Practical Ecommerce

Interview: buySAFE Founder On The Future Of Shopping Carts

There are hosted shopping carts, licensed shopping carts and custom carts. Every ecommerce merchant uses a cart, and we’ve asked Steve Woda, chairman and founder of buySAFE, a firm that offers insurance for the safety and reliability of ecommerce transactions, for his views on the look of a future shopping cart. Since its inception buySAFE has guaranteed over 13,000,000 ecommerce transactions.

Steve Woda

PeC: Shopping carts have evolved quickly. Many of them include multiple features that would have cost a significant amount of money a few years ago. Five years from now, what will a shopping cart look like?

WODA: While you do see a myriad of shopping cart offerings out there, you also see a lot of legacy shopping cart platforms that were built by online retailers. This is understandable since early on in ecommerce, off-the-shelf shopping carts were often too basic to meet the various online retailer needs.

Going forward, I predict large retailers will increasingly migrate to third-party shopping carts of some kind. There really is something for everyone out there now, from carts catering to the mid-sized retailers like MIVA and ShopSite, to ecommerce platforms designed for large retailers like GSI Commerce and Divex. There are even soup-to-nuts solutions like Infopia for large merchants that need to support multichannel ecommerce businesses.

This is obviously good for ecommerce because it allows online merchants to focus on generating traffic, sourcing products, pricing, merchandising, customer experience and customer service. In fact, I would argue that retailers should focus their businesses on these core competencies and leave the shopping cart technologies to the folks that are 100 percent dedicated to developing better, flexible, feature-rich, stable ecommerce platforms.

PeC: Practical eCommerce counts over 300 hosted and licensed shopping carts. Will this fragmentation continue?

WODA: There are a lot of shopping carts these days. To some degree, this competition has clearly helped the industry innovate and drive down pricing. On the other hand, the fragmentation has created new problems. There is a huge variance in the customer shopping experiences of these many platforms. I doubt that is helpful with shoppers as a whole.

In the future, it certainly makes sense that some level of industry consolidation will occur as the leading shopping cart platforms begin to deliver core feature sets in a truly differentiated way. That said, you’ll always find new, innovative shopping carts out there, so I suspect you will continue to see meaningful fragmentation for some time to come.

PeC: What shopping cart features do you see gaining in prominence? What new features do you foresee?

WODA: I believe the most important new features will revolve around optimizing the monetization of each shopping visitor — both new and previous customers. Merchants can spend a lot of time and money driving qualified traffic to their websites, but if that traffic is abandoning shopping carts, or worse yet failing to start carts in the first place, then the merchant’s business will suffer.

Features that help to derive revenue from each and every visitor, like cross-sell, upsell, and coupon features, will be very important for shopping carts. These features can help grow order sizes while the customer is in the shopping mode.

Additionally, if you haven’t thought about the trust and safety features on your ecommerce site, you should. Since 2002, it has become clear that about 50 percent of the Internet’s users simply aren’t buying online. This is obviously a huge, untapped market of potential buyers, and these shoppers are going to push merchants to eliminate all of the perceived risks of buying online. Clearly, addressing this huge opportunity is critical to optimizing your conversion rates and therefore, your profits.

Merchants will increasingly leverage third-party solutions that instill confidence in their shopping visitors. Confident shoppers buy online. Nervous shoppers don’t buy online. It is really that simple. As an example, my company, buySAFE, is now an integrated feature in over 20 shopping cart platforms, and we’re adding new platforms each month.

One last note, cross-functional integration will be a requirement for the best shopping carts of the future. If your shopping cart cannot integrate with your inventory system, then you’re likely missing out on a huge revenue opportunity.

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Legacy User November 13, 2007 Reply

    One of the short-falls of shopping carts in general is that they stop at the end of the checkout phase. Some provide order listing or the ability to cut/paste a tracking number and some also provide a way to generate an email to a customer.

    However, there continues to be separation between the cart (sales) activity and the fulfillment side (order/inventory management). That's where a product/service like http;// comes in to help.

    What's forgotten is that most of a seller's time is spent in fulfillment and managing the back-end of their business. This is where costs are reduced and margins are increased. Effective tools to help with this not only saves money and time, but enables sellers to focus on driving more revenue into their site rather than spending their time shuffling through the order/inventory back end process.

    — *Tony Birnseth*

  2. Legacy User November 15, 2007 Reply

    Actually, there are quite a few shopping carts out there that integrate sales activity with order management. Our cart even allows you to print shipping labels from your Admin Area for orders placed on your site.

    –Michelle Greer

    — *Michelle Greer*

  3. Legacy User November 19, 2007 Reply

    Good article about the maturing environment of online transactions.
    Can still remember when the first carts by Thawte appeared.

    Transactions have progressed since the early 90's.

    Using several carts for clients at the moment and have one
    client using Miva. The Miva cart seems to working well and the
    client is happy with the storefront. "Don't fix it if it ain't broke".

    But my concern with Miva is as a stock Miva (symbol MIVA)
    has been performing very poorly over the past year.

    Have look at the stock chart:

    Anyone else concerned about this?

    — *MaxLudz*

  4. Legacy User November 19, 2007 Reply

    Miva Merchant is no longer owned or affiliated with MIVA Corp. We purchased the company back from them on August 1st of this year. You can find more information on our homepage


    EVP, Miva Merchant

    — *Rick Wilson*

  5. Legacy User January 9, 2008 Reply

    As Michelle indicated above, professional shopping cart systems like Volusion or ProductCart contain scores of order management features (batch processing, order editing, shipping label printing, etc.), and even an XML-based API for more sophisticated users to integrate with external systems.

    With regards to the percentage of people that are not buying online: I believe that it could be useful to point out that there are two very different issues here.

    (1) People that are not buying on the Internet
    (2) People that are not buying from your web store

    Having something like a HackerSafe or buySafe logo on your Web store (two different services, but both focused on the perceived security of the shopping experience) will do little with regard to increasing visits to the store.

    They will help with higher conversions (scenario 2 mentioned above), as they certainly increase the overall "comfort" level. I definitely agree with Steve when in the interview above mentioned that "the most important new features [in shopping carts] will revolve around optimizing the monetization of each shopping visitor."

    However, we should also point out that industry statistics appear to indicate that the main reasons why customers generally don't complete an online transaction have little to do with security concerns, and more with cost and convenience. Especially shipping costs. For example, here is an interesting one:

    Reasons shoppers abandon their carts (Source: Yankee Group)

    — 56% said shipping charges were too expensive
    — 41% said the item was unavailable
    — 29% said the site was too difficult to navigate
    — 21% said the order wouldn’t go through
    — 18% said the order form was too complicated
    — 15% said they were unable to use coupons or discounts on the site

    Thus successful strategies such as Circuit City's "24-minute in-store pickup" campaigns (and in fact Web sales at Circuit City grew nicely in the fourth quarter of the 2007). Even small businesses, when applicable, should offer an "in-store pickup" option (even if it benefits local customers only).

    In a nutshell: make your customers feel secure – no doubts about it – but don't forget that there are many other reasons why they might not complete a transaction on your Web store.

    Have a great 2008 everyone!

    Massimo Arrigoni

    — *Massimo Arrigoni*

  6. Legacy User June 25, 2008 Reply

    I am building a vertical social network e-commerce site (aka s-commerce) where any member can be a buyer and/or a seller. I want to use an inexpensive escrow service for these members to begin transacting with each other but I cannot find any. I have a number of reasons why escrow services will be very important for future s-commerce sites at my blog Please give my your suggestions. Thank you.

    — *Fidel Guajardo*