In defense of licensed shopping carts

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After my blog post about the myths of hosted shopping carts, I feel obligated to give credit where it is due – to the hosts of licensed shopping carts.

I include open-sourced shopping carts when I say licensed shopping carts as well.

In my experience the key driver for deciding on a licensed shopping cart is the hosting provider you select to host your website. The underlying reasons for why I feel the host is critical for this decision are the exact same for why I think hosted shopping carts have benefits over licensed shopping carts.

And in our experience there are three key factors that a merchant should take into consideration when deciding on a hosting provider.

Experience with hosting

Most hosting providers do a decent job of putting up a standalone static website or a blog that is accessed by a few humans via browsers for cheap – even my two year old macbook could do that.

But to have a website that will be doing eCommerce transactions you need to make sure the hosting provider focuses on speed, scalability and security. You don’t want your prospective customers to be turned off by slow/unresponsive pages – or worse yet URLs that give 404 errors.

Moreover, when a web-app connects to other web-apps there are some common initial technical issues that need to be overcome- firewalls, timeouts, URLs, etc. These are issues experienced hosting providers deal with on a daily basis. And have the systems, resources and people to address these.

Experience with the shopping cart platform

Every licensed shopping carts have their own nuances. Heck there are significant differences in different versions of the same shopping carts. To add to that folks who opt for open-source shopping carts do so because they want to customize it – not use the off-the-shelf versions (If they wanted that they would pick a hosted shopping cart!)

Experience dealing with these nuances sets the hosting services apart as it enables them to anticipate and navigate technical challenges related to scalability, security and responsiveness of the shopping cart platform. They better understand what resources (memory, bandwidth, processing power) affect optimal website performance and are aware of any security loop-holes that may compromise the shopping carts.

Eventually, every online retailer using a licensed shopping cart has to go through a version upgrade (To make it better, faster, fancier). This can be an absolute nightmare if one hasn’t had extensive experience with it. A value of the hosting companies experience in these situations cannot be understated.

Reputation for customer service

Though it may seem that I state the obvious, good customer services goes a long to make your life easier.

We have had to deal with several hosting providers and they broadly fall into two categories – folks who give you stock answers to your questions and folks who make it their business to get your problems resolved. Any guesses at which one we prefer?

Summary

I would select a shopping cart host that is outstanding in at least two of these aspects. Deficiency in the third can be made up for by the other two.

Honorable mentions

Two honorable mentions I have to make here are Lexiconn and Nexcess. Our experience with dealing with these folks on mutual customers has been outstanding. I feel these hosts excel in all three departments – hosting, familiarity with the shopping cart platforms and technical support diligence.

And it’s not just us. All their customers swear by them and are avid advocates of these hosts. (A little known fact: we have been inspired by their commitment to customer experience and have secretly aspired to be like them. And still do)