Ecommerce Spot

AmeriCommerce indepth review

AmeriCommerce Review

Having been through the search of a shopping cart solution in the past, I valued input about different solutions, especially from other storeowners who had used the product. I have since starting out changed my solution provider once and I am now using AmeriCommerce. I manage two websites on the AmeriCommerce platform: Pippin McGee – a children’s furniture store since Feb 2007 and Om Village – a metaphysical and healing art store which I moved over to AmeriCommerce in Nov 2007.

After having used it for 9-10 months now, I believe I have found a product that meets my long-term business needs and I’d like to share my experience and describe some of the features in some depth. I hope this article gives you some insight into the solution from a user perspective to gauge if this solution might meet your business needs.

Installation/Start Up process

AmeriCommerce offered a 14 day free trial (without a credit card) and that helped me jump into the backend and review the features. Once I found it had all the core features I needed I talked with them about some features we needed custom developed and they were the only ecommerce solution providers willing to do custom feature development. The sign up and startup process was simple.

Design/Customizing/One Page Checkout - usability factors

Control over 95% of the design elements. If you know HTML, CSS and basic JavaScript – you can go anywhere you like with your design.  If you don’t, you can still have a very professional looking website.

The part I found most useful was on the product details page, I could customize the elements from a usability and conversion perspective. I was able to add the right hand side column with a ‘may we help you’ section so the buyer has immediate access to it and can get questions answered right away.

Another feature which is key to our success is the ability to display high resolution product images. We sell children’s furniture and it is important for our customers to be able to see the furniture in great detail. Scene7 can be prohibitive at $10,000 a year (at the time of our inquiry) for small businesses. Having the ability to display hi-res images integrated into the standard solution has been a huge saving!

To visually see the above mentioned features (may we help you, zooming into a hi-res image) take a look at our Lea Furniture, loft bed page.

One page checkout is built in and a good usability and conversion standard. This feature is not unique to AmeriCommerce. It’s a standard. They offer easy integration with Paypal as an alternate checkout option. Google checkout is not yet integrated, but in the works and should be rolled out shortly. This is a key feature and I would have liked to have seen it rolled out sooner.

Product Management

AmeriCommerce has both, a simple but detailed manual product management interface and a very detailed spreadsheet. This once again, is standard in many shopping carts. The part I have not seen on some of the other carts but find very useful in AmeriCommerce is:

  1. ‘Live Design’ – when I’m logged in and browsing my website, if I need to change something out quickly, I can edit the category, manufacturer, product details right from there with the click of a button.
  2. Mass Editor with filtering options – although mass product editing is not uncommon, AmeriCommerce allows filtering of products by category, subcategory and manufacturer. Any time a manufacturer changes product pricing, shipping time etc – having the manufacturer filter is extremely useful in quick product updates.

There are several ways to mass edit products with spreadsheets, but it is helpful to have a very user-friendly interface for quick edits and also to train non-technical and customer service staff to use this interface for quick edits.

SEO

Very SEO friendly. Provides for meta tags, page titles, custom URLs for all pages (category, sub-category, product details, manufacturer and content pages), 301 redirects, and extremely easy to add content to all the pages. 

On our category pages for Yoga Art and Meditation Art we used meta titles, descriptions, custom URLs, custom headings, content for on page optimization and had excellent results with on page optimization.

Marketing

Affiliate systems, auto submissions to Google Base feed, yahoo shopping and Shopzilla, on site banners. I have only used the Google Base feed to date. AmeriCommerce offers the ability to pick up descriptions of the products from different fields giving us some data feed optimization control. This has worked very well for us allowing us to pickup good traffic from Google’s product searches.

Another feature worth looking at is the ‘Add to Cart’ Link Generator – this allows us to generate code for ‘Add to Cart’ buttons for any product of our choice. We are working on a campaign to directly insert these ‘Add to Cart’ buttons in our emails. This allows a customer to add the product directly into the shopping cart from the email. Works very well for ‘Impulse’ buy products.

Reporting/Abandoned Carts/Path Logging

Great reporting – every session is logged and you can get into the backend and see the exact path a visitor followed and at what point they left the site. I have found this extremely useful.

If I have an abandoned cart, I can dig deeper to see if it may be a ‘window shopper’ who didn’t go to the checkout page or if it was a visitor that went to the checkout page but after that went to the shipping or returns page and bailed out at that point. It is very interesting and useful to study the visitor paths and helps us further optimize the conversion path.

Also, if a visitor had started to checkout and left information on the page – it gets logged and we have followed up with the customer to close those sales almost 95% of the time.

  



Support/Knowledgebase (Product tutorials and videos)

The tutorials and FAQs cover all of the features and the back end user interface is well categorized and structured. Intuitive and very easy to use.

They don’t offer 24/7 telephone support. Having said that, I haven’t had to reach them outside of business hours. Their system and hosting has been stable and is monitored. On occasion when I have needed to speak with someone during business hours, I have found them to be very helpful.

Being a visual learner, I personally like videos and learning through videos. AmeriCommerce doesn’t offer videos as yet. Although I don’t have use for it anymore, it would be a valuable addition to someone new to the system (assuming they like to learn visually). I have to admit AmeriCommerce has asked for feedback on this from customers and I missed responding and giving my input.

Video tutorials and training is the only area I could really find a marginal downside with AmeriCommerce. However, they do make up for it with a very responsive support ticket system. Their technical support team is very knowledgeable and quick to respond.

Custom Development

This was a key factor in our decision to choose AmeriCommerce.  Their willingness to custom develop features helps us have a solution partner over just a solution provider. They have a ‘development share’ program where AmeriCommerce shares half the cost of development, the remaining half can be covered by the storeowner requesting the feature or put out a request to other storeowners. If other storeowners are interested in having the feature developed, then the costs are shared. Once a feature is custom developed for the storeowners requesting the feature, it is rolled out to all the stores and every customer benefits. It’s a great business and community model that benefits all storeowners.

In Conclusion

The above list of features touched upon are features we have found useful for our sites. The list is certainly not complete and is always growing – for a detailed and updated list, it would be best to review the feature list at AmeriCommerce’s website.

As with any software and company, there is always room for growth. More so, in a dynamic and fast changing online and technology environment. The key really lies in defining mid to long term business needs and reviewing solution providers/partners based on that.

Manjula Higginbotham, Ecommerce Manager (www.omvillage.com and www.pippinmcgee.com)

Note: about a year after this review was written, the author accepted a job at AmeriCommerce. This is noted here to provide full transparency

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