Brian's blog

Ajax and Big Boy e-Commerce Solutions

Ever wonder what large e-commerce retailers use for a shopping cart solution? Do they build their e-commerce solution in-house or outsource? Do their CIO’s go through the same process of researching and selecting a cart solution that us little guys go through? You betcha.

They fish in a much larger pond than micro/small e-commerce operations and the solutions available to them blow many of the hosted shopping cart solutions that we know and love right out of the water. Take for instance Demandware.

Demandware has an impressive client list that includes Playboy and Vermont Teddy Bear. Even more impressive is their solution. Features include an AJAX shopping cart, highly evolved merchandising ability and a robust checkout system that can include incentives and offers for upselling. Oh and did I mention they offer AN AJAX SHOPPING CART?!!?

Shopping Carts and Store Portability

Have store. Will Travel.

Changing hosts is a pain in the neck for any website. This hassle is quickly compounded when you have a online store. Finding a new shopping cart solution is the easy part, moving product and customer data is a whole ‘nother story. Each hosted shopping cart solution organizes their databases differently. So your exported data from your old store isn’t likely to slide into the new database without some finagling (read: a lot of finagling). Typically, you’ll have to map each data field to match the destination field. Fun stuff, especially if you maintain a large store with an extensive amount of data to move.

Shopping Cart Upgrades. Pushed or Pulled?

We are so many hosted cart solutions so pushy when it comes to upgrades?

Have you had issues with your store after your solution released an upgrade? I have. Many, many, many times. It got to the point that I cringed when a new release was announced. I felt like Tokyo upon hearing Godzilla just booked passage for a short stay. I would clear my schedule in anticipation of lengthy tech support calls and lost sales. It was a monster of a headache. Eventually it got so bad, I just moved my stores to new solutions.

One of the new solutions I moved to promised to never put in fear of the forced (pushed) upgrade. It was Volusion and they take a very unique approach eith their upgrades. They allow me to upgrade the software for the my stores whenever I feel like (queue singing angels..). All I have to do is push a button and begin (pull) the upgrade process. This means I can do in the early morning hours when the large percentage of my customers are sound asleep. Viola. No lost sales. To top it off, Volusion does a great job during the QA process so post-upgrade bugs are very uncommon.

Google Sitemaps Made Easy by Hosted Carts

Creating and maintaining a xml or txt Google sitemap for your store can be a huge time drain. Sure it’s worth it. Adding one will ensure that Google will have a detailed road map to crawl your site and make sure all your product pages are indexed . This is hugely important for newly launched stores.

Two hosted cart solutions I use make it real easy to create and maintain a Google sitemap. Volusion and 3DCart automatically generate an asp page called (or something like) googlesitemap.asp. Its updated whenever you add a page or product to your store. You can then easily point Google to this page of regular downloading. Talk about easy. No more searching for third party tools or site to crawl your store in order to generate a site map.

3DCart Leads the Hosted Cart Market with Ajax

The recent release of 3DCart brought with it some pleasant surprises. Foremost is the inclusion of Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) into the cart’s backend. Merchants can hover over Order, Customer and Product links and have the information displayed without the need to click and load pages. This seemingly small feature improvement can drastically improve the efficiency of day-to-day store operation. It effectively brings an entire database of store and customer information to one page – ready to be displayed in a hover window. Hats off to 3DCart for the addition of Ajax as they the first of the shopping cart on our radar screen to make use of this cutting edge technology. One must assume that the next logical step for 3DCart is sprinkle in some Ajax on their front end.

Shipping to Canada ey?

I stopped shipping to Canada after a high percentage of orders were stepped on by the Canadian customs office. Along with their order, customers would get a bill for a Custom Brokers fee and any applicable duties. This would send customers into a rage that I, as a storeowner in America, was powerless to prevent. Bear in mind we shipped to Canada using UPS Standard and for some reason, the frequency of this occurring when orders are shipped via USPS is significantly lower. Go figure..

One of e-commerce’s strengths is supposed to be opening your wares to a global market. This strength can easily be nullified by inconsistent Customs offices in the destination country. So if you ship overseas, make certain you present the customer with clear documentation on who is liable for ANY Customs fee and Duty. This will shift the responsibility to the customer, albeit an angry one.

Hosted Cart Customer Forums

A number of the top e-commerce hosted shopping cart solutions have customer forums where you can pop in and checkout what’s going on with the solution. These are invaluable tools when researching a move or opening to new store. By digging through these forums you can gauge the cart's customer service abilities, customer sentiment and even ask pre-sales questions. There’s nothing like getting honest feedback about a cart before opening a store.

Of course you can always visit our forum for up to date info on the major hosted shopping carts by visiting: eCartReviews Forums

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eWish Gift Registry Service Integration with MonsterCommerce & Yahoo Stores

eWish has partnered with Monster and Yahoo to allow their merchants tools to integrate their gift registry system. For a one- time setup fee of $599.00 and an ongoing 5% commission fee, merchants can add eWish’s to their stores. This allows merchants to have “add to registry” buttons on their product pages. eWish has a pretty robust gift registry solution that includes a customizable e-notifciation, guestbook, RSVP system, and on-line photo album.

If you have a store that caters to gift market, this add-on is worth a look. A few hosted shopping cart solution offer a Wish List feature (InstanteStore and Volusion) but they are geared more toward the individual doing the shopping. Conversely, gift registries can be distributed to a group of people (gift givers) directing them to purchase the desired items that have been preselected by the gift receiver.

Google Checkout. Viable payment method?

Google has launched its answer to Paypal.

When news of Google Checkout was announced many merchants jumped with joy. Just think; a payment method that doesn’t exploit the merchant! Google Checkout offers free processing (until December 31, 2007), $10 off coupons for first time customers, $50 AdWords coupon for merchants and robust anti-fraud tools. Google also promised seamless integration with the major hosted shopping cart solutions. To date, Volusion, 3DCart and MonsterCommerce offer Google Checkout integration for their stores.

Google Checkout promises to help merchants in three areas: