Design & Development

Debate: Licensed Carts Offer Flexibility and Portability

ProductCart is a licensed shopping cart used by thousands of ecommerce merchants. We asked its CEO, Massimo Arrigoni, whether licensed shopping-cart software is better for smaller businesses than hosted cart solutions.

PeC: Why should an ecommerce business consider a licensed shopping cart, versus a hosted cart?

Massimo Arrigoni

Massimo Arrigoni

Arrigoni: “Flexibility, portability, and cost. In many cases a licensed shopping cart allows you to modify the system to better meet your needs, which gives you tremendous flexibility. Flexibility not only to alter an existing feature to address a specific scenario, but also to add new functionality over time or integrate third-party solutions as your business grows. A licensed shopping cart is also portable: You choose where to host it and can bring it with you if you change your web hosting company. On the cost side, a shopping cart is normally a medium-term investment (at least 2-3 years using the same solution): Multiply the monthly fee of a hosted solution times 24 or 36 and the cost of a licensed cart very often represents a much cheaper alternative, although the start-up cost is higher.”

PeC: Critics say licensed carts are difficult for small-business owners to implement, and, when coupled with hosting fees, SSL fees, and other charges, can actually be more expensive.  Is this true?  Elaborate, please.

Arrigoni: “I disagree. Do you build and maintain your own website? Then you most definitely have the skills to install a licensed cart and nicely integrate it with your website. Do you instead use a web designer to build and maintain your website? Then they are the ones that can easily help you add a shopping cart to it. In other words: Nothing changes from your current approach to using the Internet for your business. As for the other charges: A dedicated SSL certificate is a cost that you will incur even if you are using a hosted shopping cart (I don’t consider a shared certificate a good way to go, for a variety of reasons), and the cost has come down dramatically to under $100 per year for many certificates. Hosting fees are already being paid as typically the company already has a website. It is true that if the ecommerce store becomes more successful over time, an upgrade of the hosting environment might be needed (e.g. a switch to a dedicated server), but that is always a good problem to have!”

PeC: How much does ProductCart cost? Price ranges?

Arrigoni: “A standard license costs $695 and includes hundreds of features that make it one of the best solutions out there. There are no limits in terms of products, sales, etc., unlike many hosted shopping carts. The price can go up to around $2,600 for a version of the software that contains a complex product configurator with conflict management capability (e.g. to handle the sale of a custom computer where the configurator knows which selections are incompatible and dynamically informs the visitor). The standard version is fine for the vast majority of ecommerce stores. Comparable hosted solutions typically run for $100/month or more. Do the math and the cost savings are substantial, on top of the incredible flexibility of having full access to the source code.”

PeC: By Practical eCommerce’s count, there are over 300 hosted and licensed carts available. How can a smaller business know which of these is the best fit?

Arrigoni: “I used to say: “Write down the features that are most important for you, then see which shopping carts represent the best fit….” Well, that’s not possible anymore with so many solutions available, as you pointed out. It would take forever. So, I recommend a completely different strategy. Let’s focus on companies that are keeping their systems updated with the latest technology as a way to filter out older or less sophisticated systems. For example: Take the carts that have been integrated with Google Checkout regardless of whether or not you plan to use that payment system. What matters is that you’ve now narrowed down the list to about 30 shopping carts that have been actively updated over the last 12 months or so to support Google Checkout. Of those, some will be hosted and some licensed, so you can quickly narrow down the list even further. When you are down to about 10 carts or so, then you can start looking at features, demo stores, live stores, etc.”

PeC: Other thoughts on hosted or licensed carts?

Arrigoni: “Do you see your ecommerce business as something that will evolve and grow over time? If so, a licensed shopping cart that gives you access to the software’s source code definitely gives you more control over the future of your online store.”

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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