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mnw, I don't know specifically about Miva, but a lot of the shopping cart programs use all dynamically generated pages -not a good thing at all, particularly with noframes content coming into disfavor with Google.
I've seen sites where the entire product display is on dynamic pages, and I've also seen sites where the products are displayed on static HTML pages, with the actual shopping cart being accessed upon hitting the "add to cart" button.
I'm convinced that the second is the way to go - how to accomplish that I'm not sure about. I use third party credit card processing on some sites, linking to the shopping cart/secure server from my static pages, and one provider switched from Miva to Cybercart not too long ago. His shopping cart is used for multiple sites, including a mall situation.
A lot might depend on how you're setting up your product display pages and navigation system. I'm currently looking at shopping carts (and about to install the one available with the hosting I use, to try it out), and stuck right in the middle of a new site thinking of revamping the product navigation to incorporate thumbnail photos. This site will be switching to using a shopping cart in a few months, so I'm preparing ahead.
Also, some payment/gateway systems incorporate a secure shopping cart facility included with the credit card processing, on their server.
There are a lot of variables with this issue, and it's probably imperative to see working examples of each option to see which fits the particular client's need.
I hope someone who's had actual working experience with the commercial programs gives some input on this. It's a sizeable initial investment both financially and time-wise, so it would be good to have some authoritative information.
The shopping cart is template based, and offers very wide latitude in how you set it up (as far as using stirctly dynamic drill-down navigation, or using templates, etc.).
It can be used with more than one database file, so if you want to keep search times down, you can have one DB for each product category.
I'm not affiliated in any way with the product, but I've been very happy with the level of user-customization possible, and the ease of getting custom modifications done fromt he programmer. I think it's a fantastic program for the price range... if you're interested in visual customization, it beats a lot of carts in higher price ranges as well.
Also, a fact I forgot about that mivox post reminded me of, is that different shopping carts are set up to interface with different payment gateways (i.e. authorize.net). So the choice of who is selected to process real-time payments would influence the choice. The two are definitely inter-related.
There are also some security considerations, mentioned in this discussion from a while back:
Verisign's site has some interesting information on some of the issues, as does Mal's Ecommerce.
Edited by: Marcia
We have it on 14 sites, with no problems in SEO or transaction processing. It works with flat HTML pages, but for larger sites, you can also create your own custom template and maintain a database/spreadsheet in comma delimited form. It will turn out flat pages from your new data, whenever you want.
I also like that our sites remain completely portable -- nothing on the site's host server but HTML pages. I am not affiliated with Americart in any way except being a very happy user.
This late arrival of the secure server in the buying process hasn't been a problem that I can see -- conversion ratios seem to range from pretty good to excellent on these sites. Part of this is due to Americart's constant work to improve the clarity of all their checkout pages.
I understand that some people design their whole cart to appear within a frameset -- and that can make it so the secure server is never obvious to the user, even if though the connection from that inner frame is secure. I never though about doing such a thing -- sounds like "suicide by frames" to me.
The reason I ask the question is that I have a few sites on Americart and on one I find that a 78% back out of the purchase before going to the check out process.
I wonder if anyone knows if this back out rate is common on any ecom ordering system.
I see most are going back to the main site to shop some more then bail out.
I do worry that the security warning at the add to cart phase may cause them to doubt the security of the ordering process.
As far as the Americart System in general, I love the complete control you have in the design of the product pages, the vast tax and shipping options and the order reporting.
Also, the fact that your product pages can be static allows for some extra search engine material.
Oh yes, no frames - hate em'
Maybe it comes from my days in the supermarket business, but I've come to like "shopbacks", as we used to call merchandise abandoned before the final checkout. People picking up merchandise and almost buying it seems like a good thing, and shows that they're comfortable shopping with you. In fact, in the supermarket, our best days usually involved more than proportionally higher amounts of shopback goods.
I don't personally worry so much about abandoned carts, I watch conversion rates. IMO, that's where the rubber meets the road. If that number is low, AND the abandoned cart rate is high, then I'd probably do a usability study on the cart. But that hasn't happened so far.
If a cart is well designed -- both easy to use and fast -- it seems to me that people will use it as a sort of utility. So, you're not really "losing sales", instead you're giving people a way to play with the site and kind of fantasize about a purchase, checking out everything including total price with shipping and handling. It's like taking notes on a purchase that interests them. I know that I use carts this way, unless their unweildy, and then I just leave the site, most times.
Amazon and other sites now have a feature called a Wish List, which plays to this tendency in shoppers, and also helps the site tell the difference between actually losing a serious attempt at purchase, and the shopper who was just checking things out.
So, I always watch conversion rate, and not so much the abandoned cart number. That being said, I have one site that's close to 90% abandoned carts and another that's only about 20% abandoned (it has very high ticket items, and by the time the cart use starts, the buyer is highly pre-qualified)
The 90% abandoned site still converts between 3% and 4% (pretty high, I feel) and the business is profitable.
So far, it has been extremely easy to set up and any questions have been responded to quickly. (no, I do not have any affiliations with Dansie).
With another site we used commerce.cgi (I think that it is a derivative of one of Selena Sol's scripts) since the customer had a limited number of products (less than 100) and a very small budget. This is also working well.
Dealing mostly with local small businesses with little money to spare for merchant accounts and the like, I haven't had occasion yet to recommend a shopping cart. When I do, I think I'm leaning heavy toward commerce.cgi.
The down side is they rely on FrontP*ge. I think on the next revamp after this I will keep FP for the Storefront pages but move to Dream*eaver for all non product pages. I do not believe that the host has to be NT as I have been reading of people running on Un*x. Cost won't break the bank.
No I am not an affilate and I have no relations with them. Just used their product from day one.
Regarding the cart, I'm planning to link into the cart from static product pages (as any good SEO dude should ;))
We are also considering switching to MIVA MERCHANT 4.0 as our current host is going out of business.
One of the posts replied that HTML pages should be linked to a shopping cart for search engine purposes. True.
I understand MIVA can use your created HTML and dynamically created pages through their wizard.
If that's correct, that is the best of both worlds.
What would be important to me is how well SEARCH ENGINE KILLER works. That way one doesn't need to know HTML to max search engine listings.
Can anyone out there tell me their experiences with MIVA MERCHANT 4.0, the program, tech support, and using SEARCH ENGINE KILLER ?
As our current host is going out of business any day now, I need to switch ASAP so I would appreciate any insight from any of the nice readers here ASAP :-)
Item Type A: Very light weight and easy to ship. I can ship up to 5 of these for $6.00 and then I guess after that I would like to be able to ship more for some reduced extra rate.
Item Type B: Very heavy and requires a lot of shipping. I would need to charge $20.00 for each one with no [or very little] discount for ordering more than one because they are so expensive to ship.
My problem is that I want to have a cart that can handle someone buying 4 of item type B and 8 of item type A for example. Is this possible without shelling out tons of cash or writing my own cart? I've been thinking of writing one in perl or possibly tweaking a cart script that is already written.
Anyone have any suggestions/experience with this?
Any idea of a free (or almost free) perl shopping cart program which I could tweak to handle shipping mathematically in my own evil ways? :)