Ecommerce Spot

VP-ASP 7.0

A detailed review of VP-ASP 7.0

Introduction

VP-ASP Cart is made by Australian company Rocksalt. They are a veteran of the shopping cart industry, with 10 years history and their product in version 7. VP-ASP is the first shopping cart I ever tried, back in 2002. It was that process of selecting a cart that lead to this site. Obviously VP-ASP has come a long way since then.

Initial Impressions

VP-ASP still bears a resemblance to the product I saw years ago. For comprehensiveness of features, you’d need to look a while to find something more complete than VP-ASP. Having been around so long, there’s been plenty of time to add bells and whistles other products haven’t had time to make yet.

Setting Up & Managing Products

There is an almost intimidating range of product options to configure. Advanced features like uploadable customer images (presumably for customizable goods), an RMA system where you can configure the RMA allowed days per product, flexible multiple payment options (eg $50/month for 3 months), and more. Want to sell a bundle of a suit with 2 shirts? No problem. This sort of advanced functionality is the strength of VP-ASP.

There are some strange default settings, such as not having product pages by default - you need to turn them on otherwise products only appear in a category page. Even when you turn them on, the product title on the category pages isn’t clickable, a small “click to see more” link gets you to the product pages. While minor to change, it seems an odd default.

Payment, Shipping & Taxes

VP-ASP Cart supports an enormous array of payment gateways - over 100, including some I’ve never heard of (including native Norwegian and Greek amongst others!). It only supports PayPal out of the box, but you can download others easily from their website. Three gateways of your choosing are included free, more requires payment. It shouldn’t be a problem as most people only use a few.

Likewise, shipping is comprehensive. Shipping prices can be fixed, based on weight, number of items, pre-determined per item cost, and other combinations I can’t imagine.

Apparently tax is also quite configurable, and both the product and the website talk about downloadable tax modules. I looked and looked and couldn’t work out how to download them, a little perplexing.

Checking Out

VP-ASP does have support for guest checkout, although it’s off by default. Guest checkout has been shown repeatedly to increase conversions, so it’s good to turn this on. The checkout process is quite simple and straight forward, and gives users clear guidance as to where they are in the checkout process. Apparently a one page checkout is in the works.

Skinning

A range of skins is available for purchase at around $US95 each. These templates don’t change the layout (which is definable as 2 or 3 columns), but mostly just the color scheme. If you want a different layout, you’ll need to code this yourself. Tweaking the HTML and CSS is easy via the admin interface.

The templates are pretty straight forward. For example, to change the product <span class="productinfolabel">[getlang LangProductRetailPrice]</span>

Marketing Tools

Promotional tools include quantity discounts, group discounts, coupon codes, and customer discounts. Parts of the interface are less friendly than I’m used to.

For example, to create a quantity discount, you click “Add a Record”, then have to know the catalogid of the product - no search, autocomplete, drop down, etc. This experience, while functional, increases training time and frustration for less experienced users.

Other functions include:

  • Cross selling
  • Upsells in shopping cart
  • Embed of videos into product pages
  • Multilingual/multicurrency
  • Gift certificates
  • Featured products module
  • Affiliates module

There doesn’t appear to be any newsletter functionality, but you can collect email addresses and export them easily.

More expensive versions of VP-ASP include an “SEO Toolkit”, or it can be purchased separately for $195. In my opinion, SEO friendliness should be mandatory. Natural search traffic makes up around 70% of traffic for most ecommerce stores, so SEO is critical. VP-ASP has excellent support for the sitemap.xml format. I find it odd that not all shopping carts have this as technically it’s relatively easy to implement.

Security

VP-ASP places strong emphasis on security. It’s PCI compliant, which many carts still aren’t. There’s many other small features which contribute to the tight security of the product. Double password admin login, a setup procedure which emphasises security best practice, and more. They even offer a security audit service for $295, which I’ve never seen from any vendor.

Reporting

Reports include:

  • Sales reports
  • Product reports
  • Stock reports
  • Search term reports (I love this function)
  • Recurring billing reports

On top of this there is a query tool which allows you to do pretty much any report you can imagine, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Support

VP-ASP Cart uses a paid support system. You get a certain number of support points free with the product, and after that can top up by buying extra points. I needed support at one point during my trial, and received a response within a few hours on a Saturday evening!

There is also a knowledge base and a fairly comprehensive collection of tutorial videos.

Other Features

Listing all the features of the product would take pages. A few other select features include:

  • Drop shipping support
  • Gift registry
  • Loyalty points system
  • Support for digital goods
  • A blog

And many more.

Conclusion

VP-ASP’s strength is its depth and breath of features. The feature set is so broad that it can take quite a while to wrap your head around it, and I’d expect to be spending quite a bit of time setting up and experimenting.

The weakness is the UI which is not as friendly as it could be and is not as intuitive as other products I’ve seen. Inexperienced users may find it intimidating, but those with some technical background will likely adapt quickly.

Feb 2011: since this review was written, a new upgrade has been released with an impressive collection of new features.

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