Sometimes it takes something visionary to really set you apart in a class. And while it might not always be the first of it’s type to market, a product can catch your eye with its elegance and simplicity, and reel you in.
That’s been my experience thus far with FoxyCart.
You’ll note that I refer to FoxyCart as e-commerce software, as opposed to the broader term, “shopping cart”. The reason? It’s not a shopping cart. The developers decided they wanted to focus on the transaction, and not on the display of products and services.
After all, that’s a job left best to visual designers and GUI people. In an increasingly crowded e-commerce space, it makes sense. A product landing page needs to stand out, and an out of the box shopping cart lander is unlikely to differentiate you from anyone. What it in fact would do is put the focus squarely on your price, and that’s not always where you want to do business.
So think of FoxyCart more as a ‘Checkout and Payment API”. While the BASIC mechanics of the checkout process are made available, and made customizable, the guts of the service are in cleanly, securely, and quickly completing e-commerce transactions.
When you first start creating your “store” (and go do it… FoxyCart is completely free forever until you go live), you’re bound to notice one thing right off the bat. You can’t add products. If you haven’t yet recognized this isn’t a shopping cart, you’re in the wrong line of work.
What you add in the FoxyCart interface is instead Product Categories. Here, you describe how taxes will work, how shipping and handling will work, and a few other key ideas behind how you will EVENTUALLY sell your product.
The products themselves however are created by your own software… WordPress (there’s a fully functional FoxyCart e-commerce plugin that works great), hand coded HTML/PHP… whatever. However you choose to build your website. So if you’re selling thousands of products through a database driven site, or one product you build yourself in the garage, FoxyCart can do it. As soon as you tell it how.
The product creation process is well documented in their Wiki, so just about any developer can work with it.
One special note: If you sell CUSTOM PRODUCTS, the sky is the limit (mostly) with FoxyCart. Since products can essentially be created on the fly through code development and then passed through to the actual Checkout process, you can have a lot of variations, colors, sizes, shapes, widgets, and options on your products. There are some awesome examples on the FoxyCart website of the kind of customizations taking place. I think my favorite is ShirtListed.com
The FoxyCart API etc
Getting your transactions is a snap with FoxyCart. They of course have a fully functional API to code against, and, you can tell the Checkout Process where to send the data by specifying an endpoint. So you can build a little SimpleXML PHP script to handle each order and insert it in your database, etc.
JSONP is supported for Add To Cart as well, meaning you can create ANY customer experience you want. You have 100% control over the look, feel, and flow of the purchase, right through to where the transaction lives after it’s completed.
Does FoxyCart Support My Payment Gateway?
Probably. Here’s a list. My personal experience has been in integrating with Paypal PayFlow Pro, which is a snap for live sites. Test sites with test transactions? Well… That’s difficult with Paypal (to a degree) period. But, FoxyCart does indeed support it if you want to mess around with the Paypal Sandbox.
So Where Does the Cart Live?
That’s up to you.
You can use the basic FoxyCart Checkout Page in a modal window, and make modifications to logo, some look and feel, etc. The advantage for small businesses here is that an SSL Certificate is then included in your monthly service fee (as of September 2012, starting at $19/mo).
If you want it to be part and parcel of your own website, and most people do, then you can have it reside there. Kind of. It still is a hosted service, but from a “customer experience” perspective, it’s seamless. You can route through “secure.yourdomain.com” or however you’d like it to read. It has to be a sub domain though.
So What Am I Paying For Exactly
It’s easy to think you’re not getting a lot for your monthly fee when you initially read a review of it. You have to consider though that this is a powerful, enabling tool. It essentially puts anyone with design skills and some programming knowledge in the drivers seat of creating a truly unique e-commerce experience for their customers.
Coupled with a WordPress site and the WordPress plug in, you have a VERY powerful e-commerce system at your finger tips without ANY programming knowledge at all. And, since it supports Subscription based purchases (recurring billing), Donations, Downloadable Products… anyone can sell just about anything for $19 a month.
Lastly, PCI compliance, integrating with payment gateways,securing customer data, connecting to FedEx or UPS for shipping totals…. That’s all hard work. You don’t want to do it. At the current cost of FoxyCart, you DEFINITELY don’t want to do it. Spend your time designing and selling instead.
I’m about 3 months in to my FoxyCart experience now, and working with it has really opened my eyes to tons of possibilities for our traditional product catalog. The integration with WordPress has me basically salivating, yet the simplicity of the rest of the code (documented well on the Wiki) makes me believe I’ll soon be clipping the WordPress cord for some of our e-commerce, and building our own super-fun, super-customer-friendly, super-awesomesauced sites.
I recommend it to true neophytes IF most of the following are true:
- You’re using WordPress
- You have a fairly simple product catalog.
- You’re a relatively decent reverse engineer.
- You have a developer.
I recommend FoxyCart to developers if at least 3 of the following are true:
- You like kicking ass.
- You like taking names.
- You like to be cutting edge.
- You want to wow people.