We're shopping for a new ecommerce solution. Help!
February 6, 2009 11:08 AM   Subscribe

We need a new e-commerce provider (Volusion, Shopify etc.) and I'm looking for suggestions from current platform users or general opinons. We have a set of somewhat specific needs. More inside.

Right now we have an e-commerce provider and web host whose name shall be withheld and a back-end order fulfillment service called OrderMotion. ECom handles all of the web admin and passes orders to Order Motion to be processed and fulfilled by our warehouse.

OrderMotion changed their pricing this year and, for us, that meant a TEN-FOLD increase in price. So we made the decision to ditch them and pick up an ERP to better suit our growing business. At this point, it's likely to be Sage or SAP. Both of their CRM-ends are an afterthought at best. With this came the opportunity to ditch our current ECom Provider. They are TERRIBLE. Their design is horrible, we can't change it, no new style sheets, no php, no jQuery- We can only add text. That's it. Support is also horrible and their pricing just jumped. So! We're essentially rebuilding our web empire from scratch and I want to make sure that it goes well.

To give you an idea of our size, we did about 6 mil in total sales last year. 90% of that was in wholesale. 2% from a brick and mortar store and about 8% from web sales. I am totally sure we can bump that number, our current website is atrocious. Anyway- We're doing a few hundred thousand in web sales. Hence why the ERP/accounting takes precedence over the CRM end.

Here are our specific requests: Integration with the ERP: It needs to be able to pass order data to the ERP for fulfillment. This is the alpha and omega. I realize this really depends on the ERP we choose, but an API or some build-out is a must.

Does it allow for jQuery/PHP inside of it's templating? If not, Is it possible to sort of segment off part of the site so that the promo things are either handled "cold", via handwritten code or another CMS like Joomla? We have several features (Store Locator and ECards) that would need to come with us. This is a concern with Volusion.

It must have flexible templates. I was excited to hop into Volusion's templates, too, until I got a look at (GASP!) nested tables. Ugh.

Data Reporting: As far as customer data goes, our current e-commerce supplier provides us with 0 data about our customers. What we know comes in two parts: Web traffic data from Google Analytics and general order-metrics from OrderMotion. What this means is that I know that 7000 people looked at Product X yesterday and that 1000 of them ordered. But if Joe orders Product X, I have no idea what else he may have looked at. I have no idea what else people who ordered product X looked at. That data lives in two different places and never the twain shall meet. How much customer data does it hold onto? How does it report data?

CRM: With regards to customer problems, we have an 800 number and an e-mail address. Sometimes the Call Center needs to key in an order for a customer. Doing this via ERP can be expensive as we pay-by-user. Does it track enough customer order data to be able to alter or key-in orders outside on an ERP/back-end? Also, does it contain any kind of ticketing system for customer concerns? What's the good word on CRM?

E-mail marketing. Does it have it built-in? Is there an additional cost? What's the allotment per month? We have about 25k subscribers at the moment and use a 3rd party.

Also: Multiple-stores: Can we get a price break? Can it handle foreign currencies?

I realize this is an enormous amount of information, but if any MeFiites have an answer to even one of those questions based on their experience, it'd be a gigantic help. I've toyed with the free trials, poked at the APIs, but that's a far cry from actually resting our business on it. I'm nervous

Our top 2 contenders at the moment are Volusion (Nice API, bad templating, bad support, insane hosting plan (15gb a month for 150 bucks?!) and Shopify (I adore adore adore Shopify, but I'm afraid it might not have the muscle we need). We have no full-time IT dudes, I'm basically the only person who knows ASP from a snake (ha!) and Java from coffee (ha!), so I'll be dropping the rest of my duties and moving full time on the integration. Which is why I shied away from something like zNode that'd require functional, complete knowledge of C# or .net.

But! Opinons, suggestions. Casual users, hardcore dudes, devs and buyers, lend me your ears.
posted by GilloD to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Response by poster: I think the larger point of this post was just that we're a little too large for a simple "Just slap some product info into a template" solution, yet not quite up to a roll-your-own solution.
posted by GilloD at 11:14 AM on February 6, 2009


GilloD: I think a lot of companies are at that awkward stage between changing their business to fit a generic cart, and building their own.

I also think that it's the software's fault and not the companies (most of the time, naturally).

From what I've seen of Shopify (and heard from friends), it's very flexible with lots of input and output options.
posted by slactoid at 12:18 PM on February 6, 2009


Normally you'd start with Sage or SAP and see what's on the market that integrates with it out of the box. Don't do that in this case, because that list is terrible.

Sage Order Importer works with sage line 50 and above. I would look at using it with Magento, which has a front end that blows the competition out of the water.

Most of the really popular carts - OScommerce, Actinic, Zen cart - are hopeless. People like them because they are easy to put products into but the output is horrendous and the customer experience arc is like watching flies drop dead at the Somme. Magento has none of those issues and is beautiful both inside and out.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:28 PM on February 6, 2009


Response by poster: Darling,

I tried again and again to get in touch with someone at Magento and was met with a stock reply at every turn. I eventually gave up. I'll take another look.

Thoughts on aspdotnet?
posted by GilloD at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2009


What is it you need to contact them for? A magento dev team? To have them tell you that they don't integrate with Sage or SAP? They're not big on pre-sales; the site is so extensive they're not really set up for it.

As to ASP.net, I don't understand. It's a development framework, not a cart. Are you asking me what I think of carts built on ASP.net? Because that depends entirely on the cart.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2009


Response by poster: I was thinking about http://www.aspdotnetstorefront.com/

As for Magento, I had some really general questions about the software that just seemed really difficult to get a straight answer on. I've got the manual in-hand and an installation running, so I'll do my own homework on that.

Any thoughts on Shopify? I'm spooked that their API is a little young. Really, it's a matter of what the ERP is. I'm just trying to collect impressions at this point.
posted by GilloD at 2:31 PM on February 6, 2009


The problem you may run in to with Magento is in integrating with an ERP solution. Folks have done it and there is an API to facilitate communication, but information on specifics is limited. Do a search on their forums to see what ERP solutions people have integrated that with and maybe that will help in your search. It seems that there are documented integrations out there, but I can't vouch how good the ERP solution may be. I did an RFP for a client and there were zero sites out there that had integrated Mangeto with this particular ERP/CRM.

That said, I really like Magento's UI/template system. Their admin panel is very intuitive and very easy to use. There's a lot of things that their software is doing right and I'm a big fan of it.

Since you say that you have limited IT resources, have you considered going with an outside agency to get you on a new platform? Tackling something like ERP integration, if you don't have the resources in-house, could be very tough.
posted by tommccabe at 3:09 PM on February 6, 2009


My concern is this. You are 80% covered by virtually any off-the-shelf ecommerce system. 20% of the stuff you're talking about will require custom stuff. With your limited IT resources, why are you not hiring a developer to take you through this process?

Also, you're not asking two important questions: what about importing your current website product data, and what about integrating with your online payment processor? These are pretty fundamental issues where the outcome will vary with different cart systems, but I guess either you haven't thought about them or you've got them covered.

Integration with the ERP: It needs to be able to pass order data to the ERP for fulfillment.

Depending on your process flow, there are numerous ways to manage this.

Does it allow for jQuery/PHP inside of it's templating? If not, Is it possible to sort of segment off part of the site so that the promo things are either handled "cold", via handwritten code or another CMS like Joomla?

This question makes me nervous. You need to define the promotions you need to run. Most systems will let you easily push promos to the home page and category landing pages; product discounts should display on the page and in the cart.

Options for elaborate carousel things can be custom coded into virtually any template system that doesn't suck.

It must have flexible templates.

Why, and what exactly do you mean by this? The beauty of a CMS system is that the output is so consistent, which is such a huge advantage. You can write a million if/else statements for specific circumstances but really, you need to articulate what the actual goal of "flexible templates" means to you.

Data Reporting: As far as customer data goes, our current e-commerce supplier provides us with 0 data about our customers.

CRM: With regards to customer problems, we have an 800 number and an e-mail address. Sometimes the Call Center needs to key in an order for a customer.

This should be a piece of piss on any system. Log into the admin, type in the customer name or order number, and bring up the order.

E-mail marketing. Does it have it built-in? Is there an additional cost? What's the allotment per month? We have about 25k subscribers at the moment and use a 3rd party.

Lots of carts have email lists built in. Few are good. Even fewer have decent HTML email output. This is one area where I vote for 3rd party. I love Campaign Monitor for a lot of reasons.

Also: Multiple-stores: Can we get a price break? Can it handle foreign currencies?

Magento certainly does both of these things. Not all carts can.

Our top 2 contenders at the moment are Volusion and Shopify

Both hosted solutions. This way lies insanity. When you use open code base apps, you can fully tailor them to your requirements and own and control all your own data. At your level of sales, you should be making this a priority. Also, given your current rate-hike experience, it seems like folly to me to invest in re-rolling only to end up potentially back in the same place.

Mostly I think you're so familiar with your crappy, proprietary, nasty current chain of solutions that you are possibly lacking an experiential understanding of what solid, standard ecommerce systems deliver on the front end and back end.

I recently built an ecommerce site for a client on a platform that probably isn't right for you, but if you want to get on the phone I'd be happy to give you a tour of the admin and order systems and show you how they push to the front end. I'm not shilling for work; I'm booked through March, but I just feel like you should actually see how standard a lot of what you're asking for is, and where the real development pitfalls are.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:13 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


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