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One-Stop Solutions for E-Commerce Success

By SmallBusiness Directory.Com
Posted Friday, December 10, 2004

A review of two e-commerce solutions for small business owners. Includes tips and hints for setting up an online shopping system with resource links.

Are you having difficulty getting your online business off the ground because you just don't know how to make the order process, inventory, discount offer management, and affiiate program all work together? Maybe you've tried to piece together little scripts and other "wizards" into one solution, only to find that none of them are able to communicate with each other.

Why not try an all-in-one solution that handles all of these tasks for you in one convenient package? We reviewed two such packages, each with varying features and pricepoints to try to find the best all-in-solution for an e-commerce business. Every business will have different needs, but we specifically looked for solutions that offered an ordering process, offered PayPal as a method of payment, and managed an affiliate program. See the end of this article for all the relevant resource links.

Test # 1 Miva Merchant

We were introduced to Miva Merchant by our hosting company as they offer a free Miva Merchant license on selected hosting packages. The license is normally $595 and offers a copy of the software as well as all upgrades for that particular build. We tested version 4.1 and we were happy with the results. The software allows you to administer your site from your browser, and offers such features as order processing, inventory management, shipping and tax wizards, and affiliate program management. What was particularly nice about the software was the ability to setup the system in either a beginner or more advanced mode depending on your needs and abilities. The software resides on your server, so you will need a host that is either capable of installing the software for you or will allow you to install it yourself. One great feature is the ability to list your store in their Marketplace where people can find your products. If you can get it for free from your host, it's worth it. For smaller budgets, this may be a bit too robust.

Test #2 Cartville (a.k.a. 1ShoppingCart)

We tested the Cartville system (also known as 1ShoppingCart....Cartville has a private label version of the software that it promotes) and we were more than pleased. It's browser-based so you can run your site from anywhere in the world, and the software itself requires absolutely no installation. The browser-based administration interface is easy to understand, and they offer a trouble-ticket support system if you run into any trouble. We did not encounter any problems setting up the system, and it seemed each time we accessed the software we were pleased to find announcements of upgrades and new features. This particular solution does everything you could need for a small to medium-sized e-commerce business. The ordering system allows you to setup product-specific autoresponder messages that are sent to customers after they have purchased a particular product. This is great if you need to send things such as installation instructions, an upsell offer, or other text that is relevant to that product. The autoresponders are the "follow-up" version that allow you to schedule subsequent emails at intervals you determine. This means that a week or two after the sale, you can automatically send a follo-up offering them additional products or services. The software manages email newsletters, accepts both PayPal and credit cards, and has a nifty little "digital delivery" feature that allows you to send your customer to a secure page to download ebooks, software, or anything else downloadable after the sale. The affiliate program management system is quick, organized, and allows you to credit affiliate based on a one-tier or two-tier basis. Commissions can be percentage or fixed-dollar based, and the affiliate area is clean and organized. With three levels ranging from $19 to $69 per month, it's an extremely affordable solution. The even offer a free 30 day trial of the $69 version that is fully-functional. We placed a link to the free trial at the bottom of this article.

Here are some things to think about when choosing an all-in-one solution for your e-commerce business:

1. Think about the big picture: Choosing a solution based on price alone, without thinking ahead to what your business could need in the future may do more harm than good. While budget should always be considered when making a decision like this, don't choose too sparse a solution for the sake of saving a few dollars today while possibly losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in the future. Both of the solutions we tested were available for free or as a free trial, yet offered a low overall cost afterward. Primary to our test, however, was functionality.

2. Don't be blinded by a long features list: A never-ending list of every minute thing that a software package offers can dazzle anyone, but don't get pulled into a solution just because it's feature list is longer than someone elses. Look at the features that you will actually use and try to come up with an objective list for comparison. We selected features that were common to most merchants' needs and looked at the solutions through one objective lens rather than comparing apples to oranges.

3. Ask if upgrades are in the future: Choose an e-commerce solution with tomorrow in mind by asking the administrator how often upgrades are released and if you are eligible to receive them. As new competitors come out into the market, current providers need to stay competitive by constantly improving their product. If you are looking at a release of a solution that hasn't been updated in six months or longer, it might make sense to look somewhere else. Both of the products we tested offered consistent upgrades at no additional charge, and both companies welcomed feedback and feature suggestions.

In general, think of your all-in-one e-commerce solution like you would a new employee. Find one who is dependable, available to work from anywhere, works day and night without overtime, and demands little in resources and effort on your part to keep things working. In a sense, your e-commerce solution is like a salesperson, a customer service desk, an assistant and a billing department all in one and choosing one requires research and time. Hoepfully, our test has helped guide you in the right direction.

Resource Links:
Free Miva Merchant License with Hosting: (
Cartville Free Trial Offer: (

About the Author
Published by SmallBusinessDirectory.Com Reprint & distribution rights granted if resource box is intact. Copyright 2002, Midwest Media Partners (


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