Picture the average person as they enter the grocery store to do some shopping. They grab a cart, and find it has a bad wheel. What do they do? If they’re like most people, they probably set the cart to the side, grab a new, working cart, and then head on into the store.
Now picture the average person as they enter a virtual store. They, too, have a shopping cart. In the online world, however, a customer with a broken shopping cart can’t just set that cart aside and grab another. If their virtual cart doesn’t work – if items don’t transfer into it accurately, if the prices are wrong, or if anything else about their cart seems weird, what does that shopper do? Most likely, they leave the store and never, ever return.
The shopping experience of your online store is vital to your success, but the technical aspects behind a smooth shopping cart experience can be incredibly difficult to manage. Today I’m going to examine the online shopping cart X-Cart, which is considered one of the best carts around.
X-Cart is a PHP online shopping cart used to create, and then operate, any ecommerce site. Created over 10 years ago by three Russian teenagers, today X-Cart has over 100 engineers and an international user base of 30,000 online stores.
The X-Cart shopping cart has two forms:
- a cloud based service, which requires a monthly subscription fee
- a self-hosted, licensed software which you pay once for. You have to install this program on a server.
In addition to the cart, X-Cart also offers a variety of web design and hosting services. But the X-Cart itself is the real draw of the company, and since the term “X-Cart” is often used to refer to their actual cart, that’s how I’ll use it in this review.
Top Features of X-Cart
Let’s be honest: installing a shopping cart is pretty much never easy. It’s typically the most difficult aspect of creating any ecommerce site. X-Cart attempts to minimize the hassle. Implementing their shopping cart is broken down into three steps.
- Download and install
Both the program and the cloud-based versions are available on the website.
- Set up your products
Upload them manually or import them.
- Start accepting orders
Supports over 45 different payment providers, including Paypal. Major credit cards also supported.
Of course, installing the cart is only one half of the equation. Once the cart is up and running, you want it to be both flexible and easy to use. Here’s rundown of X-Cart’s X-citing features:
X-Cart is designed to look great on all platforms, from the largest desktop screen to the slimmest smart device. If you have a lot of mobile traffic, there’s even a mobile skin you can add.
Point of Sale
Have a website and a retail store? Here is one system to rule them all. Add a new product and decide if it’ll be sold online only, offline only or both. The X-Cart system also prints receipts and barcode labels, and accepts payments.
You can sell anything – a physical products, a service or even digital downloads. Of course, what you sell only matters if your customers can find it. X-Cart includes comprehensive search filters and suggestions during typing. Also includes saved cart sessions, abandoned cart reminder and printable invoices.
Shopping is easy, too, with product comparisons and product quick looks. Plus, catalog pages are updated with AJAX – so there’s no page reloading. Your customers will have a pleasant experience from start to finish. A finish, by the way, which includes fast one-page checkout, for both recurring and anonymous customers.
Security is a big issue with online retail, and you can be assured both you and your customers are protected with X-Cart. CardinalCommerce provides 3D Secure for credit card payments. Form CAPTCHA reduces bot spam. Sensitive customer data is protected with Strong SHA-2 encryption. Additionally, the system is 100% PCI-DDS compliant and fully supports HTTPS/SSL protocols. You don’t even have to understand all of that – just know that your site, and the customers who do business with you, are very safe.
Taxes can be one of the most confusing aspects of running an online store, especially if you’re also simultaneously running a brick-and-mortar store. Currently, Avalara is offering a free 90 day trial of their popular AvaTax tax compliance software. It handles your taxes from top to bottom. You can be sure you’re applying the appropriate tax to each online sale and, at the end of the year, AvaTax will even help you file.
This is in addition to X-Cart’s already impressive tax and shipping features. You can find real-time quotes on shipping from most major carriers, including USPS, UPS and Fedex. You can even ship overseas with Australian Post and Canadian Post.
It’s easy to set up authorization for all the common social profiles, like Facebook and Google+. While this might seem like a no-brainer, it’s actually pretty valuable for many online stores. Customers buy something from you, and can then turn around and show it off on their Facebook page – bragging about the great deal or cool item they just bought. This, in turn, can bring in more business.
I was pretty surprised when I saw the prices – there’s a free edition. They say this first edition includes everything you’ll need to start an online store. My guess is they’re pretty confident in their product. It’ll help your store grow and, as it does, you’ll want to expand and buy an upgraded edition.
The Business Edition is $495 and includes everything in the free version, plus about 10 other features including social media login, downloadable products, product features, access levels and memberships.
The top of the line is the Business Premium Edition, for $1,495. You get one year of premium support, X-Cart installation, one year of Comodo SSL, and Store Setup Assistance.
Obviously, I’d recommend starting with the free edition before you commit to anything else. There’s no sense in spending money when you don’t have to. If you like the Free Edition, but need features from one of the paid editions, I imagine you’ll figure that out on your own.
Criticism of X-Cart.com
I couldn’t find any negative criticism regarding X-Cart specifically. There’s certainly a lot of frustration with shopping carts in general, but X-Cart is actually often singled out as a higher quality cart compared to most others.
Over 30,000 stores successfully use X-Cart including Xerox and Hitachi.
Once you sign up for service, even with the free edition, your account then lets you access the X-Cart Support Helpdesk. There are no complaints about the helpdesk, which features live chat and forums. There is also plenty of documentation available on their site which doesn’t require a membership.
The Business Premium edition offers one year of premium support, which includes phone assistance.
Without a reliable online shopping cart, you don’t have a store, you have a blog. There are many options when it comes to setting up a cart, and a lot of it is based on what you’re willing and capable of doing. Nobody said installing and managing a cart is easy, but X-Cart certainly makes it easier. They offer a solid, reliable product with a lot of features – and that’s even with their free version.
Whether you’re an expert or a novice, when it comes to shopping carts you can’t afford to have any virtual squeaky wheels. In regards to features, support, reliability or ease of use, X-Cart gets my highest recommendation.