowledge, and the ability to address all the scenarios and challenges we have thrown at them. We have done a lot of custom things with the cart, and gotten some great help from PDG in implementation, debugging, and troubleshooting issues. It is a topnotch company with a quick support response.
“The cart has all of the basic functions you would expect, and once you talk to a few people at PDG, and get all the tags and options available, you can do a lot with the software. There are some limitations, but I have yet to find a cart that doesn’t have some.”