Practical Ecommerce

Shopping Carts: Survey of Merchants Confirms Fractured Market

Respondents to a February 2009 Practical eCommerce survey collectively use more than 30 different shopping carts, an indication that there is no clear and decisive leader in the ecommerce shopping cart segment.

14.1 percent of respondents to the survey said that they use Go Daddy’s Quick Shopping Cart to power their ecommerce business, while another 10.3 percent rely on Yahoo! Merchant Solutions or Volusion to drive their businesses. But, dozens of other carts are also clearly popular. osCommerce, a free cart, received nearly 7 percent of “write in” responses in the “Other” category. Miva Merchant drew 7.7 percent, while Network Solutions (formerly MonsterCommerce), ProStores, CubeCart, and 1ShoppingCart each received 7.1 percent of the responses.

The broad selection of carts listed in the survey may mean that the shopping cart industry is still very fractured with a large number of successful contenders. In fact, 40.7 percent of the survey’s respondents said that their shopping cart was very useful and improved business. Another 26.3 said that their shopping cart was useful and worked just fine, adding up to 67 percent of merchants who are apparently satisfied with their current shopping cart solution. These numbers might also imply that ecommerce site owners don’t have an effective way to compare shopping carts and, therefore, cannot really rank their solution against other available options.



More Control, Integration Would be An Improvement

While it is important to reiterate that most of the survey respondents were pleased with their shopping cart, when asked what they would improve, many of those surveyed wanted more control over the cart’s appearance (i.e. more templates or more layout control) and function and more integration with third-party tools, including FedEx shipping software, QuickBooks, Google Base, and Amazon.

Interestingly, several of the improvements that respondents asked for are available with other carts. For example, one user of ProStores wanted the ability to add a product image zoom, a feature available out of the box with Magento Commerce and Volusion (to name just two). Requests for features available in other carts may be an indication that ecommerce site owners do not necessarily compare features before selecting a cart, or that they may not really know which features will be the most desirable before implementing a chosen solution.

So What Does it Mean?

Viewed together, the responses point to two possible trends. First, there may be a lack of good comparative information about shopping carts or about important shopping cart features. QuickBooks or FedEx integration is a cart feature available from several vendors, yet many of the survey respondents wanted these features. Are they unaware that these tools are, in fact, out there? Would they make a change if they knew that software integration is available with other shopping carts? Perhaps, but it would seem that at least some ecommerce site owners did not have access to that sort of comparative information.

A second trend may have to do with development capabilities. Many of the most popular shopping carts identified in the survey required little or no HTML, CSS, or other development skills. Instead they are geared toward users with little or no coding expertise. These same users were the most likely to be unhappy or frustrated with the cart they were using. Its functions were too often a mystery, and they generally wanted more control.

As an example, Go Daddy’s Quick Shopping Cart, which requires no development experience, was the most popular, but it also had the highest number of respondents (28.6 percent of those that used Quick Shopping Cart) who wished the solution did more. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions, another solution that requires minimal coding skill, had 50 percent of users wishing it did more.

Lessons for Merchants

If our speculations regarding the survey results are correct—(1) that there is not enough comparative shopping cart information and (2) that ecommerce site owners do not have a sufficient level of development expertise to meet their own needs—then at least two lessons follow. First, ecommerce merchants need a better way to compare and review shopping carts, and Practical eCommerce is seeking to address this point by developing a new, upcoming shopping cart guide. The second lesson is many ecommerce merchants should be seeking professional development help.

Not too many brick-and-mortar merchants try to build their own stores from the ground up, hauling in lumber or hanging drywall. Instead they hire professionals to frame and finish their buildings. Perhaps ecommerce merchants should consider the same tact, investing in good developers to build their stores. This assumes that those developers are not tied to a particular cart via affiliate commissions or some other financial arrangement.


Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Al Brookbanks (CubeCart) March 5, 2009 Reply

    Thanks for such an interesting and enlightening article. Are you going to provide a graph of results for all the 30 carts listed and can you provide an indication of the number of people who took the survey?

  2. Zen Cart March 5, 2009 Reply

    Your survey has confirmed a couple of facts that we have know for a while. Merchants want more functionality with less programming expertise needed.

  3. AmeriCommerce March 5, 2009 Reply

    Thank you for this insight, as an e-commerce solution provider it is nice to confirm our current product road map which is fervently geared towards making it easy to change the look and feel of your store and providing a long list of integrations to extend the platform. We very much think design extensibility and a long list of pre-integrated partners will be a key differentiator in our competitive market. Additionally a healthy web service software development kit will be required to help the business owners find technical talent anywhere that can extend and create on their platform of choice. Thanks again!

  4. Mark Simon March 6, 2009 Reply

    Thanks for the write up and the mention of Miva Merchant. I wonder if the merchants who have little development experience and want their shopping carts to do more are unaware of what their cart can do. Many times I find just because people don’t know how to do something they assume the software cannot when in fact in can if they had the expertise.

  5. Al Brookbanks (CubeCart) March 8, 2009 Reply

    I guess that whether a cart should allow the merchant to change the look and feel depends upon the situation. Many design agencies don’t want their clients to have such a facility as they may upset their design work.

    Our customers vary between design agencies reselling our product to their client base and those who set up their carts for themselves who may of course want such functionality.

    I think this article is very interesting and I agree that the market is indeed very fractured. I’m sure all shopping cart vendors, ourselves included can’t be complacent. Competition is fierce and customers rightly can be and are demanding. Whether the market is still fractured in five years time will indeed be interesting along with the names we all know and hear regularly today.

  6. Blue Acorn March 10, 2009 Reply

    Two interesting points from my perspective and the eCommerce site owners we talk to day in and day out.

    (1) I think it would be helpful to indicate the size of the retailers that were surveyed here. Typically, smaller merchants end up with the "DIY" or "no-need-for-programmer" solutions like many of those mentioned. However, as the retailer grows and their needs are more demanding (QB Integration might be a "nice to have" for someone processing 10 orders a day but is business critical when they deal with 100+ orders per day) they typically require something with more features, that they’ll have more control over, and depend on a service provider (or programmer) with seasoned expertise to delivery a higher level of quality over a DIY.

    (2) I think the most glaring observation is that most online retailers do not perform due diligence when evaluating solutions. There are hundreds of options out there, very little direct comparison between them (lots of published "comparisons" or ad-biased), and most people that don’t have a background in eCommerce don’t know where to begin. I can’t tell you how many people come to us looking to re-platform only after a year or two of their current solution. Even when looking at featuresets between platforms, any feature, like URL rewriting, can vary in its capabilities from one to another. So just by saying it has "URL rewriting" doesn’t mean it’s the same as another. So published "feature lists" are basically useless because there are different degrees to which they are implemented.

    At the end of the day, it’s encouraging to see that most people are satisfied with their current solution. But when looking for a new platform, go the extra mile in your research, document and prioritize your requirements, demo the system, talk to people that use it (and not just the published "cheerleader" clients), or get a company involved to help in the RFP process in helping to identify the best solution to go with. It’s worth the investment up front.

  7. John Lindberg March 12, 2009 Reply

    Another important webstore feature is the ability to export the order data to a third party fulfillment house individually or in batches. This is normally done via XML or CSV files that are in turn uploaded into the fulfillment company’s online control panel either manually or automatically.

    In our case, once we receive the shopping cart’s order data, our system checks to be sure there is sufficient inventory on hand and then proceeds to print the needed pick lists and packing lists.

    Later, when each package is processed via USPS or UPS, we then send a ship confirmation email directly to each customer or return the fulfillment data back to our client so their own software can send the tracking numbers to their customers.

    Another important feature is the ability to maintain the available inventory counts for each SKU so that online customers know if the item(s) wanted are in stock. Our fulfillment control panel reports the receiving, shipping and return figures live so that each client can maintain the accuracy of their own webstore stock counts easily.

    John Lindberg – President