It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>
This week I asked our panel of experts about a topic we hear discussed in the internet marketing world a lot…
One of the most difficult decisions in running an online business is choosing a shopping cart / payment processing system.
So, which one do you use to power your business?
Do you like it? Why or why not?
Note: There are no right or wrong answers here. Just perception and personal experience.
I hope that this week's expert responses will be helpful in making this decision for your own business.
Terry Dean of My Marketing Coach says:
The one I personally use is Netofficetoolbox.com which is a private label of 1shoppingcart. The reason I like it best is it integrates everything into one system including processing both credit cards and Paypal, your affiliate program, upsells, and more.
Since they've been around for years, they have had ups and downs. There were periods where their autoresponders couldn't get delivered and other points where they didn't integrate well with recurring billing on membership software like Amember. For me at least these problems have been solved and have been running well for the past 12 months+.
I use both my own merchant account and Paypal for processing orders through them.
So, that's what I use to run my primary business.
I also use Clickbank for digital products I release in other markets other than my main one. I've found if you're in niches you can often recruit additional affiliates just by getting into their system and getting a few affiliates selling for you.
This also means I have a secondary system in place in my business in case there were ever problems with one of my accounts. I have money coming in 3 different ways (merchant account, Paypal, and Clickbank) in addition to the affiliate programs I promote.
Be sure to learn more from Terry here: My Marketing Coach
Ronnie Nijmeh of PLR.me (< -click for a special free offer from Ronnie) says:
I've been through what I affectionately call “Shopping Cart Hell” several times over the years.
I've been with:
- A “custom” cart – This is crazy and only recommended in very few instances.
- Infusionsoft – Expensive, always something going wrong
- 1ShoppingCart – Not my favorite, but workable
- Amember – I use this currently for my PLR store where I sell Personal Development PLR
- Foxycart – I use this currently for Product Creator Pro
So let's first talk about Amember.
It's a useful tool that I've initially disliked, but grown to enjoy.
At first, I found the interface (of the old 3.0 version) pretty intense and daunting… a lot of features are tucked away, and you need to be a bit technical to understand certain things like protecting folders (folder permissions, htaccess, etc). But like anything, once you learn it, it becomes easy.
Also, it's very customizable with lots of plugins which, again, only becomes useful if you're a techie (or you have a technical person on staff).
The bad news is that they've revamped the software to version 4 (which looks very slick, by the way!), but this rendered a lot of old plugins un-useable until the plugin creators update their code. And their support is pretty slow.
I would recommend Amember if you have a lot of products to protect (like a membership or several PLR packs for instance! 🙂 )
But if you have just one or two products, it's probably not the best solution.
I actually like this cart in a lot of ways because it “saves” the customer's information on file, so they can just login and never have to enter their billing details or credit card details again.
It is a hosted solution (meaning you have to pay a monthly fee), but that means you don't have to worry about things like “PCI Compliance” and server security. A big deal if you take people's credit card information.
It's pretty extensive and can be highly customized, but it's not going to handle things like email marketing or an affiliate program like 1ShoppingCart or Amember can. They've just focused on building a really good shopping cart.
Check out Ronnie's New Project and Set up a Free Account: Product Creator Pro. It helps you to make Professional Looking Ebooks in Minutes
Alice Seba of PLR That you Can Resell says:
Over the years, I have tried a lot of different systems. Many people take so much time to decide on a shopping cart, but hold themselves back from getting started. The only way I was able to find out what I liked best was by trying a variety of options, so for anyone looking, I recommend just digging in and figuring it out as you go.
After all this time, I have settled in with Amember as my absolute favorite.
I like Amember for a few reasons:
* No monthly payment:
While I see the attraction in a 3rd party system that automatically does the software upgrades for you, I don't think the price of many of monthly payment shopping carts is really justified. Sure, profits can pay for this monthly fee, but if I can keep more of that profit back in my pocket, that's good for me.
Amember includes my shopping cart, membership system, affiliate program and mailing lists…all in one place. I have always preferred all-inclusive systems because it allows me to segment lists and ensure better targeting with my market. It also avoids a lot of duplication if you happen to have your bits in pieces all over the place.
* Customization and control:
I love that I can control how Amember looks and functions. I've had a number of customizations developed that have allowed me to improve my email marketing, product delivery and more.
I know Amember isn't for everybody though. It is a little more complex than other systems and some people complain about the “extra steps” they have to do to set up a product. I have no problem with the extra steps because, ultimately, they are the things that allow me to have control over the way Amember functions.
This is cool. Check out Alice's PLR That you Can Resell
David Perdew of NAMS says:
I’ve tried a bunch of cart platforms!
When I built the MyNAMS memberhip community , the search was on for a membership software that also had the flexibility to run my business the way I wanted to do it, not the way the software maker thought I should.
I’m just ending a 7-year relationship with 1ShoppingCart. They have gotten so much better over the years, but the one thing it didn’t do well for me was affiliate tracking. The system required a number of different (and unrelated – hence the problem) links if you had different products.
From an affiliate perspective, that was a nightmare with the type of affiliate relationships I wanted to build. For example:
If an affiliate – say Nicole Dean – refers someone to MyNAMS for the first time, and that referral signs up for a free product or purchases product A, I want Nicole to be rewarded for every purchase from A to Z that person ever makes in MyNAMS going forward. Why?
Well, she said it not long ago:
“David, every time YOU send an email to your lists, I make money!”
I LIKE sending affiliate payments.
For product owners who rely on affiliate relationships, those partnerships are as important as customers are! Good affiliates will hold a product owner like me accountable for many more transgressions if they’re protecting their lists than a customer will. So, affiliates have to be cherished as business partners and rewarded generously.
That’s why I chose aMember even though it was more technical and not quite as up-to-date as, say InfusionSoft.
aMember 4 – just released is much better and is just the ticket. I’m committed because it gives me great affiliate management tools in a very flexible way.
Cross-product affiliate relationships, first-click affiliate tagging, and database driven affiliate referral system versus cookie affiliate programs were the key for me. Everything else is just standard fare.
Be sure to sign up here for David's Weekly FREE Webinars. (They're good stuff.)
Kelly McCausey of Solo Smarts says:
I've been an Amember fan since 2004 when my partners and I launched our first membership site. Back then we had to ‘plug in' an autoresponder script and a separate affiliate program script but over the years the company that makes Amember has improved it so much that today it stands alone and does everything I need.
Important to point out though that I am not using Amember to manage a large mailing list. That would be a bad idea because Amember is software that runs on your own hosting account. So while I use Amember to manage small product specific customer email lists, I will always use a separate Email Service Provider to take care of my large lists.
I have used other carts. I used 1ShoppingCart for a couple of years on a project I bought from someone else. I've also used (Note from Nicole: Name removed by me because they are awful and I don't want to even mention them as it may be construed as an endorsement) in the distant past. While I don't mind a monthly expense that proves it's worth, I never found the $50 and $99 per month I paid for their system to be all that superior to what I got from Amember without a monthly cost.
Amember is intended to be a membership system that protects member content. I use it to manage the sale of services and one off products as well as memberships.
This past fall the company released a new version and since I was rebranding and starting over with a new cart I gave the new version a spin. I am so impressed with it! They've built in some cool features that have cut down the time it takes to add a new product or update product resources. There's a built in help desk and it was a snap branding the whole thing to look like the rest of my site.
What would make Amember even more dear in my eyes? A plugin that makes my Aweber account work with my Amember installation. (Not currently available for the newest version.)
Are you a woman in business? Check out Kelly's awesome mastermind group.
Susanne Myers of Daily Affiliate Tasks says:
My favorite shopping cart solution is Amember.
I was first introduced to it way back when I ran a meal planning service with Christine Steendahl (The Menu Mom), and we needed something flexible and inexpensive that would allow for recurring payments and an affiliate program. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it over the years, but always stuck with it because I have yet to find anything better at a reasonable price.
One of my favorite things about Amember is how it handles affiliates. ]
Let’s say Nicole sends me a customer over at Affiliate Niche Packs and they end up ordering a pack. Amember creates a customer record and one of the pieces of information it notes is that Nicole sent me this customer in the first place. This means that from here on out, anytime this person buys something else from me, Nicole will get an affiliate commission. There are no cookies that could expire or be deleted. It doesn’t matter what computer the person orders from (or even if they order from their smart phone or iPad), Nicole will still get credit. This makes it much easier to attract and work with super affiliates (like Nicole).
Amember has a bit of a learning curve when you first get started and I’ve had plenty of days when I was ready to pull my hair out because it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to. In the end though, it was well worth the extra effort. Do keep in mind that the developer and support staff are in Eastern Europe. As a result of time difference it usually takes almost a day to get replies back from customer support.
Want to make more money with Affiliate Marketing? Check out Susanne's program – Daily Affiliate Tasks
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
Well, I asked the question, so you know that I have opinions, too. 🙂
Having been an Affiliate Manager for several years, I've worked behind the scenes with most of the carts mentioned above and even a few that weren't mentioned, too.
Plus, with my own infoproducts, I've used … eek! SEVEN different carts.
Which seven? Well, one of them is out of business and two others I do NOT like so they shall remain nameless. But, I will share the ones that pass muster.
There's a lot to take into consideration when choosing a cart, but it really comes down to just three main factors –
- Your Needs – Now and in the future as you grow
- Your Customers' Experience – Will the ordering process be positive for them?
- Your Affiliates – Will They Be Treated as you Wish?
Let's start at the bottom, since that's the easiest, in my opinion.
1. What's best for your affiliates?
Disclaimer #1: That is making one big assumption and that's that the person that I'm promoting has multiple products for sale – and they are actually telling their customers about them so that you can get repeat sales. But, I know that the sales track and I get repeat sales – both of which are hugely important in getting and retaining loyal affiliates.
Disclaimer #2: I do not choose what to promote based upon the cart, but if two products are equal in all ways, I will at that point, recommend the one that's running on either Amember or Nanacast.
Most of the other carts do not track referrals as well.
What about Clickbank? Is that attractive to affiliates?
Clickbank can either be really good in this area or really bad. Depending on the niche you're in, it may be more difficult to get loyal affiliates, since affiliate theft is so easy. What this means is that I can, as an affiliate, promote a product on Clickbank. Some people who go to purchase (upon my recommendation) will replace my affiliate ID with theirs to get a discount. While this is frowned upon in most circles, Clickbank does nothing to monitor this. This can make it more difficult to get good affiliates to promote you – if you're on Clickbank.
On the other hand, Clickbank has one very distinct advantage. They DO pay on time, every time. Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more common for people to just think they can NOT pay their affiliates (which is theft) – and get away with it. It's very frustrating as an affiliate when you have to ask where your commissions are – and it just should not have to happen. Plus, affiliates talk with each other. I've been in a number of conversations in the past year about who not to promote – because they don't pay their affiliates. (You'll see another blog post about this next week.) However, when you promote someone on Clickbank – you know you'll get paid – because Clickbank is in control.
2. Customer Experience.
This is another tricky one. If you sell multiple products (and you darned well should) – it's very helpful to have a “members area” where the customer's purchases can be accessed for years to come. It's also handy if your customers don't have to enter ALL of their information every time they order and can just log in to quickly order from you. Again, Amember wins here, in my opinion.
If you've only got one product at this point, then Clickbank has a nice smooth and easy ordering process. Plus, they automatically process credit cards, which frees you up to not have to have a separate merchant account, which is nice, too.
In fact, most of the carts have a nice ordering process. The only thing that stands out is if you'll have repeat customers – in which case, having a members area is very nice for them to continually order and access their purchases.
3. Your Needs as a Merchant.
Finally, the third big consideration is what you need as the product seller. Here's where it is SO important to know yourself, your resources, and your business.
If you're just getting started, are completely non-techie and/or you are unsure about your niche – then I'd recommend Clickbank. You can always leave that product on Clickbank and also set up a separate cart down the road once you get rockin'. From a merchant perspective, there are a few weaknesses with Clickbank that are easily overcome with Easy Click Mate – a program that I use on three of my sites. It enables you to run several products from one Clickbank account.
-> I created a resource for helping you to get your product up on Clickbank and you can see it here: How to Sell Your Products on Clickbank
If you've got a solid business (and are totally non-techie) and want something a bit meatier that you have more control on, 1ShoppingCart is solid. It's super easy and can be set up and running very quickly. Plus, as Terry mentioned – the upsell capability is huge. The downside is price, of course, paying monthly for your cart as opposed to paying once. And, affiliate tracking is less than desirably, in my humble opinion.
Of course, there are as many options and scenarios as there are people, but that's just a quick suggestion for you.
There are a few carts that have not been mentioned that are also viable options. E-Junkies is fine for beginners, but is not the best for attracting affiliates. It's a very cumbersome process for affiliates to get links, and you can't get them for the affiliates as there's no clear pattern to how they are created.
So what do I use?
Enough chatter, right? What do I actually use in my business – RIGHT NOW?
On EasyPLR.com, I use Quick Sales which is a reseller of 1ShoppingCart. It's fine, but I do wish I'd gone with Amember.
On JustAddSweat.com and YummyPLR.com, I use Clickbank along with Easy Click Mate.
For the rest of my projects I use Amember (I have three separate installations of it).
Time for Feedback!
So, what about you? Are you stuck on this decision? Or do you have a cart you recommend? Please join in the discussion!
If you're at the point right now where you need to change carts for some reason – let me know. I'll recommend a cart for you based upon your needs.
Resources RECOMMENDED in this Article:
- Amember – All in One Membership Site Software
- Clickbank – Hands off. For non-techies. Includes a marketplace to recruit affiliates for you. (Use Easy Click Mate to make it more powerful.)
- 1ShoppingCart – Powerful cart.
- Foxycart – I don't know much about this one, but Ronnie recommended it.
- NanaCast – Another powerful options with a lot of features.
- E-Junkies – Fine but very simple.