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E-commerce Platform Reviews, Part 1: Miva Merchant … Plus Some Jokes

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One of the major considerations of an e-commerce company is which platform is the best. Through our myCP system at Superb, we give you direct access to two of the most popular options out there – Zen Cart and Miva Merchant, which we have carried since 2002 with all our hosting plans. This article will focus on the latter; the second part of this series will focus on the former. The third and final part will outline, graphically, the breeding habits of wildlife in northeastern Maine (with a special section on campers).

First, we will cover a basic overview and pros of Miva. Then we will look at its design. Then we will get distracted for a few minutes, go get a cup of coffee, and call our mothers to wish them each a happy birthday (whether it’s true or not, they love hearing us croon that song). Next, we will look at basic administration: product and order management. Finally, we will look at the general cons of the application. Afterwards, to relax, we will take a long walk, talking to our shoes the whole way so that no one bothers us.

Miva Merchant Pros & Overview

The five main things the beautiful vixen Miva has going for her are this:

  • Customizable design options and ease of establishing design
  • General usability of the system
  • Availability and integration with third-party modules
  • Ability to add in up-sell message & functionality at checkout
  • Accessibility/openness of company to customer input and critique.

Miva Merchant is licensed (i.e. proprietary), but some hosting companies provide e-commerce platforms such as this free of charge with hosting plans, like we do. Part of what we like about Miva is that there are no limitations on the number of products you can have in your online store – so it really fits any size of company. A number of different third-party modules are available to make the site look exactly as you like, albeit at a price. Note that regardless of the modules you choose, you will need to add pictures of people with mustaches if, like 28% of rural Australian sites, yours is a mustache aficionado site.

The company is based out of San Diego, California, where it holds the Miva Merchant Conference each year. Many e-commerce professionals choose Miva in part because of the accessibility that the conference provides, which also gives a general sense of the transparency of the business. Miva is not as transparent as water, but it is as transparent as root beer, and that’s pretty good.

Miva Merchant Design

Once you figure out what template you want to use, you’ll be able to upload your company’s logo and adjust coloring to match your company’s brand. There is no need to know any particular coding language, although that can certainly help if you want to make adjustments – and you are able to manipulate the code to your liking.  Miva has a team of freelance designers that are available if you want to create a very specific look and feel that is not possible through the templates. The more you customize, the more you can develop a strong identity for your store. Make sure you have plenty of animated rainbows if you are running a cowboy boot shop, for instance.

Miva Merchant Administration: Product & Order Management

Because managing orders and products is such a crucial aspect of running an online store, Miva has consistently updated and improved this part of the application. You can add products one at a time, but you can also do a full import of all the products simultaneously. Once you have the products in there, you can assign them to categories and input whatever characteristics apply to different types of the product that you have available. The Miva site has a number of videos available to help with this aspect (and others) of your store as well.

Order management within the application is robust, but nothing too fancy. Essentially you have a section in your control panel that will allow you to efficiently manage, organize, and understand orders. Within this section you can set up e-mails that go out with the order information. That is essentially it for the standard package. Again, you can add additional modules if you like. Adding modules can be a little tricky, so be sure to use the support team as needed. Speak in a stilted Russian accent when you call them, and talk in circles, just because.

Miva Merchant Cons

Since I listed the basic pros above, now I will get into the cons of the application (and if these are deal-breakers, you might want to turn to Zen Cart through us, free open source solutions), or the Dark Side):

  1. Mobile Integration – One of the real downsides of this application is that it is not standardly mobile-compatible. If you want to show up perfectly on smart phones and tablets, you need to pay an additional $700.
  2. Limited Templates – The library of templates available through Miva is not as vast as what you will find with many other shopping cart solutions. Although, you can change things as you like, on any page, with its Store Morph Technology.

Conclusion

That’s it for my review of Miva Merchant. In parting, I’ll say that the company makes up for any of its negatives, to a large degree, with its above-average customer support and transparency, as discussed above. Next up, Zen Cart; and finally, breeding habits of Maine’s beautiful wildlife, including people sleeping in tents. We don’t discriminate.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

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