We're looking for a shopping cart/eCommerce solution for our business and I'm trying to narrow the field of potential eCommerce software to find out what is best for us. I've tried to be specific in regard to our needs, but I've also included a quick summary at the bottom. Any suggestions will be highly appreciated!
UNIX-based, PHP, MySQL is fine for database.
Storage with a third party, rather than locally or on our server, is not possible.
Most of our online business comes from Google. The items presented should be search and index friendly.
We both sell and rent. Sales would work like most eCommerce sites (with recommendations, accessories, etc.) while rental, due to the nature of our field, would require human processing and interaction. Our software should allow people in renting to gather their items into a would-be order for submission to a human being, who would follow-up with them. Prices and availability would vary depending on what they plan to do to these items.
We sell and rent, but items may appear in both categories, and inventory of both categories will vary. If a program allows us to process both with a single entered item that would be awesome, but as I imagine this could be rare, we can create separate inventories if this doesn't work out.
Support for multiple layers of categories is important. Categories will need to have main pages with often-times thorough instructions. Ideally we should be able to manage this through our program. If not, we need to be able to manage it manually.
We need a great deal of control in how various items are presented as we sell scientific field testing equipment. This means we need to be able to include bullet-point lists and tables. In terms of purchases, our products frequently contain various attachments which not all customers would want, so we would have to be able to offer them.
The shopping cart is inserted into the site. It is not the entire site. Customizing is no problem, but we need to maintain the site's independence from the 'store'.
It goes without saying that this solution should be high quality (e.g. code is compatible across browsers, it is secure) and we are happy to pay for software that offers what we need.
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These are our requirements:
- Inventory and database stored on our server.
- Multiple levels of categories.
- 'Request a Quote' mode for rental. Must work in conjunction with typical item sales in another category (sales/rental).
- Item descriptions shared between two inventories (sales/rental) definitely a bonus, but not required.
- Search/index-friendly listings.
- Customizable category home pages with detailed information
- Fully customizable item listings with lists and tables
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Thank you so much for any initial suggestions offered!
P.S. While reading in the forum I found discussion about Avactis. It looks like a great solution for some of these things. What experiences have people had with it, and how does it generally compare?
I'm checking it out now. I've also had a pretty thorough look at CS-Cart and Avactis. It is looking like there are two particular requirements which may be more trouble than others.
1) The ability to have a 'rental' area, which is based on requesting a quote rather than making a purchase, and the ability to have a 'sales' area, which runs like most any other eCommerce site, running side-by-side. I'm having trouble even finding a 'request a quote' type feature in these eCommerce programs.
2) The ability to cleanly integrate the store with a site that has other areas, especially when combined with both a sales and a rental inventory. I thought about installing a shopping cart program twice (to get around any limitation of category-by-category processing like this) but then I would have to find a way to combine both site's user databases.
I'll continue researching and chugging away, but this is really an area where some advice can make a huge difference in time! Anyway, on to OSCommerce.
Zendcart is pretty good, and is a free install with any cpanel host that offers fantastico...
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go with oscommerce. its userbase, community support, number of modules that are produced by the community is way too large to pass by.
there is creloaded, an improved version of osc. it has many missing preloaded modules osc doesnt have, but still at many times clients choose to go with oscommerce just because of sheer number of modules present for it.
Prebuilt or custom software - or customized prebuilt software?
Have you thought about whether you will choose prebuilt mass market software, or custom software, tailored to automate your business?
Prebuilt software can be less expensive in the beginning, but more expensive in the long run because it wasn't made for your business.
Custom software can be more expensive in the beginning, but less expensive in the long run becuase it was made to automate your business.
Please consider ecommerce companies that provide hosted platform based custom software.
Hosted means that the ecommerce companies make applications that run on their servers and provide them to you. The benefit is that you don't need to buy any hardware, or software, or hire additional IT staff.
Platfrom based means that the ecommerce companies have existing platforms that we customize to do what the customer needs. The benefit of this is that you get the benefit of the lower cost of using prebuilt software platforms, and the benefit of having them customized to your business.
In your case the prebuilt platforms the ecommerce companies would customize to fit your business already:
- inventory / rental options
- request a quote
- allow you to create enewsletters and mail them out
- allow you to create polls and contests to find out what customers want
- allow you to create online events for members to register online
If you are ready to have the best software money can buy, tailored to your business then the next step is getting your requirements even more detailed then there are now and coming up with a storyboard that programmers can work with.
The ecommerce companies team would work with you to create the storyboard, the workflow and the database schema for your project.
At the end of that process, you would have plans on paper for your entire application, mapped out exactly the way you would want it function.
With the blueprints finished, the ecommerce companies would have the information needed to quote your project.
After providing you with a detailed quote, you could select which items to include or exclude to adjust the budget to meet your requirments.
Once a final quote was approved, the ecommerce companies would issue a work order for you to sign, and provide a project schedule with milestones.
After that, the ecommerce companies project manager would be in touch to give you updates on their progress.
Once the project is complete, it is a simple thing to verify that it has been built correctly be referring to the blueprint documents, and demonstrate that everyones expectations have been met.
Before deciding on one, download and test a few. I've tried many of the community supported systems, and for rental in addition to sales, there are few options that work out of the box. One recent addition is a fork of oSCommerce called Freeway which fits your listed requirements. Another one to look as simply because it is much more modern than the many clones of oSCommerce which is very old and shows it in many ways. That new one is called Magento at http://www.magentocommerce.com/
It requires PHP5.2 so check the requirements against your host versions.
I have been using oSCommerce for a few years and it is reliable, has lots of options for mods but it is hard to customize for look and feel, many contributions are incompatible with other modes, the development cycle is VERY slow.
My requirement did not really fit their model so I ended up designing my own that actually runs much of our office. A custom web application is really the only option if you want it to conform to your business rather than conform your business around the limitations of the ecommerce projects out there.
You will need a fixed IP address for your SSL cert and a good server because most of these carts perform a lot of db queries for each page displayed. For good operformance a VPS or dedicated server would be best.
I use ZenCart for all my OSCommerce, and insted of purchasing a SSL for payment processing, I just use the ZenCart of the Storefront and then use GoogleCheckout or Paypal for all the actual transactions.
Both GoogleCheckout and Paypal offer close rates, Google is a slight bit cheaper when it comes to rates per transactions, but on the other hand, PayPal has been in this business of payment processing longer than google has. So its a tough choice on which to go with full time.
Most of the carts mentioned are good for low-med volume stores in my opinion. We went through shopping cart hell for awhile with Xcart, yada, yada. We finally gave up trying to host one ourselves and went with the Yahoo! hosted cart. It is the only one we could find which would easily generate our 100,000 product catalog into full static HTML site.