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 Michael Rodriguez, president and owner of Adventure Hosting Inc., developers of the ecommerce platform known as Shop a la Cart. The Miami, Fla.-based software company serves around 650 online merchants, with many running multiple installations under different domains.
We’ll also hear from a cart user, Martin G. Katz. He is president and founder of Largo Cargo, an online store based in Key Largo, Fla.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Michael Rodriguez: “The first version was released in April 2005. Its development began because of high demand from our Adventure Hosting clients for an easy-to-use, fast ecommerce system that could be fully customized and integrated with their existing websites.
“It began as a very slim, no-frills shopping cart system with full attention paid to making the checkout process simple and uncomplicated. That same concept was applied to the management of the cart, allowing administrators to use the system without having to reference a manual or technical dictionary–everything was added in layman’s terms.
“Since its launching, Shop a la Cart has seen many upgrades and revisions to make it more powerful to use, but our developers have always kept in mind simplicity as the core of each upgrade. Every new version includes only updates requested by users of the system, and we keep out any complicated, unused features that might crowd up the management system or storefront.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
Rodriguez: “It is licensed on a monthly or yearly basis, and it is hosted on our own servers.”
PeC: How much does Shop a la Cart cost?
Rodriguez: “A license costs $95 per month or $995 per year.”
PeC: What are you doing to make the cart PCI compliant?
Rodriguez: “Shop a la Cart is compliant with every one of the payment card industry DSS standards, but we are not registered with them due to the $2,500 membership fee. The system has a 128-bit SSL certificate installed for each site, always transmits credit card and customer’s personal information securely and protects this information by storing it securely in an encrypted format. Our servers are also fully secured and protected, and are regularly tested and monitored.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Rodriguez: “Shop a la Cart was developed at all levels with the end user in mind, which makes setting up and maintaining an ecommerce website very easy. No manual is needed to get started or to build and grow a profitable storefront.
“Installation and integration into the design of your choice is taken care of by our staff. Customer support is always available by phone or by email at no extra charge. Finally, if a customer suggests a useful feature, the staff listens to every request, and we add most of them to the next upcoming version of the cart.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Rodriguez: “Because features are added by request only, some merchants may find the current set of features lacking. For instance, some other carts support more than a dozen different authorized payment gateways, but Shop a la Cart currently integrates with only two (with additional support for manual processing of payments). However, the low feature-set provides for speed and ease-of-use, which is what our customers demand.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Rodriguez: “New versions of Shop a la Cart are added once every two or three months. It is currently under a major revision that incorporates Web 2.0 into every facet of the system. Along with speeding up the system greatly, Web 2.0 will provide for an even more intuitive and streamlined interface for customers and administrators alike. And, as always, more new features requested by our customers are also planned.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Rodriguez: “If you are happy with your current shopping cart system, stay with it. But, if your current system feels too sluggish, overly complicated, or the staff takes too much time to get back to you for support and won’t listen to your requests for new features, we invite to you to try Shop a la Cart. We will make your switch to Shop a la Cart as painless as possible; we can incorporate your existing design if you wish, and move your data over to Shop a la Cart at no extra charge.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Rodriguez: “See for yourself how Shop a la Cart compares to other ecommerce systems on the market today.”
A Customer’s View
Martin G. Katz is a long-time user of Shop a la Cart. His online store, Largo Cargo, sells beach apparel, sunglasses, recipe books, and collectables that promote the Florida Keys lifestyle, with annual gross revenue around $900,000. Katz provides his comments and opinions about Shop a la Cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using Shop a la Cart?
Martin Katz: “More than four years.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Katz: “The system is easy to use for a retailer and it has been built from a retailer’s point of view. It is set up for a size and color matrix, and the system allows for up-charges. For example, you can tell the system to add $2.00 for an extra-extra large sized T-shirt. Of particular value is the ability to do ‘case pack’ pricing.
“Other features I like are that customers are notified that their orders have been placed and tracking numbers are automatically sent; customers do not have to establish a login to peruse the site, making it very customer friendly; and I especially like the technical support. Also the graphs let you instantly see how your business is doing.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Katz: “I can’t think of anything. Shop a la Cart does good job in updates and improvements.”
PeC: How would Shop a la Cart improve another merchant’s business?
Katz: “It could vastly improve your business if you plan to jump from just a brick-and-mortar store to Internet retail. Revenues have increased for us; in fact, the web business is currently more than 30 percent of our sales. It has been a lifesaver in this market. We are a tourist-based business, and our Shop a la Cart store is keeping us ahead of the competition, many of which are in trouble or have already closed.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Katz: “Yes. Absolutely.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Katz: “A website is work. You do have to be able to add products, make changes, be creative, and learn the ins and outs of shipping. However, your retail potential is limited only by your own creativity. I would recommend the Shop a la Cart system to any retailer planning to launch an online presence.”