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 Marcus C. McConnell, founder and president of BV Software, the developers of the hosted BV Commerce shopping cart and a licensed ecommerce package called BV Commerce Toolkit. The company is based in Richmond, Va. and its ecommerce software currently has around 5,000 active users.
We’ll also hear from a BV Commerce customer, Charles Wolfinger, director of operations for eofficedirect.com, a site that sells office supplies.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Marcus McConnell: “I started BV Software in 2001 to bring Fortune 500 features to small business ecommerce solutions. I had been working with companies like 1-800-Flowers, Godiva and Eddie Bauer on their ecommerce platforms when I realized that small businesses were going to need better software. The packages available to small businesses in 2001 were a world apart from what the big retailers were using.
“The first version of BV Commerce was released as a licensed product in February of 2002, just after Microsoft released .NET 1.0., and just in time to become the first commercial .NET shopping cart software. The hosted version of BV Commerce was launched in 2009.”
PeC: How much does BV Commerce cost?
McConnell: “The licensed package costs $2499 and includes source code. Hosted plans start at $24 per month plus transaction fees based on the chosen plan. There is also a free, limited store package.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
McConnell: “We are in the final stages of PCI certification right now. The official word will be coming out any day now.” [Editor’s Note: As of this writing, neither BV Software nor BV Commerce is currently named on The PCI Security Standards Council’s list of validated payment applications or on Visa’s global list of PCI DSS validated service providers.]
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
McConnell: “The licensed package has excellent extensibility. We’ve created it in a very modular way, making it easy for developers to customize the platform for their clients. Both the licensed and hosted packages also emphasize usability for non-technical merchants. We’ve just added some great drag-and-drop features to the admin portion of the software to help merchants quickly sort items. If you can check your email you should be able to run a store using BV Commerce.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
McConnell: “There are a lot of checkboxes, options and settings, and sometimes the amount of options can be overwhelming. With the hosted service we’ve tried to pick the ‘best of the best’ settings as defaults based on our clients’ experience of what has been successful for them.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
McConnell: “BV Commerce 6 will be released by summer 2010. We’re moving to .NET 4.0, refining the admin interface, and including some great new searching and sorting features to help shoppers locate products.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
McConnell: “Switching ecommerce platforms is a big project and not a decision that merchants should take lightly. BV Commerce includes URL mapping so that old page names can be kept alive to search engines after a new store is launched. Our pages are very well optimized for search engines, and if a merchant’s current store isn’t bringing in the traffic they’d like, BV Commerce may be able to help.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
McConnell: “We live in an incredible time when a small retailer can sell to a marketplace of more than a billion Internet users for a few hundred dollars a month. Invest in your storefront. It has the potential to create a return on investment beyond your wildest dreams. Choose a good platform. Make sure your design is exceptional. Study your users and make sure you’re meeting their needs.”
A Customer’s View
Charles Wolfinger is director of operations for eofficedirect.com, and online store based in Bethlehem, Penn. The site sells office furniture and supplies, such as file cabinets, task chairs, copy paper, printers and toner cartridges, with annual gross sales around $5 million. Wolfinger provides his comments and opinions about BV Commerce below.
PeC: How long has your company been using BV Commerce?
Charles Wolfinger: “We started with BV Commerce in October 2009. In reviewing several different carts, BVC had the best balance of features we required, and the customizability for us to add the features that it didn’t have.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Wolfinger: “We are most impressed with its item marketing capabilities. It makes it very easy to expand our product categorizations, add sales and promotions, and add links to those items from anywhere on the site.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Wolfinger: “We haven’t really seen any limitations to the product’s abilities. If anything, the number one issue that we saw was speed. You can never have enough.”
PeC: How would BV Commerce improve another merchant’s business?
Wolfinger: “I think this cart is a great solution for anyone struggling with the marketing of products on their site. The built-in content management system allows you to quickly and easily add advertisements to featured and sale items. It also simplifies page layout so that you can make the most of each customer visit. Also, it’s up-sell and cross-sell capabilities can help merchants to quickly and easily increase selling opportunities with their customers.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Wolfinger: “After several weeks of research and testing different shopping carts, we found BV Commerce to be the best solution from both a feature and price perspective.”