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 Jody K. Hartwig, director of e-business for Acumium LLC. The company is based in Madison, Wis., and it produces GravityMarket, an ecommerce platform. According to Hartwig, more than 100 websites have been built on GravityMarket since the cart was first developed.
We’ll also hear from a GravityMarket customer, Michael Feiman, director of marketing for PoolDawg, a web store that sells pool cues and billiards accessories.
Practical eCommerce: Please provide some general background on the cart.
Jody Hartwig: “GravityMarket was first developed in early 2000 as an open-source ecommerce solution. Our biggest differentiator then and now is the ‘search friendliness’ of the platform. We have ‘baked in’ search optimization tactics.
“The software combines robust product merchandising with streamlined retail operations to give our clients the best platform on which to manage and grow their online retail businesses. It provides integration with shipping vendors like FedEx and UPS for real-time shipping costs, and handles secure credit card transactions with various payment gateways. GravityMarket also includes a secure and user-friendly administrative interface which allows easy management of website content.
“A big differentiator between us and other ecommerce platforms is the custom integration we implement on behalf of our clients. To us, it’s all about helping our clients succeed, and so we work ‘smarter’ to tie in to back-end accounting and fulfillment systems. GravityMarket handles the security and functional details so that merchants can focus on what they do best, managing and delivering their product line.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
Hartwig: “The platform is an open-source software. We do not charge licensing fees. Instead, as part of every implementation, we provide the full source code and include a license to use the platform, but not distribute it. We also offer full-service hosting with the platform.”
PeC: How much does GravityMarket cost?
Hartwig: “A custom website, developed on the GravityMarket ecommerce platform runs, on average, about $50,000. This includes all the standard platform functionality plus the custom branding, order/product integration, and other custom modifications.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Hartwig: “While we do not have an official PCI certification for the platform in general, most of our clients have daily PCI scans completed and are deemed compliant. We also have a process in place to review and investigate any reported compliance issues.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Hartwig: “GravityMarket is search friendly from the ground up. Our clients spend less time optimizing the site for natural search rankings, so they have more time to focus on merchandising and sales conversion. Our custom approach to the website building process also means that our clients’ sites incorporate the best in ecommerce functionality, customer-specific branding, usability and back-end integration.”
ListenListen to Jody Hartwig discuss the origins of GravityMarket, and offer advice for online merchants.
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Hartwig: “Because GravityMarket is a fully-customized solution it makes it hard for potential clients to compare it ‘apples to apples’ with other ecommerce platforms.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Hartwig: “We typically plan in 12-month cycles for our platform enhancements. However, we are constantly adding ideas to the mix [based on conversations with] our clients and other ecommerce companies we interact with. Current plans for new modules include an optimized mobile version and a new, robust GravityMarket loyalty program.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Hartwig: “Most prospects come to us because they are dissatisfied or have outgrown their current ecommerce websites. They are often frustrated with their natural search rankings and the inflexibility of their current platforms. Ecommerce merchants need the ability to customize their site in the look and feel as well as functionality, typically in the area of tighter integration with their internal back-end systems. GravityMarket provides a search-friendly front-end site, driving traffic and sales, with custom integration, making it easy for our clients to fulfill customer orders.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Hartwig: “Successful ecommerce is not just about one thing. To be a successful online retailer, you need to drive traffic to your website, provide a fast, easy site experience, convert that user experience into a sale, and close the loop with exceptional customer service. The GravityMarket platform enables all of these.”
A Customer’s View
Michael Feiman is director of marketing for PoolDawg, an online store based in Lafayette, Colo. that uses the GravityMarket shopping cart. The site sells a variety of billiards and game supplies, including pool cues and cue cases, darts, poker room furniture, and other game accessories, with around 3,000 products available online. Feiman provides his comments and opinions about GravityMarket below.
PeC: How long has your company been using GravityMarket?
Michael Feiman: “We started working with the GravityMarket platform in the fall of 2006. The cart provided us with an easy-to-administer platform that meshed nicely with our existing inventory management system. In addition, GravityMarket offered a number of key advantages from a search engine optimization standpoint that proved to significantly improve our overall search visibility.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Feiman: “GravityMarket’s biggest strength is in management. Because we outsource the majority of our IT development and integration, it was vital that the system was easy to manage for a non-tech group of people.
“In addition, we’ve found that the cart scales quite nicely, as we have made a number of changes and enhancements over the years. The cart offers easy integration with numerous payment providers, allowing us to offer credit cards, PayPal, Bill Me Later, and eBillme as payment options. The cart also works beautifully with SLI Systems, our search software provider.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Feiman: “While the software is clearly quite easy to customize, I’d like to see more plug-in customization options.”
PeC: How would GravityMarket improve another merchant’s business?
Feiman: “Search engine visibility. I’m not a programmer, so I can’t tell you exactly what Acumium has done to achieve this, but I can tell you that we now have page 1 and page 2 visibility for over 90 percent of our most important keywords across Google, Yahoo! and Bing.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Feiman: “When it comes to selecting a shopping cart, you need to find the one that’s going to work best for your specific needs. This will vary from company to company, but in our case, GravityMarket was a perfect fit.”