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 Steffan Klein, CEO and co-founder of ShopFactory, an ecommerce platform produced by 3d3.com. More than 229,000 shops have been created with ShopFactory, according to company personnel, and more than 100 million people visit ShopFactory shops every month.
We’ll also hear from a ShopFactory customer, Bob Parsons, vice president of ORE-Office Resources and Equipment located in Ajax, Ontario, Canada.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Steffan Klein: “ShopFactory has been designed to make ecommerce fast and easy for non-programmers. ShopFactory has been continuously developed since 1995, and it is currently in use all around the world. It is even distributed by the International Finance Corporation, a division of the World Bank, to help establish ecommerce in developed countries.”
PeC: Where is your company located?
Klein: “We have several offices all over the world including in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and France. Our head office is located in Australia.”
PeC: Is the cart hosted, licensed, or both?
Klein: “Licensed. ShopFactory is a Windows-based editor you maintain your store with. It also has some additional hosted secure services you can add to extend the functionality of your shop, including delivery of digital goods, reseller tracking and a few other secure hosted services.”
PeC: How much does the cart cost?
Klein: “The ShopFactory Total Care package ranges from $19.95 per month to $79.95 per month, depending on the number of products you have and the services you want to use. Total Care includes optional free hosting, URL, support, updates and upgrades to the latest version. You can also buy a license outright for $999.00.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Klein: “ShopFactory allows shop owners to build and maintain their shops on their own computers, and hosts the order management online in a PCI-compliant environment for improved security. Building a shop on your own computer is much faster.
“And because ShopFactory uses a client-side shopping cart (a technology similar to the solutions provided by Google), it is also considerably faster for customers to make an order. A faster ordering process, of course, means more sales.
“The hosted order management also adds many extra ecommerce functions, including services such as selling event tickets, setting up a network reseller scheme or tracking advertising expenditure.
“Another strength of ShopFactory is its ability to create search engine-friendly shops out of the box, with many users achieving top rankings in search engines.
“And, while ShopFactory has one of the biggest ranges of functions available in an ecommerce product, it is so easy to use that even a beginner can use it to start selling on the Internet.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Klein: “If you buy ShopFactory outright, you do not get the services which come with the hosted Total Care solution.
“Also, to start using ShopFactory you have to download the shop building component first from the Internet and install it on your computer. This means you can’t start straight away. On the plus side you will be able to build your shop much faster, once the software is installed.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Klein: “All our development is based on market needs and research. As the market changes we react by improving, developing and implementing new features on a regular and ongoing basis. Our current development plans are to provide support for a broader range of new platforms including mobile phones. Another development focus is on more after-sales order management tools and customer relationship management (CRM) features.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Klein: “With ShopFactory you can build and maintain your shop on your own computer, which saves a lot of time. When you are done you can publish the changes, and your workflow is not being constantly interrupted.
“If you already have a shop builder that builds shops on your own computer, [it will most likely] contain many ecommerce functions which require a hosted solution. As ShopFactory combines the advantages of building a shop on your computer with the advantages of hosted services, you gain access to many more ecommerce functions.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Klein: “There is a huge number of ecommerce solutions out there, and it can be an exhausting and frustrating process to figure out what is best for your needs. We have developed ShopFactory with the aim to make it as easy as possible for a do-it-yourself shop owner.
ShopFactory has been developed and proven itself longer than just about any ecommerce solution on the market. We offer a free trial version which can demonstrate the advantages of our dual approach.”
A Customer’s View
Bob Parsons is vice president of ORE-Office Resources and Equipment, an online store that sells high-end office equipment, including paper shredders, paper folding equipment, telephone systems, and other specialized office equipment. ORE grosses more than $500,000 annually, and Parsons offers his opinions and comments about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using the cart?
Bob Parsons: “Since 2004.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Parsons “Ease of use and quick check-out. It is really simple and easy to set up and make changes to our live site within a few minutes. Many of the features we don’t use, but it’s great to have them available when we do need them. We can activate a feature within seconds, without downloading modules or fussing with code.
We always look at our site from a customer’s perspective, as that is the most important thing in making a sale. ShopFactory has met our requirements over and over again.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Parsons “Themes and templates are sometimes an issue, but if you have some advanced HTML and CSS experience, you can create pretty much any design you want.”
PeC: How would this cart improve another merchant’s business?
Parsons “We have grown from start-up with this business, and ShopFactory has made that all possible. We find that we can focus on marketing and selling offline more, and with the search engine tools in ShopFactory, we simply spend less time updating our site than we have with other solutions we have considered.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Parsons “Yes. We can foresee our business continuing to grow for the next ten or more years using this cart.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Parsons “Learn to use the features and tools ShopFactory has included in the software. Also, do some research on search engine optimization and online marketing. This solution has all you need to get a site up and going, and to grow with. Like any other business tool, if you use it properly, you will benefit from it greatly.”