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 Kym Romanets, projects director for ozEworks Inc., the New York City-based developers of ozEcommerce Pro online shopping cart. Romanets said the cart software currently serves around 200 users.
We’ll also hear from an ozEcommerce Pro customer, Stanley Valiulis, sales and marketing administrator of Southern Imperial Inc., a Rockford, Ill.-based company that sells retail store fixtures and merchandising displays.
Practical eCommerce: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Kym Romanets: “ozEcommerce was first released in 2006. We completely rebuilt it in 2009 to create ozEcommerce Pro. The 2010 version was released early this year.
“ozEcommerce Pro evolved from osCommerce, a core ecommerce solution that is meant to be customized to suit your unique business model. It does not try to be all things to all people.
“ozEcommerce Pro works in the same way. We took osCommerce and evolved it to support the needs of our particular demographic, which is typically a bricks-and-mortar small business with online revenues of $1 million or less. It can be used out of the box, which is cost-effective for startups, or it can be customized and fine tuned to a specific business model.
“We deliberately kept to an open source model to keep the site owner in control of his or her own site and own business. We chose osCommerce as a base because its technical architecture avoids unnecessary technical complexities. With ozEcommerce, customers have access to the source code, and they can get pretty much any PHP programmer to support it.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
Romanets: “It is [licensed, and] offered under a General Public License (GPL). Customers are free to host wherever they want. We do offer managed hosting services, either on one of our shared servers or on a dedicated server.”
PeC: How much does ozEcommerce Pro cost?
Romanets: “There is no charge for the actual software. We only charge for design, integration and customization services. An implementation can cost anything from $2,500 for out-of-the box with custom visual design, to around $10,000 for extensive modifications to the business model.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Romanets: “ozEcommerce Pro complies with all PCI compliance guidelines regarding the handling and storage of credit cards, and customers are provided with our assessment form. The software is compliant through a Code Control module that automatically monitors code changes and self-audits for possible hack attempts.
“Although our solution is PCI Compliant, we do not intend to seek actual PCI certification simply because our solution is meant to be modified, and even changing the design is a modification. It is meaningless to certify something that is going to be changed. So rather than seeking PCI certification, we invested in our Code Control module. It does real-time code audits of all site files and notifies site owners of any file changes. Should the site be hacked, for example, through an insecurity in the hosting, the site owner would be notified and any suspect code could be immediately removed. So, not only does the solution start out compliant, Code Control ensures that it remains in compliance.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Romanets: “It is 100 percent customizable.
“Selling online is about presenting information to the customer in a way that moves them effortlessly through the sales process. There is no out-of-the-box way to do that if you really want to differentiate yourself from your competitors. So every implementation is customized, at least in its design, with the focus on the user interface.
“Additionally, it has powerful catalog management and content management, as well as advertising tools. It also has an optional multi-store module. And, it comes with a one-page checkout.
“Plus it is fully SEO-enabled with all the techniques we have learned from optimizing customer sites over the last few years.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Romanets: “From a functionality perspective, it would have to be search, a big weakness of most ecommerce solutions. Our demographic does not have access to expensive third party applications to enhance their site search tools. So, any search tools have to be part of ozEcommerce, and ours could do with some work.”
ListenListen to Kym Romanets discuss her move to America, and her company’s launch of ozEcommerce.
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Romanets: “Well obviously we are looking at search with better search suggestion, alternative words and search-within-search capability. We are also planning an Also Viewed module.
“But most importantly we are about to release a cut down version called ozEcommerce Base. It is a free download for DIY entrepreneurs as our give-back to the open source community.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Romanets: “A lot of our sites are second generation sites. Many of our customers have tried hosted solutions and found them lacking in the ability to be customized–they want to grow and the lack of customization is stopping them. Or, customization costs too much or takes too long, and it removes them the solution’s upgrade path so defeats the purpose of using the package in the first place. And often they are simply growing and the monthly fees are growing with them and they can no longer see the ROI. (The old ‘why rent when you can buy?’). ozEcommerce is 100 percent customizable from the get go plus you own it.
“Also, ozEcommerce has a lower cost of ownership due to its stable code base, the ease with which it can be modified, and a huge number of programmers apart form ozEworks available to support it.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Romanets: “My observation of businesses that succeed versus those that don’t is that the ones that invest in the ongoing development of their sites are the ones whose revenues grow. Ecommerce is not a ‘set and forget’ business model.”
A Customer’s View
Stanley Valiulis is sales and marketing administrator of Southern Imperial Inc., a website that sells store fixtures and retail display products, such as display hooks, security devices, labeling products, and merchandising items.
The store offers around 1,800 SKUs via ozEcommerce Pro, and Valiulis provides his comments and opinions about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using ozEcommerce Pro?
Stanley Valiulis: “We have been using the system for about eight months. We picked it because of our experience using it with one of our divisions. Southern Imperial had some unique needs that a typical out-of-the-box cart couldn’t handle.
“A couple of areas where ozEcommerce Pro exceeds the capability of typical canned carts are:
- The ability to calculate a complicated tax structure, including calculating taxes to the county level in some states.
- Tiered pricing. Our company offers price breaks at higher quantities, and many other carts could not handle this. Our site now offers customers the incentive by showing them how they can save if they buy an item at a higher quantity. It also highlights their pricing based on quantity purchased.
- The ability for customers to use their own freight carrier for shipping.
- Shop by catalog. Our customers still receive physical catalogs and they can reference the page number the product is located on in the catalog, as well as search by the page number, to find products on our website.”
“Other carts have some of these capabilities, but only ozEcommerce Pro has them all.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Valiulis: “The flexibility and customization that has been done to fit our needs has been a strength. It is also very easy to use at a variety of levels in our company. We have about seven or eight active users, each with different accessibility. The software was easy to learn and implement companywide. Another nice thing is that improvements are ongoing and the site is flexible.
“One area that makes our site stand out is the way the cart handles sample requests. Sampling is a crucial part of our industry and we have been able to offer sampling in a whole new way through the website. It has been a huge success and a groundbreaking advance in our industry.
“Another area is the ability to offer multiple carts using the same checkout system. We can break out certain product groups and create sites targeted to marketing campaigns that we are running offline. Orders are added to the same cart, allowing for seamless integration with our ordering system.
“Also, its robust discounting and couponing, content management systems, and statistic modules are huge strengths.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Valiulis: “As with most things, backend interaction can always improve. Making the backend more user-friendly is an improvement everyone could use.
“Also, upgrades to the system are not included. If you want to upgrade to a newer version of the shopping cart, it will cost you.”
PeC: How would ozEcommerce Pro improve another merchant’s business?
Valiulis: “The flexibility that you get with the cart can really make your site unique. It offers a lot of customization right out the gate. When there are limitations, the team at ozEworks can fill the gap. These days, most carts all look pretty similar. It is the little things that help websites and business stand out.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Valiulis: “Yes, for the foreseeable future.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Valiulis: “A lot of companies say they can customize a solution to you. ozEworks is one that has been able to deliver consistently.”