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.
According to Gioan, the cart currently has around 40 users. “Until 2009, it was sold as a custom application. It has now been ‘productized’ with standard features and corresponding hosting plans,” said Gioan. “We will continue to offer custom ecommerce solutions, but from this point on, we are focused on developing sales of our ‘standardized’ products and services.”
We’ll also hear from an ezStore123 customer, Don Baskin, founder and CEO of SNAGG, a provider of theft-prevention products.
PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Michael Gioan: “ezStore123 was first released in 2001, with upgraded versions released in 2003 and 2005. The productized version was released in 2009.
“The vision behind the product is to provide a high-end, scalable ecommerce framework capable of extensive customization. Its design uses a database layer as the primary functionality provider, including security, business rules, marketing logic and flow control.
“The presentation layer (web page) is designed as a ‘container’ that renders output from the data-driven functions. This allows a high degree of flexibility in site design and easy integration path with evolving web design standards. The system is usable out-of-the-box, with extensive built-in functionality, but it can also be extended to integrate additional functions (either custom-programming or third-party modules).
“We have noticed over the years that our cart’s base features (such as dictionary-based search, coupon system and customer loyalty program) are now becoming standard on all new carts. This gives us the advantage of having worked out all the bugs before everyone else, and also to have already gone deeper in SEO and marketing integration than competing products.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
Gioan: “The main distribution channel is hosted, but the product can also be licensed.”
PeC: How much does EzStore123 cost?
Gioan: “Hosted solutions range from $149 per month to $399 per month.”
“It is also available as a licensed solution for $1,299 with no source code, or for $2,499 with the source code included. Technical support and upgrades extra.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Gioan: “ezStore123 websites can successfully pass scanning and PCI tests by McAfee Secure and ControlScan, and the software integrates with fraud detection systems, such as MaxMind.” [Editor’s Note: Neither Digital Things nor ezStore123 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?
Gioan: “Its user interface and ergonomics have been developed for immediate gratification for the online shopper. Typical checkout time after adding items to the cart is under two minutes. And, search results are delivered with match rankings.
“Marketing features include sales, promotions, coupons, loyalty program, capability to link to the shopping cart from any external web site, and a comprehensive affiliate referral system. Additionally, the cart has strong SEO value, with product and category pages obtaining high organic rankings with no special SEO work.
Additional features include:
- Ease of integration into existing website. All shopping cart entry points are simple URLs.
- Integrated real-time shipping with UPS, FedEx and USPS.
- Multi-level pricing by customer type (up to 32,000 types), each type featuring its own product listings, coupons, loyalty program, shipping, tax methods, and more.
- Payment gateway integration (100 percent of U.S. merchant accounts are supported).
- Comprehensive reporting, including graphical activity dashboard and sales analysis by product, with data-mining capabilities.
- Reliability, with 99.99% uptime in the last 12 months.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Gioan: “It lacks full bi-directional integration with some popular accounting systems. This weakness is due to the previously custom-cart nature of the software, and is now one of the top priorities for improvement.
“Also, the ability to print shipping labels is basic. It has an uneven implementation of AJAX-based features. And, its Admin Center could use a cosmetic revamping.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Gioan: “Our top priority is to address all weaknesses listed above. Also, a content management system (CMS) is being designed that will allow back-office management of static web pages.
“Additionally, we are planning an integration of Web 2.0 and social web capabilities, as well as mobile commerce. And, we are developing a universal data connection API using web services for easy integration with any enterprise system, such as accounting, customer relations management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and others.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Gioan: “The cart generates attractive product catalog listings and product pages, with an easy checkout that does not stand in the way of the buying impulse. Its SEO features can improve product visibility with search engines, and its sales analysis provides comprehensive estimates of ROI at the product and/or location level, allowing for the identification of ‘dud’ products.
“The Admin Center is streamlined and easy to learn and use. It includes context-sensitive help for every screen. The cart’s extensive customization capabilities allow tailoring to each merchant’s style and business model.
“Merchants can expand their marketing reach (and search engine ranking) by allowing affiliate websites to refer traffic and collect a sales commission on all successful referrals. And, lastly, the cart’s CAN-SPAM-compliant mass-mailing system provides free advertising campaigns to existing customers.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Gioan: “Every business is a dream in progress. To make it reality, you need ecommerce partners that really value their customers. We do.”
A Customer’s View
Don Baskin parlayed his experience as front man for the 1960s band, The Syndicate of Sound, into a business that sells microchipping kits to deter theft and enhance the recovery of stolen musical instruments. Baskin’s online store SNAGG is based in Murietta, Calif., and it produces roughly $38,000 in annual gross revenue via EzStore123. Baskin provides his comments and opinions about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using EzStore123?
Don Baskin: “We’ve used the cart for three years. We chose it on professional recommendation.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Baskin: “Simplicity of use for both customers and merchant.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Baskin: “By creating a one-click ‘post and print’ for shipping labels.”
PeC: How would EzStore123 improve another merchant’s business?
Baskin: “Its catalog system is deep, and we are utilizing only a small percentage of its capabilities.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Baskin: “Yes, unless a faster and simpler system comes along.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Baskin: “Carts are there to facilitate sales. If the system burns up your time just to make it work, it’s time to find another one quickly.”