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ecommerce dilemma

how to choose? quickly?

3:09 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi all,

This forum came highly recommended and I'm so glad I checked it out. I've been freelancing as a webby person of all trades since 1998. I am smart and can learn things relatively quickly by just digging in and doing. I know a little bit about a lot of things. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but I go with it.

So when I started to delve into the ecommerce stuff, I was very careful. I researched a bunch of shopping cart packages. My biggest worry was being able to easily integrate the shop with the design of the site, especially for my clients who wanted a regular pages for their site plus a cart. I didn't want a free solution because I've always found the support to be hit or miss and my php/mysql skills are still growing.

I ended up with Digishop from Sum Effect for my shopping cart of choice. Does anyone use this? At first, it sounded like a great solution, but now I cannot believe how much they nickel and dime me for changes to things i shouldn't even have to change in the first place. Like being able to set sale prices by a percentage discount. Or changing the API for the USPS rate change. Or for an import tool that works when I follow their instructions. I'm furious. Even though I've spent a ton of money for three uses of their software, I am seriously considering chucking them and starting fresh, before my client sites go live, with oscommerce or zencart.

I don't want to do it because I do not want to shake my clients' faith in me. But I don't want to deal with any more "oh that will cost you $250 to customize" emails.

Any thoughts out there?

8:06 am on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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back in the day, people changed their websites up drastically from time to time. Now days, they do not do that so much. Customers get used to a certain feel, with your website. Look at Yahoo or Amazon or Ebay, they change small things a little here and a little there, simply for the ease of use for their patrons. I would recommend going with a cart that charges you a one time purchase fee, or a free one. The only people you should be paying money to is your CC processor. What I would look for, is something that is going to be reasonably stable, something easy to configure. I have played with osCommerce, Agora, the CMS Joomla with their kart module, I am playing with store sprite now, that someone else recommended from this site. I also tried PhpCoin. I looked at merchant module(or module merchant) and Mal's e. Both of the last two are "services" not true carts. I am hoping I feel comfortable with StoreSprite, it is from the UK, but it seems stable and seems to be easy to work(a lot easier than osCommerce). The only problem I foresee with StoreSprite is since it is English, it does not have a module for Authorize.net built in. Go with something that has an easy to use "familiar" front end. That is what customers are looking for, ease of use. At the same time, I would find something that is highly supported, so that if you did have a question or a problem, you have help to turn to. Something else to consider, once you get your clients products into a database...make sure they can use that database with a different cart or software suite in the event there is a problem. It would be disastrous if your client spent two weeks entering data, you couldn't get the bugs out of your cart and the client lost the use of all of their data. The best thing might be to just grab you a handful of freebie carts, install them on your server and play with them. I use different canonical names for my carts. agora.mydomain.com, sprite.mydomain.com, etc. Each has it's own db, I am just playing with them, so I can delete then at anytime.
9:13 am on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Take a look at ecommercetemplates. The generic template is easy to incorporate into any exisiting design, support is excellent and there are loads of fairly inexpensive add-ons available.
2:45 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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For custom web sites, oscommerce or zen cart really wouldn't work. You can change the template, but there's not really much control over the design. My suggestion is similar to the previous, this is something like they mentioned, but a different vendor, webassist.com. I have never used it but it has gotten good reviews.
1:59 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Have you considered some of the hosted solutions? Volusion and MonsterCommerce are the big ones with tons of features. If you're looking for ease of use /web 2.0-ish looks you can try Netset or Shopify.
5:02 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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WebGenie and XLEcom.com both are very easy to use, I have dropped Mals and found my sales have tripled.

Although theres nothing wrong with Mals people didnt want to go through the cart and then the payment processor, I now use the payment processors cart with cuts out a lot of the effort involved in buying an item.

Failing that hand write one in HTML, ive used good coders in third world country's (Scotland etc ) who work for nothing and work well.

[edited by: Essex_boy at 5:03 pm (utc) on May 11, 2007]

11:57 pm on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thank you so much for your input. This is all serious food for thought. I didn't think I could really customize zen cart or osc too much, but enough that it would still have her colors and maybe bg. I haven't looked at hosted solutions, but I will, along with all of the others that were recommended.

My client is inputting her products into a spreadsheet right now and I'll be able to use that with pretty much anything, I suspect, as long as i make sure the header row/field names are right for that particular shop.

thank you again. you guys are awesome.

6:36 pm on May 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Since you would like to have full control over the store design I recommend you to rewiew LiteCommerce software.

You can edit its design in frontpage (or any other editor), for me it's quite important feature.

I believe this package could be suitable for you and also it has really clear and understandable admin area...