Picking the Best Shopping Cart – Advice from a Cart Guru

Shopping Cart Guru Andrew Bleakley

Real-life shot of Andrew Bleakley, shopping cart expert.

To say Andrew Bleakley knows a lot about shopping carts is an understatement – he’s a full-fledged cart guru.  Over the last 15 years he’s helped literally hundreds of eCommerce entrepreneurs launch successful stores with his cart development and consulting services.  So I was thrilled when he agreed to share his extensive cart knowledge with the eCommerceFuel community.  He’s also generously agreed to answer your questions in the comments section.

An important note before diving in:  I love interviewing guests via video, but I also understand these interviews can be inconvenient for you, my readers.  I know I don’t have time to sit and watch a full 60 minute interview most days!

That’s why I’m now including an interview highlight outline with jump links so you can quickly find the content that’s most useful to you.  The jump links will take you directly to the point in the video or transcript where we discuss an issue.  I hope it helps you get more out of my interviews in less time.

I hope you enjoy the interview and remember to leave your questions for Andrew in the comments below!  You can also get in touch with Andrew or read his collection of cart reviews at AndrewBleakley.com.

Highlights and Topical Links

  • Introduction & Andrew’s Background Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • The biggest mistake people make when picking a cart Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • Best shopping cart for beginning merchants Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • Best shopping cart for intermediate to advanced merchants Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • Shopping carts people should avoid Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • Tips for working with cart developers Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • The fastest way to increase cart conversion Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • Realistic rates for hiring competent cart developers Jump to in Video or Transcript
  • The #1 trait Andrew sees in successful merchants Jump to in Video or Transcript

Interview

 

Interview Transcription

Andrew Y: Hello everyone my name is Andrew Youderian and I’m the founder of eCommerceFuel, where we talk about building profitable eCommerce businesses online. And in today’s interview, I want to learn on how to pick the best shopping cart for your needs and apply best practices to get it built, customized and launched; particularly, if you’re going to be working with a developer. My guest, Andrew Bleakley, eats and breathes shopping carts for a living as an experienced cart developer. He also blogs about and reviews shopping carts at andrewbleakley.com. Andrew, thanks a lot for being here with us.

Andrew B: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Andrew Y: Absolutely! So first question, out of the gates, how many custom ecommerce sites have you worked on in your career, just to give people kind of a sense of how familiar with this space you are.

Andrew B: Hundreds.

Andrew Y: Hundreds?

Andrew B: Yeah, it would be hundreds; if not thousands or more. We’ve been doing carts things like post scripts that used to be custom written to run on UNIX machines back in the late 90’s and all the way through the hosted cloud solutions like BigCommerce and Shopify. So, I’ve been there right through. I’ve seen every sort of fad and methodology. And loved it the whole way.

Andrew Y: So, you were doing it back in the day when even like young guys, not like us, (I would say like us but we’re getting old) but even when people weren’t used to it or afraid to shop online cause it was not as sketchy. You were doing it back when ecommerce was, still you know, people weren’t comfortable with it.

Andrew B: Yeah, I’ve been doing it since like 1994. That’s just one great big Perl script that had to be bashed around in notepad. It wasn’t as much fun as it is now.

Andrew Y: Yeah, I can imagine. That’s really neat of a perspective. So, in all of this time that you’ve been doing it, you know the hundreds of maybe thousands of sites, what’s the craziest product that you’ve helped somebody sell in terms of developing a shop for? What is the craziest product line or product that you’ve seen?

Andrew B: I did one, not long ago, that was for condoms that had me in stitches the whole time because I just could not imagine anyone going online to buy, especially, condoms.

Andrew Y: Did you just say condoms?

Andrew B: Condoms, yeah!

Andrew Y: There was actually a guy, a friend of mine who interviewed me, Terry Lin. He actually interviewed a guy, JP I believe, I’m kind of struggling. Does that ring a bell at all?

Andrew B: Well, the site was called Big Richard. And the marketing team and the design and creative team will just, they went to town with this thing. They brought out underwear; they and all these add-ons. It was just hilarious! I enjoyed every single minute of it just because it was fun for a change. It wasn’t this pressure to do it; “it has to be here” and “we got to make a million dollars” and “the house is riding on it”. It was a job that everybody involved just laughed from start to finish. And poked fun at the fact that we’re trying to sell condoms on the internet.

Andrew Y: See that! It’s kind of funny, as ecommerce gets more saturated, seems like it kind of having that unique personality, being funny and being a little bit different is getting a lot more important. Let’s think of razors, for example. Like how boring razors are but have you seen, for example, the Dollars Shave Club, you know their kind of promo. Have you seen that video?

Andrew B: Yeah, the classic.

Andrew Y: Yeah, you know, great, hilarious! I’ve watched it for half a dozen times. And if you can be different and stand out like that, it helps a ton.

Andrew B: We’ve all got a lot better on the internet and we’ve worked out how to see through the obvious and sort of the marketing nonsense and play a little bit on the internet long enough to sort of be able to picks some depths out of the profiles and the front that you usually puts up.

Andrew Y: Well, let’s dive into some actual carts specific issues. You obviously work with a lot of people; I’m guessing all kinds of small individual businesses up to larger ones. In all your experience, what do you think are the common mistakes people make when they’re picking a shopping cart that you see?

Andrew B: The biggest, I think, the worst mistake I see is not picking a cart. People that spend 12 months to 18 months analyzing every single cart they come across and question every single decision, every single time we’re seeing a new cart. Then, 2 years after, when they had their thought to get on to ecommerce, they still had nothing up. It’s crazy. Paralysis by analysis. Software and ecommerce software generally is pretty good. You could pick anyone and sell your product and make a few dollars, really. At the end of the day, they are all remarkably similar despite what their marketing teams will have you believe. They’re just looking for so long for this perfect piece of software. You’ll go nowhere. You’re better off picking something, selling something and then reinvesting as you learn your lessons. You can’t learn every lesson about ecommerce and online stores by reading blogs.

Andrew Y: It’s kind of funny you say that because, I mean, my first ecommerce store was launched on ZenCart which I know you are familiar with. And for people who aren’t, I’m guessing, Andrew is going to pound them and later when I ask about carts not necessarily to use. Back in the day, they weren’t too bad but by today’s standard, it’s a rough cart. It doesn’t even hold an edge against a lot of competitors. And despite of all the shortcomings of it, it was what I used to get my first successful online and it worked great. I think you’re dead right. Spending time on marketing is way more important than the type of cart that you’re gonna have and in connecting with customers and really improving the descriptions, names and design that you said that are all important. And I think you’re right.

Andrew B: Absolutely! You know try a few of this cart, pick and few that you’ve heard good things about. Give them a quick test run if it feels right, it ticks nearly all your boxes. And the important ones are would it accept money from customers in the way you want to handle it. So, if you do PayPal does it do PayPal? If you use 2Checkout does it use 2Checkout? Does it support the postage method that you have to ship the products? If it does this, get it up and start making money! That’s got to be the goal. If you’re not in this to make money, what are you doing?

Andrew Y: And at the end of the day, if you hate the cart, you can change. You’re not locked in to these things. I think, I’ve gone through kind of the process of going through my second big site, revamp and it takes some work but it’s not nearly as complicated or as scary as people might think.

Andrew B: No, it’s quite a simple process to kill one and start another. They all make it pretty easy. If you look through enough of the website, you generally find a switch link where their sales team will switch you.

Andrew Y: Yeah, I’ve seen those too.

Andrew B: There’s no such thing as you’re stuck with the cart forever. You’re not stuck with the cart until you find a better one.

Andrew Y: You’re not getting married, you know.

Andrew B: Exactly!

Andrew Y: I don’t know if engagement is even a good term for it. It’s a long extended weekend date.

Andrew B: It’s really just an employee. As long as it’s doing the job that you’re paying it to do, keep it. If it stops doing that, switch.

Andrew Y: Yeah! So, don’t focus too much on the cart. So, that being said, that being kind of the first point to keep in mind, let’s talk about specific carts and kind of breaking these down a little bit by category in terms of the merchant who’s going to be using them. So, out of all the carts out there, what are your favorite carts for a new ecommerce merchant, I mean new is probably is not even the right word, for a beginning ecommerce merchant. Someone who has never had an ecommerce store before and let’s say they’re smart, they learn quickly but they’re probably not super technically savvy. They don’t know PHP, they might know a little bit about HTML but not a whole tech background. What would you recommend for a cart for them.

Andrew B: I would say just go with Shopify or BigCommerce. They’re both very non-threatening, very point and click, very self explanatory and you know, reasonable priced so that you can wade in without feeling too overwhelmed with the whole process. And you can get your products online, get a thing in there cheap of for free and you can just test this whole ecommerce thing without the stress of a full blown implementation.

Andrew Y: Do you have a favorite between the two? If there’s someone out there who is going to be one of those paralysis by analysis folks and they this they’re going to spend the next three weeks comparing the two. If you had to pick one for that new guy, which one would you recommend?

Andrew B: BigCommerce! It gives you more features for free than Shopify.

Andrew Y: Okay, got you! BigCommerce, between the two, over Shopify. In terms of somebody who was maybe a little more intermediate to advance, a little more technically savvy and maybe a little more concerned about the flexibility and the features and have the ability to be able to implement them on their own or at least who’s comfortable about contracting with either someone like you or another developer to get something up for speed. Would your recommendation change? What cart would you recommend in that case for someone who’s a little more advanced?

Andrew B: As stores grow and people really do starting to invest on their livelihoods in ecommerce, I tend to suggest they move more from the hosted BigCommerce / Shopify type platforms to something they can put on their own server, something they can secure, backup, make redundent. You know, it is their livelihood and no own should be in-charge of your livelihood but you. I love BigCommere and I was a huge fan of InterSpire which was an installed product when they had it but it’s no more. But you know, there’s software like Magento, there’s Prestashop, OpenCart, all of which you can put on the server you are in control, you can configure and edit it anywhere you like. And you can be responsible for your store like and other brick-and-mortor store.

Andrew Y: Got it! So, just to make it clear, Magento or excuse me, Shopify and BigCommerce, those are hosted solutions so if you sign up with those guys, you don’t have to worry about servers. The hosting comes with it and it’s called the hosted solution, is that the right term for it?

Andrew B: Yeah, it’s perfect! And a lot of people call it fee-based or software as a service, there are a million names for it but basically it means, you pay them to do it for you.

Andrew Y: And then for some of these other ones, you are talking about for more of an intermediate person, they’re gonna be hosted servers or self-hosted solutions where you’re gonna have to go out and set up a web posting account with you know, Bluehost or GoDaddy or somebody to upload the software, configure it yourself. It’s more flexible but it’s gonna be a little more technical to set up.

Andrew B: Yeah, it’s gonna be a little more technical to set up and you’ll probably gonna need a developer at some point. But again, when ecommerce is at that point where it’s gonna be your livelihood, you’re gonna take responsibility for it.

Andrew Y: I’m gonna press you again just like I did on the last one, you know. So, you mentioned those three different names on there, you got to pick one for a great self hosted solution for kind of an intermediate ecommerce entrepreneur, what would you recommend?

Andrew B: I’d say go with Prestashop.

Andrew Y: Prestashop, really? That surprise me! I thought for sure that you’re gonna say OpenCart from the ton of good stuff I’ve heard about it.

Andrew B: OpenCart, I love. And it’s really strong in the SEO community but it’s a bit new. Prestashop’s got a more of the kind of solid background with its years and years of development behind it. If you’re just starting a little bit in ecommerce, keep it in mind, and try it out. But I’d say Prestashop is a more stable long term solution.

Andrew Y: Got you! It’s really interesting! It’s funny because I, obviously, I planned a lot of these questions after reading your blog and a lot of things and I have all my own pre-conceived notions about shopping carts and I thought for sure you’re gonna be like Shopify for the beginner, absolutely! I thought you’re gonna say OpenCart for the intermediate. So this has totally surprise me which is great!

Andrew B: You know, it depends! BigCommerce has impressing me a lot lately because of the new version that’s coming up which I think the general public would see at the end of January. OpenCart’s just dropped a new version recently which got a lot of new feature and a lot of stuff for Australians that I really like. But you know, at the end of the day, stability counts so Prestashop has been around longer and has a proven track record and has got a larger development community. And if you want the best in the market, that’s what you should get.

Andrew Y: Now, this is good. I’m not trying to talk you off your picks. You are the expert here, it’s just interesting to hear! So, those carts you know, we got the BigCommerce, Prestashop, some solid choices for folks. What carts would you really recommend people avoid and this could be both hosted, self-hosted and you can throw a couple of names out there. Anything that you would like to tell people to shy away from.

Andrew B: At the moment, the only ones that I really don’t like would be osCommerce, ZenCart and Xcart. And there’s nothing wrong with them. For a decade osCommerce was the gold standard in online shopping cart software. But that was decade ago and really from a development point of view, from a user’s experience point of view, we’re looking for different things now than Zencart, Xcart and osCommerce style carts are offering. Most importantly, it’s simplified administration. You want to give clients a very easy solution to manage themselves. If anyone’s seen the backend of osCommerce and the backend of Shopify, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The one has massive menus that give you access to everything you could ever want to see. Shopify, on the other hand, gives you access to the only things you want to see. You know, with the world taking a little shift, these cart has not caught up really. Better to do some move from it and start with something that’s new.

Andrew Y: It’s funny you mentioned the backend, kind of the admin panel because I remember really clearly moving from ZenCart on my first shop which is an osCommerce based cart. It’s built on the osCommerce platform I believe. It was kind of like a can of worms with menus, it took a while to get a hang of it. You remember where things were but the first couple of weeks were brutal trying to figure it out back there, you know.

Andrew B: That’s what people wanted 10 years ago. Ten years ago, people who are getting into ecommerce were a lot more tech savvy, they wanted access to everything. Now, ecommerce and the internet are so readily available that you got almost anyone who wants to getting into the space and first thing they say is that, I don’t want to see that, I just want to see this stuff. And they want it to be that simple. Just show me how to add a new product, that’s all I want to do or just show me where to ship order, that’s all I want to see. Software across the board generally just gets more and more simplified. So why not eCommerce software.

Andrew Y: Yeah, I agree. Let’s kind of change gear and tackle a little bit about developers; working with developers. They can help you customize a new site that you’re getting to be launched up. As a developer yourself, what are some of the common mistakes people make when they start working with you? When they engaged you, what are some of the things that people do that just drive you nuts, that waste time, that waste money, that make you less like want to work with them? What are some of these pitfalls that people can avoid?

Andrew B: The least one is leaving things off your feature list. That one always makes me bang my head against the wall. You know, you’ll get a client that says I want a cart that does this. I’ll find the cart that does that and that does that well. And then all of a sudden, the changes come in. It might be something like gift registry or wish list, you know, that the cart you use doesn’t do. That’s just crazy! That means a whole u-turn and a lot of extra time and cost. I guess it’s the same with anything. You just put simple solid thought into the whole process, it goes a lot smoother. If you prepare and you’ve got product shops already and you’ve got descriptions and product title and pricing; if you got these things ready, it’s gonna be a lot smoother, a lot faster and your time to launch will be a lot less.

Andrew Y: So in terms of working with you though, correct me if I’m hearing these things correctly but, sounds like you’re saying that people come in and they give you something to do maybe like helping them pick a shopping cart or maybe it’s to build out a feature for open source shopping cart and they really haven’t sat down and really thought through exactly what they need before they have you do something. And so, because of that, you go find the perfect thing and then you have to come back either modify it or do some more research because there wasn’t enough upfront investment in really figuring out what that person needed.

Andrew B: Yeah! And then, I see a lot of people that in apparent hurry and they walk in and just say I just need this done. Okay, you know, let’s take it in and talk a bit about it and find out mainly what it is you want done but also why you want it done. Because, generally, there’s more than one way to do something and that’s all about outcome really. You don’t just sit down and pick a shopping cart and hope everything works. You’d like to test these things. You’d like to make sure that they implement it in such way it gets used.

Andrew Y: That’s an interesting point! Actually, I’m a huge fan and a huge advocate of using, as much as you can, using stock templates. One of my ecommerce stores run on it and soon or shortly, both of them will be running on stock Magento templates, slightly modified. And you can do a lot with existing things. I think a lot of people think to do really well with ecommerce, you have to go out and spend $10,000 on a custom theme and have all this development stuff done and they end up with this beautiful shopping cart that looks gorgeous an is really feature-rich but they haven’t spent any time in marketing and nobody buys from them. So, in your experience, what have you seen? Is it important to customize and what should kind of be left as is or can be left stock that is not kind of a big of a deal? Is there kind of either templates or feature sets that falls on each one of those?

Andrew B: Really, you could leave almost all of it untouched. And most of the time, it would be better to get the style up and spend some dollars maybe in it. And then, put money into and re-design it or re-brand it. I think most people underestimate how expensive it is to develop a brand an implement it and how long that takes. That takes months to do a website project especially for an ecommerce one. If you had to customized the look or the features, I suggest you customize the look because people, they kind of like that. They’ll buy in a store that looks good because it looks good. It’s just human nature. And all those features an add ons does not really have too much value and don’t improve the conversion which is, at the end of the day, is your primary goal. You want traffic and you want those people to spend money. It should be simple math.

Andrew Y: And having a professional look is important. You got to look professional, otherwise, you’re not gonna have the trust level, the credibility level. Cause lots of time, if I land on a site, you everyone knows the Amazon, they know the big names, but if you land on a site selling English tea pots you know, myenglisteapot.com, you don’t know them. At least I largely base my decision based on whether I trust them or not, not entirely but largely on the quality of website. It doesn’t have to be phenomenally perfect but if it’s looking like one of those sites that you were developing way back in the early 90’s or late 90’s, I’m gonna be significantly less likely to buy from them.

Andrew B: The thing I’ve seen that increases conversion almost single handedly more than any aspect of the site, is the About Us and Contact Us page.

Andrew Y: Really, no kidding?

Andrew B: If you put yourself and your heart and soul into those pages so that people can visit your site and realize you’re a real person, you get their trust immediately. Far more than pasting 500 logos in the footer of your website to say you’ve been certified by, you know, everyone that ever bought a dot com domain. The website should be able to show who customers are doing business with. I don’t know why so many people refuse to put their name and photo and their address and their phone number and all these things.

Andrew Y: That’s a great a tip! I would not be, if you’d ask me what were the top 5 things you could do to increase conversion, I wouldn’t even have thought about the contact us page.

Andrew B: People just love to buy from other people. And they’ll do it time and time again just because they can see you . And they have a feeling that they know whom they’re doing business with. Yeah, what are you hiding from? Put your face on it, put your name on it.

Andrew Y: That’s a great tip! That gives me some things to do tomorrow on a site I’m re-designing. This is great!

Andrew B: Yeah, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen some of your website.

Andrew Y: Yeah, well, I’ll send you the increase and conversion rate for people who visited the contact us page form half a percent or four percent. You mentioned a lot of people underestimate how expensive having custom development is. And if you’re in the development community, or you have a programming or designed background, you’ll kind of understand those rates but I think a lot of people when they get a quote especially an hourly quote to have custom work done, they’re just floored by how much it is. And I think it’s important to set some realistic expectations in terms of rates. So, can you just give us a kind of a general idea of, I’m sure they’ll vary a little bit but if you’re looking to hire somebody for a custom development work on shopping cart, what’s kind of the range, the ball park range that you should expect to pay on an hourly basis for quality work?

Andrew B: Between $70 and $140 an hour I would say; depending on the shopping cart, depending on what sort are you doing. Quality work with reputable developers will probably fall into that range but then again if you go for an agency, it’s gonna be a lot more than that.

Andrew Y: And is that in US dollars or Aussie dollars?

Andrew B: They’re just the same.

Andrew Y: They’re the same. Perfect! So, ballpark range is a $100 range is about right. And one thing I think a lot of people end up doing is especially if you’re new to this and you’re not really technically inclined, I think a lot of times when people see that hundred dollar price tag and they buck and they go and find someone on oDesk for $15 that can claim to do same thing and they got through the hastle of doing all that and you know, some people can do that, some are technically inclined to that and maybe there are some people out there but a lot of times, especially with higher end stuff, you do get what you pay for. And so you go through that route, that doesn’t work out and you can come back for that original quote.

Andrew B: And then the cost will be going off the roof cause it’s more expensive to fix someone’s mistake than to just have done it right in the first one.

Andrew Y: Right.

Andrew B: And it comes in the properly thinking out of what you want and the outcome you want because if you got all that information clear in your head, and go to someone, they won’t say oh $300 an hour and who knows how long it takes. They’ll say it would cost you $250 and I can do it in 2 and a half hours. No problem, sent and laid out. And that’s it. You got a fix price for the work, you know exactly upfront what it’s gonna cost. But all it comes down to knowing what you want, you know, why you want it.

Andrew Y: And to clarify again to the $100 roughly an hour rate. That’s assuming working with someone local. So, for you, you know, you will be working with someone in Australia, for me someone in the States. Dealing with a local developer, kind of in your own time zone, same language that you can chat with really easy on the phone.

Andrew B: It comes in handy. I mean the internet has made it such that you can work with people everywhere. I’ve worked with every continent on Earth, in London. There’s always an advantage in working local and you should always try and work local because, you know, local is your community.

Andrew Y: Yeah I agree! And I’ve done both. I’ve worked with kind of folks like you who are really very much experts, producing high quality work in about a $100 an hour range. And I’ve also worked with, you know just recently I had some very specific things that I need to be done in Magento, and you know I’ve got a light programming background that when I need to I can really make some ugly hackable PHP but that’s about the extent of my experience and my ability. And so, for them, I know exactly what I needed and being able to find it, I was able to work with somebody on oDesk but there were still, you know, almost about $35-$40 an hour and it was something where if I hadn’t had any experience with Magento in the past, and if I have no programming background, it would have been a nightmare to try and do that. And so you can leverage some of those differences sometimes. But if you are kind of a new to intermediate person with ecommerce, hiring people with experience usually, a lot of times it will pay for itself especially getting that first store up.

Andrew B: Absolutely! Otherwise, contact the proper developer and say I want to put this job on oDesk, can I charge you for an hour to fix it up so that it’s right. Several people send me oDesk job descriptions, saying can you just fix it up so that if I post it on oDesk it gets done properly. And you just go in and you just correct the wording and you make statements final and you clear out some of the non-technical things they’ve had so that there’s no question about what’s going to be delivered.

Andrew Y: So, you’re kind of the translator between the non technical person and the programmer.

Andrew B: Yeah, why not? They’d pay the developer $50-$100 for a few minutes of their time to make sure that the job description you post will get you the work and the result you want.

Andrew Y: Absolutely! It’s a whole new industry. It’s a brilliant idea! I haven’t even heard of that before.

Andrew B: Funny because people send this stuff to me and I say sure, why not. And this always seem to work cause they don’t come back and say there was a problem. The work always gets done and I’ll follow up later and it’s all looking fine.

Andrew Y: I just get that it goes back to just investing the time upfront to make sure you communicate; everything written down clearly and you communicate well and that will pay huge dividends and saving your time and headaches down the road. So, we’ve been talking about developers and kind of what we need when we say that is the developer someone who is probably more of a programmer; can get and modify features, the code base who really can get in and under the hood with a lot of the feature sets. A developer is very different though from a designer who’s gonna have much more of a graphical background maybe more focus on the aesthetics of the website. When you’re working with folks, is it common or would you recommend for people to find someone who can do both that can do the features and also do some graphic work? Or do you think, would you recommend people to go out and find a qualified developer for kind of the technical custom features that need to be integrated and then a designer to actually skins something or create a custom theme? What’s your experience and recommendation with that?

Andrew B: I’ve never seen anyone who could do both jobs efficiently well. I’ve seen spectacular designers who could write a bit of code and I’ve seen fantastic developers who could knock up a quick template. But generally, you get a professional to do the job and get a specialist. You won’t get a plumber to come in and fix your toilet and then re-hinge the door while he was at it. I’m constantly in awe the work developers do. Unlike designers, developers really, their job is pretty easy. But designers they can create this looks and this feels for sites and and then just stand over your shoulder while you implement it and sent you back notes that say can you move this one pixel left. I’ve got code eyes, I can’t see single pixels. It’s got to be at leeast ten pixels before I notice something is out of alignment. I wouldn’t find someone who can do both. I don’t think you’ll get the best result. And you’ll probably pay him more for it anyway.

Andrew Y: Yeah, that’s something I’ve heard a lot from people and I think everyone in their own lives can see that too. I mean, I can like I said, I can hack horrible php code and I can hack horrible design but I’m a marketer and I’m a guy who likes to market and pursue business opportunities. And I think everyone has that one thing that they do well or love to do well. And it’s really rare to be able to find someone that can do both.

Andrew B: But I’m sure there can be a lot out there who can do it but if I was a guy that has both of those skills, I’ll be charging and have an absolute fortune out of it.

Andrew Y: Oh yeah! It would be amazing! If we could all be just amazing in everything, how wonderful the world would be.

Andrew B: Yeah, that is the sole solution, I think.

Andrew Y: You work obviously with a ton of different store owners so just kind of stepping back, from a macro look at the success of stores and storeowners that you see. Are there any common traits that over the years you’ve identified among successful store owners, certain habits or traits that you see the successful ecommerce entrepreneurs consistently doing that leads to really good outcome and strong businesses? What would those be, if any that you’ve identified?

Andrew B: Yeah the successful ecommerce storeowners work, basically. I couldn’t tell you how many times people send me briefs to build eCommerce stores because they want to retire. And it’s just not like that. I don’t know who started that rumor because it’s ridiculous! An ecommerce store is a store! If you want to make a lot of money, and you want to be successful, you got to market it; you got to be online to answer questions and emails, you got to be finding ways every single day to get more traffic and to serve that traffic better. Just because you can do it at home in your boxers, you keep running around and your wife bringing you a cup of tea doesn’t mean you don’t work. It just means you work slightly differently and you get to have a great time at home with your family but it is still work. And if you’re attitude towards ecommerce is you want to retire, you’re probably gonna struggle. You just have to work, it’s great fun, really enjoyable work.

Andrew Y: That’s a great point. It’s kind of tough because I interact with a lot of readers and email back and forth and I do hear that on frequent basis when people say, I’m interested in ecommerce and exactly like you said. I want to get a store up and go ahead and be making $75,000 a year within the next 12 months part time. And it’s tough because, I think, you need to have realistic expectations and I think you can retire with it. But I think what you have to realize is you’ve got to take a step back first, and you know. I’ve heard it said that if you want to start a new business you have to have one of two things: you either need to have a lot of time on your hands or a lot of money. And if you don’t have one of those two, you know, it’s not gonna create itself and so if you’re willing to invest one of those two in a big way, and take a little bit of a step back from maybe a full time job to put in some sweat equity to really invest into the brand and the business. Maybe 3-4 years down the road, you definitely can retire; and maybe a couple of years if you work your tail off non-stop. I guess it was funny cause you surprise me once again. I was expecting maybe some answers like, you know, they’re brilliant marketers or they do a ton of niche research and I don’t know what else I was expecting but I think about it’s as good of an answer as you can give.

Andrew B: All those are valid things that you have to do and sort of do well to succeed but you have to do them. And what I’ve seen more often than not with ecommerce is that people just don’t “do”; there’s no doing. You know, they put up the picture, they copy the product description from the manufacturer’s site then they sit back and fsay “Why aren’t I making sales”? You know some focused hard work will build a brilliant store that will set you up for very very nice life.

Andrew Y: Andrew, really appreciate you coming on. Generally, I learned a lot in terms of, you know. I’m gonna get a new Contact Us page tomorrow!

Andrew B: You know in your sites, you have to just really tell people whom they are doing business with. Introduce yourself; make the site an extension of yourself and people will trust you, people will spend their money with you because they’ll feel comfortable and that’s what you have to do. You don’t walk into a brick-and-mortar store and the owner turns and runs out the back door does he? They put their head up. They say h ello and they shake your hand. They walk down the isles and they ask you would you like any help with that? Ecommerce is the same it’s just there’s this disconnect. But there’s plenty of tools out there that can help you fill that void. The first one is to own it.

Andrew Y: Great tips! For people who are thinking about launching a store or they want to get in contact with you, you know, could you give us just a brief idea of the services you offer and what it is that you specialize and also how people can get in touch with you if they want to talk with you about potentially getting assistance in getting a store up and running or they have some sort of custom ecommerce needs, what do you offer and how can our readers could get a hold of you?

Andrew B: Lately it seems that I function more as a sounding board for people which is fine. And they don’t do a great deal different then just find me on my website, get me on skype and we sit down and talk about this. And they tell me what they want and we go and find the right cart for them; set them up with a trial and then at that point we work on if they want a custom theme if they need a custom theme any custom development. And if I can do it, I’ll tell them I can do it if not, I will help them find someone else. I also do shopping carts developments, building sites, but I don’t do the designs but there are many designers that I worked with so I can bring them out.

Andrew Y: So, pretty much anything from helping somebody narrow down maybe in case they missed first half of the interview where you identified some of the carts. But you know, maybe finding that perfect cart for exactly a specific feature set all the way through really doing some custom features development or just helping people through the process, maybe finding developers. You can really folks through the whole process of getting into ecommerce; selecting and getting a site launched up and running.

Andrew B: Look, an hour spent with who knows what they’re talking about in skype or on the telephone will save you ten hours of fooling around. You know, people could always email me and I do get back all the emails and people asking questions and whatnot. I put up a form so that people can ask me questions and seek feedback on my site.

Andrew Y: Perfect! So, the website again is andrewbleakley.com and can you spell that, I mean it will be in the show notes of course but if people are listening, can you spell that please?

Andrew B: andrewbleakley.com.

Andrew Y: Great! And even if you don’t need any work done, I just recommend you checking out the site. A lot of great information and great reviews on different shopping carts. If you’re just looking around and starting to get your feet wet and try to learn about the field of the carts that are available. A great resource for checking out.

Andrew B: Absolutely! And check out the comments because they’d probably provide more value than reviews themselves. A lot of people over the years have put some very good feedback at the bottom of those reviews and it’s just invaluable.

Andrew Y: Hearing from 10-15 people who have actually used the cart, yeah that is really valuable.

Andrew B: Oh yeah!

Andrew Y: Well, Andrew, it’s been a pleasure having you on and I really appreciate you, just
sharing so much of your expertise and experience with ecommerce and hopefully in the future, perhaps when we get back on and maybe do this again next year.

Andrew B: And see who upgraded to what!

Andrew Y: Yeah! Wonderful! Well, thank you so much Andrew, I really appreciate it.

Andrew B: My pleasure, thank you!

Andrew Y: Thanks for watching everyone!

 

Show Notes

AndrewBleakley.com – Andrew’s site for his development services.  Also has lots of great cart review.

Shopify.com (aff link)

BigCommerce (aff link)

Magento

PrestaShop

OpenCart

osCommerce

ZenCart

X-Cart

What Questions Do You Have for Andrew?

Andrew has generously agreed to answer your questions – just leave them in the comments section below.   This is a great chance to get expert advice about picking and developing your own cart.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Andrew – Again, thank you for doing this interview! I learned a tremendous amount and am looking forward to doing some A/B split testing with new, more personal ‘About Us’ pages to see the effect on conversion it has. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with the eCommerceFuel community!

  2. Deyson says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share such a great interview, I need all the help I can get. I especially like the part about the About Page and Contact Page. I am about to get in there and put some love into those pages.

    Thank you! :)

  3. Timothy says:

    Hey there, thanks for the great interview. Found it really insightful. Actually, I have a comment about Big Commerce. Currently, as of December 2012 Big Commerce stores don’t have drop shipping functionality for those who need it. They claim this is coming soon though. I got my store set up with them, had all my products on the site, and had all my suppliers ready too. But, I kept having problems with shipping settings. I called customer service and they informed me their site is not drop shipping ready. Just the way the site is designed it would make drop shipping very complicated and quite a pain. I agree with you that big commerce offers a lot of free stuff. However, I had to leave them and go to Shopify where the settings are more flexible and can allow for the things that I want to do. I wasn’t trying to do anything complicated here. I had two suppliers and wanted to set up different shipping options for both of them. Big commerce told me this was not possible. Just want to suggest as a cavet that big commerce is great for those who do not have suppliers shipping their goods for them. Plus, in my opinion Shopify’s designs are much more attractive and convincing in the sense to a customer. Cheers!

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for the feedback, and sharing your experience. I’m curious – did Shopify work better with multiple suppliers out of the box, or did you need to install an app to the basic package?

      I know that a number of people do use BigCommerce successfully to drop ship (Like Kamal from CurbSideAir – see this post: http://www.ecommercefuel.com/create-online-store-with-job/) – so it’s definitely possible with BigCommerce, but maybe just not as customizable as would be hoped for.

      • Kate says:

        I believe both Shopify and BC have the same range of apps that provide shipping and drop ship support – none of which really fill the gaps in my opinion. We’re building our own as I speak to take care of inventory management, order fulfilment and back order management.

        What has proven interesting to me is that we are spending the same, if not more on our back end utilities as we did on actually building our store. Which reiterates the fact that while a pretty looking store is on most people’s minds, don’t choose a cart on this basis. Choose one based on your back end needs. Shopify was and is a no go for us until they do something about their bulk product upload process which is why we’re with BigCommerce and will remain until we have to move.

        From there we would most likely head to Magento but it will be some time if ever. Magento will mean a semi-dedicated or dedicated IT resource on our part and its not a justifiable cost at this time.

        • Andrew says:

          Thanks for the comment, Kate! I’d agree – most of the carts I’ve come across on the market are ALL geared out-of-the-box toward selling inventory items that you have in-house. I’ve yet to see a good cart that is designed specifically for drop shippers – or at least that has great drop shipping support built-in. Currently, we have to do a lot of different “hacks” to make everything work smoothly.

          Companies like http://www.eCommHub.com are trying to make this easier, but I think there’s still room for a cart that caters to managing off-site inventory and drop shipped orders.

          • Kate says:

            Yes, ecommhub are great and will improve. We use them at the moment but aside from an in stock or out of stock status along with inventory – not much other use for now in terms of back orders. All of our suppliers provide back order dates as part of their XML data but ecommhub doesn’t have a field match for that at this time. I think we concluded that no one solution was perfect and with the BigCommerce API which is pretty snazzy, we figured we could do our own. The more automated we are on the back end, the more revenue we can take on without additional labor costs.

            But the drop ship capabilities weren’t the decision factor for us when it came to carts. Honestly, most everything hooks into Quickbooks so you just shoot your PO’s to your vendors from there. The big one was bulk product upload. Shopify have just changed their background on the homepage to someone selling jewellery and I think thats their solution in a nutshell as it is today. Not a ton of SKU’s, not a ton of product options and I think you’re fine there. If we had less SKU’s with less attributes and less product options then we would likely be there ourselves.

        • Andrew says:

          Agreed! I think Shopify is the best solution for shops with a limited number of SKUs that really need to look “pretty”, such as in the design, creative and fashion markets. Andrew and I actually did a second interview where we discussed cart features in-depth and he said pretty much exactly the same thing about Shopify.

          Import / export is really important, too. We use it all the time with Magento for updating pricing, inventory, etc in bulk.

          Curious – How are you liking eCommHub? Do you use it for order routing as well as inventory management? I’d love to hear if it’s been a useful tool for automating your store. I’ve been really itching to use it, but issues with suppliers providing awful data feeds has made it impossible so far….

          • gerprz says:

            What do you consider “limited number of SKUs” to be? (can you give a range)
            Thank you for a great insightful interview, it’s appreciated!

          • Andrew says:

            A range? Hmmm. I would say a limited number of SKUs is 150 or less. Once you get into more than that, it’s really nice to have import/export functionality to quickly update product pricing, status, inventory, etc.

            Just a rough estimate – and I’m sure there are plenty of Shopify stores with more than 150 SKUs – but hopefully this helps.

    • Timothy says:

      http://ideas.bigcommerce.com/forums/178746-bigcommerce-ideas/suggestions/3239779-drop-shipping-capability

      I was told by Big Commerce customer service that drop shipping isn’t yet functional. I asked them about work arounds, and they didn’t offer me any and pointed me to the above Q&A. So, curious what creative ways others have used to “trick” the current platform to make drop shipping work for them.

      • Kamal says:

        Hi Timothy,

        Have you looked into Ordoro? They apparently have a well built out drop ship add-on for BgCommerce. Based on the few minutes I’ve spent looking over their features I think it’s worth checking out.

      • Andrew says:

        Tim,

        Can you tell me exactly what drop shipping functionality you’re looking for? For example, do you want to be able to set individual suppliers on a per-product basis so you can pass the shipping fee on to a customer when items are drop shipped from two locations? Or are you looking for inventory syncing in your cart across multiple suppliers?

        With our stores, we really currently don’t have any unique drop shipping functionality built-in to our Magento carts due to the difficulty we’ve had integrating with suppliers. So while we’re drop shipping, we’re not actually making use of any special software integration. Ditto for shipping from multiple suppliers for an order. This leads to hacks like:

        - Setting shipping prices based on “average” shipping costs for certain items. Sometimes this is more than what we end up paying, sometimes less

        - Manually managing inventory in-and-out of stock items based on communications from suppliers and when we run into issues filling an order. Fortunately, we make sure to always have two suppliers with largely overlapping products lines, so most of the time when we run into an availability issue we can simply route the order through another supplier.

        - Manually routing orders based on the “best” supplier. For example, routing to the closest warehouse to the customer that also has the item in-stock.

        To be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing that we’re still doing some of these things manually after so long and next year I’ll be really trying to automate many of them. I’ve also been working with my suppliers to integrate with eCommHub and automate this, but there are more complexities then you’d think.

        The truth of the issue is that drop shipping does bring up some complexities that are very difficult to automate or fully take care of with software. Sometimes you simply just have to manually manage things, or come to terms with the fact that you may lose a little bit on an order here or there – or have to ship them an upgraded item for free because the one they ordered is out-of-stock. It’s the price we pay for not having to purchase all our inventory up-front. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still aiming to automate everything 100% – but I’m trying not to get too frustrated in the interim. ;-)

        • Devin says:

          Tim and Andrew,

          Our store has been running on Magento from the beginning and we have always had the goal of creating a multi-vendor dropship store. Similar to what Andrew mentioned, this makes everything way more complex but the 2 critical issues were always 1. shipping rate calculations from multiple warehouses and 2. inventory syncing with multiple vendors just like Andrew said. They are issues we’ve been constantly tackling since the beginning.

          Our store is now up to 25+ separate dropship vendors. I wish I had work arounds or clever hacks to offer but we went with the specialized software purchases and, though we still have a long way to go, we have come very far and have a fair amount of experience in solving some of these problems.

          Magento has been great for us because of its flexibility and active community of developers for extensions and addons, though we definitely do need the part-time assistance of a well-experienced web plumber. A company called Webshopapps specializes in creating Magento extensions and add-ons to assist with stores dealing with complex shipping issues such as dimensional shipping calculations and dropship warehouses. Their people are great and the team offer tons of support.

          As for the inventory syncing, it is something we are currently working on solving. It looks like it is something we are going to do some heavy custom engineering on to automate, but until then, its been manual management based on communications with vendors.

          I wonder sometimes if the route we went was worth it, or if employing some of the work arounds Andrew mentioned could have worked just as well.

          Hope some of this helps those of you on Magento.

          • Andrew says:

            Thanks for sharing, Devin! Wow – 25+ separate suppliers? That sounds like a major logistical headache. Congratulations for being able to pull that off. Sometimes I get frustrated dealing with just two suppliers for a store!

            The guys (and gal – or the owner is, at least!) over at WebShopApps are fantastic. I’ve used their shipping modules in the past and they put out some quality stuff.

            Best of luck with your store this year!

    • Richard says:

      Kate, Timothy,
      I asked BigCommerce this question about multiple supplier dropshipping management at the backend and I was told that they have an arrangement with Ordoro and I was directed to http://www.makeshiphappen.com.
      I see that Kamal has mentioned it but I’m wondering if anyone has actually used it here. So has anyone used this Ordoro app?

      Also, Andrew B, I noticed you did not comment new Carts for WordPress and people are them in droves. Would you say that it’s a bad idea for someone starting out with eCommerce to use WordPress + Cart integration? I know WordPress is fantastic blogging platform that can be used to pull in search traffic. So Andrew, you have any comment on that?

  4. Joe says:

    Great interview, thanks for sharing…

    I recently converted to Magento Enterprise and I’ll tell you it was no easy task. We have struggled with many areas but speed has been the biggest issue. With the site hosted on RackSpace on dedicated servers we struggled to get our page load speeds down to what we consider reasonable and we’re still battling it.

    For beginners I agree that Big Commerce is the way to go. Lot’s of great help and support and they are moving the platform forward all the time with enhanced features.

    • Andrew says:

      Wow, congratulations on such a big move! I hope you guys had a fitting celebrating when you finished the migration.

      I’m running a Rackspace + Magento configuration as well, although I’d guess my server loads are much smaller than what you’re probably dealing with AND I’m on the community edition. But I’ve been really impressed with Rackspace’s support through the Managed Service Level plan. Is that what you guys are on? And have you been happy with them?

      Recently came across a great article on how to speed up your Magento page loads times – maybe it will provide some new ideas to try:

      http://blog.netdna.com/maxcdn/how-to-achieve-a-2-second-page-load-with-a-magento-ecommerce-store/

      • Joe says:

        Yes we’re running on the Managed Service plan as well and yes they are great to work with. Previously we were running our own servers in house. We were extremely nervous about moving our servers off site after having the convenience of being able to be in control of everything but the fact is that over the past several years we’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars from outages and server crashes that we finally decided to just do it and it’s been great. We’ve had no complaints at all with Rackspace.

        I’ll check out the blog post and see if there are any fresh ideas that we haven’t tried yet. As I said, we’ve made huge strides in speed, at one point we were hitting nearly 10 second page loads but we’re down to about 4-5 seconds now. I’d like to see 2-3 seconds but from what I’ve been told by our developers that’s going to cost big time and require Amazon S3 hosting of graphics and images etc. Not a jump we’re willing to make at this time.

        • Andrew says:

          Wow – That’s a lot of work to get 2-3 second page load speeds! Sounds like you’ve made some great progress already – hopefully you’ll be able to further improve it in the future without too much hassle or expense.

  5. Paul says:

    Great segment guys! Thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Question: Would be interested in your opinion of Pinnacle Cart? I am moving in that direction for several reasons, in particular the seemless integrations with QuickBooks, not to mention the multiple vendor set up capabilities. I have also read that their SEO is very good. Is BigCommerce a better option than Pinncale Cart and if so why?

    Thanks I appreciate your insight!
    Paul B.

    • Pinnacle Cart is a great ecommerce platform with plenty of room for growth because it supports hosted, dedicated hosted and sel-hosted versions. It has a simple backend and plenty of solid features that are well implemented. I find the templates a little harder to create but once they are setup you will have no troubles and the cart will not get in the way of you making lots of money.

      • Paul B says:

        Thanks, for your reply. I also found the templates a bit ‘rough’ but agree the integration and support aspects along with long term capabilities might be worth it.
        Thanks again
        Paul.

  6. Mo says:

    We have been using oscommerce for 5+ years. Yes it does not have all the Bells and whistles when compared to newer carts, however cart is serving our purpose well. I will not recommend anyone who is starting a new store to go with oscommerce, but as the guy in the video mentions if its stable and you are getting orders, at the end that is all what matters. Hosted solutions are good for someone who is just starting up, however keep in mind sites that are on hosted solutions will be slow, at least that is what I have seen.

    • Andrew says:

      I hear you, Mo! Like I mentioned in the video, I used Zen-Cart starting out and it worked for years. So while not the best cart to start with from scratch, you can still do a lot with an older platform like osCommerce.

      Interesting to hear your thoughts that hosted platforms are slower than self-hosted. I’d love to hear if Andrew has found this to be the case in his work. I’d assume that it really depends on the hosting company you’re using to host your cart. If you’re hosting on a shared plan with GoDaddy, I’d imagine Shopify and BigCommerce would likely usually be faster than a low-budget provider….

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Scott says:

    Thanks for interviewing Andrew. I’ve been following his blog for a while. He’s a great eCommerce resource.

  8. This has been the first article I have read from top to bottom. And comments….
    GREAT info..

  9. Jake says:

    Great article! We’ve put a lot of time and effort into designing for Shopify and are proud to have launched our store! Shopify is an excellent solution. I, for one, would welcome Andrew’s advice on attracting first-time customers and traffic to a fresh site!

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks Jake! And congratulations on your recent launch! I’ll be working on some future content for new store marketing, but until then, I’d recommend the following two articles on SEO and marketing to get you started:

      http://www.ecommercefuel.com/ecommerce-marketing-strategies/
      http://www.ecommercefuel.com/ecommerce-seo-guide/

    • That is fantastic Jake, well done mate. Getting first time customer’s is all about promotion. Andrew has given you links to some SEO resources so I will follow up with some ways to get traffic while your SEO efforts are kicking in (there is a time lag with SEO sometimes)

      * Google Adwords or Facebook ads – are cheap (and you can control your spend) – you will get immediate results and traffic. Just be aware that it is Christmas time so ads will cost more than they usually would because of the increase competition.

      * Create a nice graphic (or pay a professional) announcing your store and a coupon code/discount – include the URL in case it is shared without a text link – then post it on facebook and ask all your friends & family to do the same

      * Start a referral/affiliate program and let someone have a commission or store credit for sending you the traffic – this is a good option if marketing is not your strong point

  10. David says:

    Hi Andrew,

    What would be your top three ecommerce software recommendations for a multi-vendor site in an untapped niche with the potential to explode? I don’t have a lot of money to start the site. I also am not a very tech savvy person. Some of the softwares I have looked at, which seem to have what I am looking for, are CS-Cart, znode, nextlevelobjects, and iscripts.

  11. Pete Sveen says:

    Andrew,

    I have been using Big Commerce since October of 2011 and think it is an amazing platform. The one downside I’ve really struggled in trying to figure out is setting up a good blog with it (integrating wordpress). They have a “News” section which they refer to as a blog but I don’t really know if it’s a great option. Do you have any input or advice in setting up a blog with Big Commerce? Any input on the “News” section they offer? Thanks in advance! – Pete

    • Andrew says:

      Hey Pete! I’m on Magento and have never used Big Commerce, so I can’t speak to this issue unfortunately. Perhaps Mr. Bleakley has some insight into the problem?

  12. Anne says:

    Andrew,

    I currently have my domain hosted through GoDaddy and last week made a decision to try out their “Quick Shopping Cart.” I have not started building my site yet as I am also getting my vendors set up. I read your book and listened to the interview with Andrew B. (which was helpful). I want to make the right decision!

    It seems that the Quick Shopping Cart documentation says that it allows for setting up drop shipping accounts for multiple manufacturers. I was wondering if you have any experience with this and/or can offer any advice about this software. They do have superb customer support which is really appealing.

    Here are a few articles from their website:
    http://support.godaddy.com/help/article/6431/managing-drop-ship-warehouses-in-quick-shopping-cart
    http://support.godaddy.com/help/article/6434/can-i-use-drop-shipping-with-quick-shopping-cart
    http://support.godaddy.com/help/article/6431/managing-drop-ship-warehouses-in-quick-shopping-cart?locale=en

    Your advice is greatly appreciated!
    Thanks, Anne

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Anne! Sorry, but I don’t have any experience with Go Daddy’s cart so I can’t help you out. Best of luck if you decide to stick with them!

  13. Isaac says:

    Andrew,

    Love your blog and the great info you share with us. Keep it coming!

    As you know, site URL’s are where we point our links to. If I start with bigcommerce & then outgrow them & need to move to magento, all my product URL’s might change based on the new platform. So what was http://www.mysite.com/product_widget might now be http://www.mysite.com/widget_product
    How do we plan for this from the get go? I know we can do redirects but there is a risk involved in that Google might not redirect or if they do will take a few months of lost traffic until they do.

    Is that a valid reason perhaps to use the magenta hosted solution instead of bigcommerce as I assume upgrading in magenta will keep the URL’s the same.

    Isaac
    PS Love your new logo

    • Andrew says:

      Glad you’re enjoying it, Isaac!

      In a case like this, you’ll want to use what’s called a 301 redirect. This will tell Google that the page has moved from one URL to another, and it will pass your readers – and all of your SEO “juice” from your links – onto the new page. I’ve moved numerous sites from one platform successfully without a major loss of rankings using 301 redirects, so I know from first-hand experience they work.

      There are a number of ways to implement them, and Googling “301 redirect” will give you some ideas about how to go about it.

      Hope this helps!

  14. Todd says:

    Andrew,

    Thanks. Great post.

    Question for you: Have you come across an informative blog or website that compares a few of the popular ecommerce software solutions such as Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce? I’d love a detailed comparative analysis of the pros/cons of using each platform.

    Thanks again!

  15. Gael says:

    Hey Andrew,

    Great one, what’s your take on Woocommerce v2? It seems pretty advanced now.

    • Andrew says:

      Hey Gael! To be honest, don’t know too much about WooCommerce in general – but I think it’s a good lightweight cart if you’re selling a limited number of items and are comfortable with WordPress. Have changed my stance from never recommending it after talking with a number of people who are pretty happy with it…

  16. Holly says:

    Wow! A lot of information that I could have used a while ago, thanks…. But, now my head is spinning!
    As I am one of those beginner people you speak of I am a bit lost and could use some advice.

    I am an artist and I have been selling at the usual art festivals, galleries, and on websites like Etsy.com, but I no longer want to make it so easy to share my customers with other shops. Last year I decided I wanted to integrate a shopping cart into my website, but as most artists are, I was broke and couldn’t afford much. And so, I paid a college student to help me in optimizing my website and installing a shopping cart. At the time I did my research Zencart was recommended for a free shopping cart, so I had that installed. Unfortunately the person who installed it didn’t know anything about formatting it and well, frankly he was cheap. So, I set about figuring it out and bought the book to help me. I have made some changes on my own, but I am now a bit confused and frustrated with how to do upgrades, some customization’s, etc. and in need of another easier option for someone like me. I can’t afford a monthly fee until I start selling more and so I suppose I would need open source or a reasonably priced, mostly plug and chug, software package. Something that is easier to use than Zencart for someone with limited html skills, but customizable enough to be an extension of my portfolio, as my website is. This has definitely been a learning experience and I do want to be able to do much of this myself, so that as I create more product I can add at my own pace. I do not need anything very complicated for now, but would like to sell, keep track of customers, referrals, send email newsletters, etc..
    Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks.

    • Andrew says:

      Holly, for someone with your level of technical background I’d highly recommend Shopify. It’s easy to use and their themes look great. Good luck!

      • Holly says:

        Thanks for the advice, I am working with the free trial of Shopify for the moment. One more question if you don’t mind.
        What if I would like to just buy a reasonably priced software out of the box like Advanced Cart or Shop a La Cart?
        Would you recommend products like that?

  17. Ken says:

    Thank you for this very informative interview. I too will be working on my Contact Us and About Us pages. However, my cart issues are much larger than just these two suggestions. I am currently using a highly modified OsCommerce system and it not only looks like it but is very difficult to use for order processing. Setting aside the customer experience one of the serious issues I am having is order fulfillment. Many of the products I sell have options, size and color for example, which change the part number of the product. I am looking for a cart which has the ability to change part numbers based on options selected by the customer. This would help reduce pulling errors by warehouse associates. Ultimately, if it could do this and provide integration for warehouse/inventory/order management utilizing bar code technology making order pulling foolproof this would be ideal. When I research these types of solutions they are extremely expensive or they are separate solutions and neither knows anything about the other. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  18. Ken says:

    Thank you for the informative interview. My contact us and about us pages need work!

  19. Admir says:

    Thank you for the informative interview with Andrew. He is truly an eCommerce expert and has helped hundreds of us.

  20. James Emerich says:

    I want to have an online shop that sells art products and original music. I understand how the material product would get bought. I have not found a template that has both individual music downloads to buy on the site and material products. I want to sell both products on line. Who can I use? I’m just starting and I’m not sure who to pick. I was looking at WIX, because I have a website with them, but they don’t have the ability to download and shop.
    Please help
    Thank you
    James

  21. Curt Donohue says:

    Good stuff Andrew. I saw this post on Facebook today. It was totally worth spending the entire 45 minutes to watch.

    You’re questions were really well thought out and Andrew Bleakley obviously knows his stuff.

    Kind of off topic, but what interview recording software are you using? I thought the audio and video turned out really well.

    Thanks!

    Curt Donohue

  22. John.Doe1974 says:

    I have been working with Magento. It is easy to set up and manage. There are much more features in comparing with other shopping carts. But recently I prefer AbanteCart because of the code it outputs and it has so many great features. It has great UI, rather secure with a fantastic layout.
    Installation of extensions is very easy and many of them are free of charge.

  23. bruce says:

    Amazing. $85/hr to bring your car into the dealer, $250/hr to get divorced but $100/hr for a developer for your multi-million dollar business is too much.

  24. Roman says:

    Hi, can you recommend which shopping cart to use if I want to use multiple drop-shippers, and be able to automatically update the product catalog with their data feeds?

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