For a live example, check out my friend Cliff Aliperti’s ecwid powered store hosted at ImmortalEphemera.com. Cliff’s told me that he especially loves ecwid because of the way it allows him to embed product galleries, specific categories, search results and individual products seamlessly into blog posts and pages on his blog. He predominantly sells vintage movie cards and, if he writes an article about a particular movie star, he can embed all the items that feature that star that he current has for sale directly from the article.
While Cliff has an upgraded account with hundreds of products, I use ecwid on a much smaller scale whenever I’m doing a limited time sale or exclusive offer on one of our blogs. We always stay within the free 10 item limit so it just works like a super advanced version of a PayPal shopping cart with extra features like calculated and combined shipping. It’s nice to be able to just use their features as needed for a single item instead of having to commit to a whole plan or contract.
In addition to the advantages and disadvantages that all these shopping cart widgets share, ecwid has a few unique issues and features.
- Calculated shipping based on live carrier rates. ecwid offers calculated shipping based on the live rates of just about every carrier. This allows you to list items by weight without having to figure out shipping costs in advance and automatically offer combined shipping discounts. Not having to update all your shipping costs yearly as rates change or figure out your shipping costs every time you list a new item are both huge time savers.
- Flexible both in display and portability. As I mentioned above, it’s easy to use ecwid to feature individual items, galleries and specific category listings in blog posts, on custom pages or even on different blogs and websites. This feature gives you an unparalleled option for integrating your products and store into the rest of your website.
- An excellent option for the sale of digital goods. Upload your digital files and ecwid will even handle digital delivery upon sale. If you are looking for a solution for selling music, services, advertising, ebooks or other downloadables on your site, this may be the very best option out there. But you’ll need to upgrade to their paid account if you want encryption.
- Your choice of web hosts or payment providers. Ecwid works with just about every host, including free sites like Tumblr, Google Sites or Blogger. It also gives you the freedom to use any payment option from a check sent via snail mail to a variety of credit card processors.
- No transaction fees. While their upgrade packages require a month fee, there are no transaction or listing fees of any kind.
- Advanced webstore-like functionality. Inventory, customer management tools, and tons more with a paid account make their widgets extend beyond a simple shopping cart into a go anywhere mini store of much greater complexity.
- Automatically creates both mobile and Facebook versions of your store. Having a mobile friendly version of your site is important in this smartphone world and not having to do anything extra or fancy to get it is even better. It’s a great way to sell direct from a social network even without a website.
- Free account is very limited and upgrading can cost as much as a full featured webstore package. If you’re only selling a handful of recurring items, you may never hit the 10 item limit of the free account but, for everyone else, you’ll need to upgrade. While upgrading gives you access to advanced features such as Google Product feed, coupon codes, and increased customer support, the cost is similar to most full featured webstores for what amounts to an add on.
- Designed more for the seller who only sells one type of thing or very similar items. This may not be a disadvantage if you always sell the same sort of things. For instance, if you are always selling books or collectibles of a similar size and weight, this could be the perfect solution for you. If, however, you sell a wide variety of items, you’ll quickly run into issues. Most settings are global with no ability to change for specific items forcing sellers with a more diverse catalog into more creative workarounds.
- Inventory and store set-up can be time consuming. Adding ecwid to your website will literally take seconds. It’s adding your items and inventory into their system that can take a long time. There are a variety of profiles and options to set-up before you begin and it’s not as simple as it looks at first glance. Add onto this that only top tier paid accounts really get support and getting your store set-up and all your products ready can be a big frustration.
The question becomes, what do you actually need from a shopping cart widget to sell your products? You may not need any fancy features, (something like inventory tracking is useless to you if all you sell are electronic goods that never run out) or you may need a cart that works more like a true webstore within your existing website. As the examples above show, you can go either way and there’s a wide range of options out there. What’s important is looking for the least expensive option that does what you need it to with the least amount of work and a widget such as this can sometimes be just that.