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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Design, Build, and Scale Your Online Store on a Feature-Rich, Install-Anywhere Platform

A Platform To Design Build And Scale Your Online Store
Mike Senecal

Written by: Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal
Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal draws on more than 20 years of editorial experience to update CardRates.com readers on industry trends, business news, and best practices in budgeting and credit use. Mike has worked for decades in academic and trade publishing, including roles as managing editor and technical editor at the University of Florida and as contributor to finance industry publications, including Surety Bond Quarterly and Independent Agent, among others. Mike holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina, and he enjoys bringing his years of academic and industry expertise online to help consumers of diverse financial backgrounds.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Our experts and industry insiders blog the latest news, studies and current events from inside the credit card industry. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

In a Nutshell: The eCommerce revolution means anyone can start the next multimillion-dollar business. ShopSite makes it easy as a feature-rich eCommerce platform with all the tools to design, build, and scale a company from the ground up. Online businesses may encounter ShopSite as a value-added service their hosting partner offers. Others work directly with the ShopSite team to install the platform on the domain of their choice. Either way, ShopSite combines ease of use with features and tools to take your store to the next level wherever you start. ShopSite makes creating a store as simple as surfing the web.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur with million-dollar growth ambitions or a grandmother selling a few hand-sewn doilies for fun, an appealing, easy-to-use website is the foundation of any modern business looking to reach an audience beyond the neighborhood.

Amazon and other giant marketplace platforms offer storefronts that do the job. But websites are much better at projecting brand identity and serving as a basis for customer communication.

Using an analogy that recalls shopping malls, an Amazon storefront is like an out-of-the-way kiosk that receives occasional pedestrian traffic. A website is like a store offering an immersive brand experience to customers when they enter.

ShopSite logo

ShopSite has helped entrepreneurs and grandmothers build websites since 1996. Its innovative shopping cart eCommerce solutions include an intuitive store setup wizard and incorporate digital coupons, associates, inventory tracking, and many other features.

“ShopSite is often copied, but no other product can match our unique combination of powerful features and ease of use,” according to the company’s website.

Partnerships are the key to its success. ShopSite’s primary business model is to partner with hosting companies and allow them to sell its product to their customer base.

Certified ShopSite designers and developers are available to guide merchants toward an effective web presence. ShopSite also partners with companies that provide add-on apps and services and operates an order transfer app that integrates with QuickBooks.

It’s install-anywhere software, meaning merchants aren’t tied to a particular hosting solution, as they are with many competitors.

“ShopSite is versatile in that you can install it through any of our hosting partners, or you can set it up and run it on a dedicated server,” said John Young, VP of Sales. “It just works — and it keeps working.”

Simplicity and Flexibility to Grow with Your Company

A broad spectrum of small and medium-sized merchants find ShopSite appealing, from those grandmothers selling doilies to multimillion-dollar high-end businesses.

ShopSite is excellent for those who want to sell online through digital downloads, where they sell and provision a download video or link. Merchants also use ShopSite to sell tangible products from brick-and-mortar and website stores.

“We have many legacy customers who love us,” Young said. “We’re good at customer service and care for our merchants.”

Hosting flexibility is a draw. ShopSite merchants can change hosts if they’re not happy. Many competitors require an internal hosting solution, and merchants are stuck when they decide to raise prices.

ShopSite platform
ShopSite is a top-to-bottom eCommerce solution for small- to medium-sized merchants.

ShopSite accommodates nontechnical to technically sophisticated merchants. The entry-level version of the platform, Express, is free software that bolts on to existing websites. The Order Anywhere feature allows merchants to place an order button link in an email or on an existing site.

The software’s core tiers — Starter, Manager, and Pro — run on the same codebase but offer different functionality and features as users upgrade.

Starter allows 15 products and five SEO- and mobile-friendly pages, works with over 50 themes, and accepts more than 25 payment methods.

Manager allows unlimited products and pages and includes a store search feature. It presents real-time shipping rates to users and enables merchants to upload and download product databases.

Pro includes sophisticated eCommerce features such as coupons, quantity pricing, cross-selling, and gift certificates. It also allows product reviews and sends an email when potential customers abandon their carts.

“Our free try-before-you-buy demo puts you at the Pro level, and then you can choose Starter, Manager, or Pro when you’re ready to go live,” Young said.

Handle Various Deployment and Payment Scenarios

ShopSite’s Enterprise tier includes server integrations and background services for order imports. Background services also support emails for abandoned carts, product reviews, and one-time coupons.

Young said the order button link gets users up and running through existing websites and allows them to build a store out of the box using mobile-friendly, dialed-in templates that don’t require technical aptitude.

The order button generates a link for each product that merchants copy and paste. A plugin for WordPress sites allows users to insert the link seamlessly.

Merchants can also upload the plugin and seamlessly add order buttons to pages they create. When they’re ready to take it to the next level, ShopSite is also highly customizable.

ShopSite screens
ShopSite “just works” wherever your customers are.

“We can bolt onto an existing website, or you can build an entire website from scratch using our platform and templates,” Young said.

Merchants can save a lot of money by doing it themselves, but Young said there comes a point when bringing on an expert is valuable. Experts can fine-tune sites for SEO and tweak the appearance for brand consistency. ShopSite caters to both markets.

In the Pro version, ShopSite includes customer registration and inventory tracking. Merchants and developers can also use the APIs to connect to multiple storefronts or databases.

ShopSite also integrates with a broad list of payment providers, including merchant accounts and gateways. Young said they’re ready to go out of the box, like everything else associated with ShopSite.

“A designer can build a custom template for you, or you can just jump right in and not spend the $2,000 or $3,000 bump just to start,” Young said. “The barrier to entry is low — only $5.99 a month for the Starter edition — and that’s pretty reasonable for anybody.”

Build Brand Identity Through a Website Presence

ShopSite integrates with major shipping platforms, including UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Canada Post. It’s available internationally. Although most of its customer base is in the U.S., ShopSite boasts customers in Europe, South America, and other parts of the world.

To serve the U.S. market, ShopSite integrates with Avalara for advanced tax planning. Avalara handles tax rate computations and tax reporting. A recent integration with NoFraud provides eCommerce fraud protection.

“Many gateways have their own built-in security, but it’s nice to have that added protection,” Young said. “They’ll scrub the data and make sure it’s good.”

ShopSite design
Build brand identity on a platform that grows with you.

Many users write connections to the platform via the API structure to pull order data, inventory tracking, and tax information. ShopSite’s APIs require the Manager or Pro tier but accommodate many customizations.

“The APIs are open, but the code is not open,” Young said. “That’s another thing that helps us with security. We open it up for third parties to connect their applications, and that’s backward compatible, so tier upgrades don’t affect them.”

Support is available via phone, email, videos, a dedicated merchant support channel, a knowledge base, and a popular user forum. Page-sensitive help enables users to access tips and tricks via drop-down menus anywhere on the platform.

It all adds up to one of the most feature-rich yet user-friendly shopping cart platforms in today’s burgeoning eCommerce marketplace. ShopSite ticks all the boxes for merchants looking to get up and running with a site that can grow with them and make them proud.

“We love helping people and providing a good product that’s stable and secure,” Young said. “We have great customers that we love taking care of. We’ve been doing this for a long time and are always adjusting to change, but it’s fun. We’re a great company to do business with.”