There are over 300 different shopping cart platforms. In our ongoing “Cart Of The Week” feature, we profile—but not evaluate—a specific shopping cart, asking about its strengths and weaknesses.
For this installment, we’ve profiled SearchFit, a hosted cart with offices in Carlsbad, California. Pricing for the cart currently runs from $99 per month to $499 per month, depending on the plan, with a 14-day free trial period. Tim Scott is the company’s director of ecommerce, and we asked him to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the cart. We then asked Ben Irwin for his evaluation of it. Irwin is IT manager with Americover, a SearchFit client.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Scott: The company has been providing Internet services since 1994. In 2004, we designed a custom solution for an ecommerce client and we’ve since developed a powerful ecommerce platform. With the idea that search engine optimization is the cornerstone of success for any Internet retailer, we have created and branded SearchFit to give merchants the optimal search engine optimization and online selling interface.
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Scott: Our two biggest strengths are a customer-friendly shopping experience and SEO functionalities. The platform was designed to allow consumers to search and buy products rapidly. They can use our Power Search features to search a fast dynamic product database, but we use static pages for product detail pages. This translates to less server space needed to support a large number of visitors at one time. Additionally, our clients can incorporate product reviews, product comparisons, and product search filters for faster and narrow searching. The main idea behind these features is to foster a community unique to a particular site.
The platform also incorporates automated search engine optimization features to stimulate greater online presence and search results positioning. Clients can customize and set each page’s meta information one time and the software will apply those rules throughout the site. This becomes extremely powerful when setting up SEO for a site with, say, 300,000 products.
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Scott: Our pricing. Our service level packages are priced and structured to accommodate customers with between 100 and 200,000 SKUs. At this point, we are not cost effective for companies or individuals who wish to offer a handful of products or who intend to only take a few orders per month. One other downside of SearchFit is its inability link into open-source sites such as Joomla or social networks like MySpace.
PeC: What plans to you have for future cart development?
Scott: We are always adding new features and improvements to existing functions. Without giving to much information to the competition, we can say that we are planning to launch the $1 plan, implement our own card-processing ability, and build modular cart programs. These plans are largely intended to accommodate even the smallest online retailers to foster their growth. We are expecting to launch this program in Q1 2009.
PeC: How specifically would using SearchFit improve a merchant’s business?
Scott: SearchFit can improve a merchant’s business by increasing its reach. Our focus is to boost traffic, increase conversion rates and drive revenue.
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers?
Scott: The SearchFit shopping cart platform offers a comprehensive and robust suite of services and functionality. We are committed to creating new and innovative features while providing outstanding customer support. We work closely with our customers to build successful websites that use the full capabilities of SearchFit.
The view of a SearchFit client
Ben Irwin is IT manager with Americover, a retailer and wholesaler of protective plastic sheeting for commercial and industrial applications. Americover.com has used SearchFit for approximately seven months, before which it used Zen Cart, a free, open-source cart. Americover paid SearchFit roughly $5,000 to design the cart, set it up and perform a SEO and market analysis. It now pays roughly $300 per month for the “Professional” version of it.
PeC: What are SearchFit’s biggest strengths?
Irwin: SEO capabilities, without a doubt. This cart is above all others in generating traffic to our site from search engine queries. SearchFit’s naming rules for each page are very effective. It automatically inserts relevant meta tags, and all pages are static (static .htm pages), as opposed to dynamic. Our search engine traffic has quadrupled since we’ve switched to SearchFit. Also, SearchFit has great integration with Google Analytics.
PeC: What are SearchFit’s biggest weaknesses?
Irwin: The weakness that we found was specific to us. Many of our shipments from online sales are quite heavy, up to 5,000 pounds in some instances. SearchFit’s initial shipping integration required us to choose exclusively freight, or not. Many of our shipments required freight shipping, but not all of them did. So, we paid SearchFit to write a script for us that allows the system to determine whether to ship with freight carriers or package carriers, such as UPS.
PeC: How can SearchFit help other ecommerce merchants?
Irwin: In addition to what I’ve said previously, we’ve found the software to be very hands-off. The cart pretty much runs itself, which requires minimal oversight from us. Also, we’ve found the staff of SearchFit to be very helpful. Usually, it’s the staff that responds to user forum queries, for example, which has helped us.
PeC: Do you plan any major changes or new developments in your use of SearchFit?
Irwin: We are planning to use SearchFit’s product filters to allow our customers to filter products by industry. Also, we plan on using the cart to test the popularity of certain products. We’ll do this by putting the products online and looking at sales and page views (via Google Analytics) to determine customer interest. If we see some sales and decent page views, we’ll ask our in-house sales team to offer them directly to construction companies and other clients.