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 Logan Rhodehamel, president
of AbleCommerce, makers of the AbleCommerce shopping cart. The Vancouver, Wash.-based company has been producing its ecommerce solution for 15 years, and there are currently approximately 11,000 active cart users.
We’ll also hear from an AbleCommerce cart user, Carl Anderson, webmaster for the Seattle, Wash.-based online store, Anne Geddes Gift Shop & Baby Boutique.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Logan Rhodehamel: “The original version of the cart was released in 1994 under the name StoreBuilder. It was built on the ColdFusion platform developed by Allaire. At the time, we were just a web hosting company trying to add value to our customers. AbleCommerce grew from that desire to help small and mid-size businesses move into the web space and succeed.
“Our product has evolved quite a bit from those beginnings. Even our core platform changed over the years from ColdFusion to ASP.NET. But, the basic principles of enabling online commerce are still the same.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
Rhodehamel: “Both hosted and licensed editions are available.”
PeC: How much does AbleCommerce cost?
Rhodehamel: “The hosted version starts at $99 per month. For $995 you can purchase the software and install it on your own server.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Rhodehamel: “Our 7.0 version was certified under PA-DSS v1.2 in mid 2009.” [Editor’s Note: AbleCommerce is currently named on The PCI Security Standards Council’s list of validated payment applications, however, AbleCommerce does not appear on Visa’s global list of PCI DSS validated service providers.]
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Rhodehamel: “Being a validated payment application is obviously a big advantage. Another strength comes from the longevity of our company and the relationships we’ve established with our partners. As it relates to the cart directly, our digital delivery model is particularly good. So is our provider model that enables simple integrations with new third-party shipping, payment, and tax tools.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Rhodehamel: “We are still searching for that ideal model that will enable easy custom modifications without affecting a customer’s ability to upgrade to new versions.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Rhodehamel: “We’ve investigated some changes to our structure to help with the upgrade problem. We’re also excited to take advantage of some of the new .NET 4 features that are coming our way. Multi-store administration was a feature of our software for years but we left it out of our 7x line in an attempt to simplify; but that wasn’t a popular decision, so I also predict this feature will make a comeback.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Rhodehamel: “It would depend on the current solution in place. We frequently hear from merchants who convert from other software that the administration area is well organized; and from those who pursue customizations, we hear the code is clean and well designed.
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Rhodehamel: “Nobody likes taxes, but this is an area that is presently evolving and pertinent to all online retailers (including AbleCommerce). If you aren’t aware of the Streamlined Sales Tax initiative and the recurring attempts at national legislation, it may be something you should keep your eye on.”
A Customer’s View
Carl Anderson is webmaster for Anne Geddes Gift Shop & Baby Boutique, an online store that uses the AbleCommerce cart. The store features a selection of baby and toddler clothing, plush toys, designer bags, greeting cards, books, calendars, and maternity clothing, cataloging roughly 1,000 unique SKUs. Anderson offers his opinions on the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using the AbleCommerce shopping cart?
Carl Anderson: “15 months. AbleCommerce offered the ability to purchase the source code, which was very attractive for us as we have an in-house development team, and the price was exceptionally reasonable.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Anderson: “The cart is robust and has all the standard out-of-the-box features you would expect for an ecommerce start-up. The cart is easy to customize and brand whether you have a standard license or the source code. Each page sits within a container called ‘scriptlets’ which are used to control layout and content for each page. The scriptlets are easily customizable through the admin section. You can pick default layouts or create your own, all through a few clicks.
“Administering the site and tracking order statuses are a breeze through the comprehensive admin functions, and the email functions keep customers well informed. AbleCommerce also offers yearly updates for a small fee, meaning trends and best practices are built upon and the software doesn’t become static or outdated easily.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Anderson: “It would be good if product pricing rules could be applied to individual product variants rather than just the master product. Additionally, the coupon and volume discount functions could be improved to provide more flexibility within promotions.”
PeC: How would AbleCommerce shopping cart improve another merchant’s business?
Anderson: “It would ensure ecommerce best practices are being followed, meaning the merchant may see a higher conversion rate. It could also save the merchant a fortune on developing his or her own online cart.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Anderson: “This is a genuinely good cart. We have had great feedback from our customers since changing to AbleCommerce. I highly recommend this product to anyone needing to create or upgrade his or her current cart.”