ShopSite has long offered an accessible e-commerce service for small busines owners who want to develop and publish Web-based catalogs without speaking HTML. It also offers greater depth for Web site designers who want to create more sophisticated online stores. In its latest version, 7.1, it adds support for gift certificates and additional payment gateways, XML upload capabilities and intrusion detection all of which make a first-rate product even better.
At its core, ShopSite allows you to set up a professional-looking online store through a Web-browser interface. You can use the program to build a site from scratch, or add ShipSite's shopping cart feature to an existing Web site. After building a site, you can use ShopSite to accept credit cards through major payment gateways and manage the store through a Web browser.
While much of ShopSite remains the same, which is a good thing, the biggest new feature is support for physical and digital gift certificates (Pro version only). This useful feature can provide vendors with a new revenue stream. New XML support lets you upload and download pages and products to update online inventory or pricing from an existing database a nice addition for businesses that maintain separate product databases.
|Among ShopSite 7.1's additional features is support for new payment gateways.|
Impressive new intrusion-detection features log access to all orders and alert you when an outside party attempts to access orders. ShopSite has also improved its fraud protection features to discourage automated programs that randomly generate credit card account combinations and try to make one that works. Both may help you sleep better at night.
Version 7.1's new cababilities also include the following:
- setting a default shipping method in case a customer forgets to select one
- displaying a customer's savings when using a coupon
- a cart update button that shows last-minute changes to a customer's shopping cart contents
- stronger image management to rename and move images.
Building Online Catalogs
ShopSite works through a Web browser and doesn't require you to download or install programs on your desktop to create and manage a ShopSite store. ShopSite actually consists of three products: ShopSite Starter, ShopSite Manager and ShopSite Pro.
ShopSite Starter is for merchants that have relatively few products to sell and are getting their feet wet in online sales. The more powerful ShopSite Manager supports an unlimited number of products and pages, can send e-mail receipts, offers custom templates, data upload and download features, and can calculate shipping costs and taxes based on zip code. ShopSite Pro allows stores to work with coupons, gift certificates, volume and other discounts and affiliate sales. It also offers sophisticated product searches, can alert businesses to low stock situations, and edit product prices and other parameters based on percentages.
Regardless of the ShopSite flavor, each creates an online shopping site and cart with clear and intuitive pull-down menus so shoppers can easily learn about items, select and manage them in shopping carts and choose options for payment and shipment.
At its easiest, most basic level, you can follow ShopSite's step-by-step Web-based wizard, which walks you through the process of creating and publishing a catalog and shopping cart. The program prompts you to enter product information (description, SKU, weight, price and more) and define payment options (credit cards, checks and so on) and shipping terms (ground, air and more).
After that, you select a look from an assortment of themes and layouts, and the program builds the site, complete with shopping cart functions. The company claims that anyone can create a site in 15 minutes. If the intended result is a minimal site with only a few products to sell, the claim is essentially true. Note that while ShopSite claims some 50 themes and layouts to choose from, there are actually only nine layouts, each available with several different color schemes.
Moving Product Data Online
If you have existing product database, you can upload inventory as tab-delimited text files and the program provides good options for matching database fields with those in its catalogs. Pictures, however, aren't as easy to manage because ShopSite can't modify image sizes or depths. You have to edit images offline, using an image editor such as Adobe PhotoShop. You can see how they look only after you've uploaded and published the picture in your online catalog.
Professional Web designers can go further, creating custom pages and templates using their favorite HTML editors such as Macromedia DreamWeaver or Microsoft FrontPage, and integrating ShopSite shopping cart features within them. And if businesses don't want to re-invent their Web sites, designers can introduce and integrate ShopSite elements into existing Web pages. Based on our evaluation, the process is straightforward and allows a business to create the e-commerce site that it wants.
Site management is also performed through a Web browser, and the program offers a menu bar that effectively serves as its access point to various options. By the way, if you use Intuit's QuickBooks accounting software to manage your business, you may download orders from a ShopSite e-commerce site in a QuickBooks file format or as a tab-delimited text file to integrate sales and order data into QuickBooks.
ShopSite is sold through reseller partners that, according to the company, number in the hundreds and include NTT/Verio, BizLand, LexiConn, YourHost.com, pair Networks, SiteSell, BroadSpire, Globat.com and more. In addition, you can purchase a ShopSite license for a one-time charge or pay on a monthly basis.
If you already own a server to host ShopSite and don't want to host through a reselling partner, you can purchase Manager for $495 and Pro for $1,295 from ShopSite (Starter is not available in this pricing model). An additional $695 provides you with phone and e-mail support, free upgrades and installation assistance. Monthly rates through resellers range between $29-$49 for Starter; $55-$75 for Manager and $120-$139 for Pro, which includes hosting fees and free upgrades to new releases.
You can evaluate ShopSite 7.1 for free through a demo version that is available on the company's Web site.
Wayne Kawamoto is a frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com.
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