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 Joel Otterstrom, co-founder and CEO of Veracart, a software development company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. According to Otterstrom, Veracart currently serves around 2,300 customers.
We’ll also hear from a Veracart user, Kamien E. Carter. She is product development manager for Flower Patch, a flower and gift shop based in Salt Lake City that uses the cart to process online sales.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Joel Otterstrom: “Back in 2002, my partner, Lee Hamblin, was laid off from his first computer job and he and I went on a vacation to my mother’s home in Spokane, Wash. My mom mentioned that she needed a way to sell her herbs online, and so Lee and I went to work programming an online shopping cart, and in January 2003 the first version of Veracart was born.
“Since its launch, Veracart has grown in features and complexity. The concept behind Veracart is to provide a shopping cart as a true SaaS [software as a service], allowing users to host their website on any host, but to have a powerful shopping cart on their site at the same time.”
PeC: Is the cart hosted, licensed, or both?
Otterstrom: “The cart is hosted on our server. Hosting of your website is included, but you are welcome to host your site on any web server platform independently.”
PeC: How much does Veracart cost?
Otterstrom: “Monthly plans begin at $24 for the small business version and $37 for small business plus real time shipping methods. Monthly fees are $67 for small business-to-business, and $87 for a version that has all the features of the cart plus search engine optimization.
“We also offer corporate plans that range from $229 to $649 per month. (As the price goes up so do the dedicated resources.)
“There are no transaction fees through the cart at any level.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Otterstrom: “We are currently compliant for the level of transactions our cart produces. We are performing self-audits and we have daily scans performed by SecurityMetrics.
“We are not currently on Visa’s global list of PCI DSS validated service providers, but we are working towards a full audit for level one compliance.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Otterstrom: “The platform is compatible with 95 percent of online website builders—GoDaddy, Network Solutions, and so on—you can use our shopping cart with most of them.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Otterstrom: “It is not open source. The code is not available to third party developers, however we do have a growing API [application programming interface] call.”
ListenListen to Joel Otterstrom discuss the beginnings of Veracart.
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Otterstrom: “We are currently working toward releasing version 4, which includes a huge push to help clients market their web stores.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
“It has a powerful, yet simple-to-use, product and order management system. We also offer an optional catalog builder to automatically and easily update products in seconds. Additionally, secure checkout (SSL) is included, saving the merchant in setup costs over other solutions.”
A Customer’s View
Kamien Carter is product development manager for Flower Patch, a fresh flower and gift shop with nine retail locations across Utah. The company uses Veracart to process roughly $700,000 in annual sales on its website, and Carter provides her comments and opinions about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using Veracart?
Kamien Carter: “We have been using it for approximately six years. We started searching for a new cart when we realized that our old cart did not have the capacity to grow and improve with us. We needed a cart that could provide us with updated features, as well as the capacity to provide some customized features unique to our business.
“We wanted a cart that allowed us to load bouquets quickly and inactivate them at a moment’s notice as the availability of certain flowers fluctuated. We were also searching for a cart that allowed for seasonal cosmetic updates to keep us abreast of the trends.
“Our old cart did not allow for bouquet purchase from the main page and it had limited delivery window options that were inconvenient for our customers. Easy purchase and delivery options are critical to our business, so finding a new cart that supported our needs was critical. We wanted a cart that provided a simple and effective tech support system. We were also looking for a cart that would integrate with our point of sale [POS] system so that we could better track the designs and price points that our customers prefer. We chose Veracart as it offered most of the features we needed, and the promise of customization of the additional features we needed within our budget parameters.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Carter: “It is user friendly, with an easy-to-understand layout. It also has a vast number of options so that you can customize the way a product is listed, with drop-down features, cross-selling features and category options. The loading process is quick and provides a nice variety of required product fields so I won’t forget to include the ounces of a gourmet candy, or the POS code for my bouquets, ultimately providing our customers with all the information they need to make a knowledgeable purchase. So, I would say the ease of operation and overall cart options are Veracart’s biggest strengths.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Carter: “Some of the main page information and buttons are accessed strictly through the tech support. If I could access them myself, it would add another level of convenience. For instance, if one of our stores has a change of phone number or store hours, it would be nice if I could go in and immediately update those areas at my convenience. And, although the tech support system is effective and for the most part timely, it can still be several days or more before requested updates are made.”
PeC: How would Veracart improve another merchant’s business?
Carter: “The cart is simple and straightforward, and easy to navigate for our customers, making the online purchase process an enjoyable experience.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Carter: “Yes. The cart not only provides our customers with a nice shopping experience, but it also saves us time, money and headaches on the website management end. When we experience glitches, such as items temporarily not loading properly, for instance, we are not limited to contacting the tech support system by email. We can also phone a live support technician for urgent help, which at holiday times is crucial for us. Overall, we are taken care of and happy with the cart, so we will continue to use it.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Carter: “For Flower Patch, we needed to establish an online store to provide our customers with all the purchasing conveniences available today. But, with little website knowledge and background, the first cart we used didn’t fill our needs and left us skeptical and frustrated with the entire process. Taking time to really list our needs and wants helped us to make a better choice when the time came to update carts. And, since changing to Veracart, we no longer have to spend a vast amount of time managing our website, but rather more time creating custom floral bouquets to feature on it.”