Miva Merchant Review
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- Date Established
- San Diego, CA
The Miva Merchant platform is one of the most lasting eCommerce tools on the market. They have been around since the 90’s in one form or another, and they have brought that experience to bear with a massive new update: Miva Merchant 9. When a company jumps ahead on their version numbers (the previous Miva version was 5.5) you can usually expect it to feel like an entirely new product.
Miva also just passed a major milestone. To date, they have helped their customers transact over $100 Billion in sales. Their auspicious list of customers include Taylor Swift, Mezzetta, and Niche Modern, to name only a few.
One thing I can say about Miva is this: it is bigger in almost every way. Every star that it earned has a LOT to back it up. Every star that it lost indicates equally big problems. This is software that can support the weight of your business (if your business isn’t too light.) To see if it’s the right fit for you, read on.
Miva offers a “free” 30 day trial, but a credit card is required at the time you sign up. Your card will be charged for this first month, but if you cancel within 30 days, that money will be refunded. While your first year includes free SSL and domain name registration*, be ready for your card to be automatically charged for both when your second year of service begins. Miva Merchant offers three plans to choose from:
- Boutique – $49.95/month, 10 GB data transfer, 10 email accounts, 1 year free Rapid SSL ($49 after the first year), 1 year free domain, and customer support.
- Marketplace – $79.95/month, 20 GB data transfer, 30 email accounts, 1 year free GeoTrustSSL Premium ($149 after the first year), 1 year free domain, and customer support.
- Warehouse – $129.95/month, 40 GB data transfer, unlimited email accounts, 1 year free GeoTrustSSL TrueBusiness ($199/yr after the first year), 1 year free domain, and customer support.
- Dedicated servers and enterprise plans are also available.
This quote, taken directly from their website, is as refreshingly honest a statement as I have heard any company say:
We give you unlimited products and categories because the number of products you have in your store has only a marginal impact on the amount it costs us to host you.
If you’re wondering about hidden fees and unexpected gougings, here’s what I found; they charge a pittance for data overages, at $2 for 1gb data transfer and 100 MB storage, each.
* Be aware that if you cancel your account, even during the “30 day reimbursement period,” you will have to buy back your registered domain name if you want to use it elsewhere. This will mean a $19.95 purchase, just to complete your cancellation.
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
Web-hosted. Miva Merchant also offers a licensed version if you prefer self-hosting your cart.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
As a hosted platform, all you’ll need is an updated web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) and a reliable internet connection. For the self-hosted option, see their list of requirements here.
The exhaustive list of can-dos made me a little giddy (yes, I geek out of business software. Don’t judge.) This is a very small cross section of features that Miva provides in-house, as opposed to relying on third party integrations:
- Auto-generated email confirmations
- Customize pricing and show unique content based on user login
- One Page Checkout, 2 Step Checkout, or more traditional 3 and 4 Page Checkout
- Unlimited depth of product options, and unlimited categories
- Hide out-of-stock products or allow special “backorder” orders
- Inventory tracking, including by specific product options/variants
- Inventory can be managed manually, or batch processed automatically by CSV, XML or EDI imports.
- Multiple admins with customizable access
- Advanced reporting and analytics
- API ready
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Miva has full JSON API connectivity. They advertise partnerships with a lot of big names: payments through Chase Paymentech, PayPal, and Amazon Payments, shipping through FedEx and UPS, and email marketing through MailChimp.
They also partner with a few non-plugin-specific companies to give you a professional edge. This includes companies like Ortery, which can help you take dynamic 360 degree photos of your products.
For more information on their integrations, see their Business Partners page.
Ease of Use:
Getting started with Miva could, and definitely should, be simpler. Before I could even begin trying out the software, 1) I had to provide a lot of personal information, 2) my credit card was charged for a service I wasn’t at all sure I even wanted, 3) I had to legitimately register my official domain name, 4) I had to choose a theme for my store blindly, 5) I had to wait a full day after all of this before I could even log in, 6) I had to hunt through SEVEN emails just to find my login information (which I eventually found in an attachment to one of those emails, which none of the emails bothered to clarify.) And after ALL of this had transpired, 7) they finally offer up their TOS, which I had to agree to in order to FINALLY get to try out the admin.
Again, this is long after they’ve charged my card for their “free trial.” Up until this point, I’d been flirting with the idea of giving Miva my first-ever perfect 5 star rating. SO disappointing. This is by far the most difficult and onboarding I have EVER encountered, with no help from their Customer Service department. So much so that I’m forced to use all caps in order to convey the seriousness in my inflection.
Onboarding just… isn’t smooth. If your budget allows, I recommend using one of their specialized services for getting up and running. After that, however, maintaining your store should be achievable without too much trouble.
Once you get past the arduous login process, you can finally start digging in to your store. Which brings me to my next disappointment. Whereas some eCommerce providers out there have dozens or even hundreds of themes to choose from, Miva has (drum roll please…) three. Ok, technically four, but one of them is a DIY blank canvas. Hardly a full-fledged theme. Sure, these themes are device-aware, but that should be a given in this era of technology, not their sole saving grace.
Once you’re digging around in their admin panel, the environment is very functional, if a bit utilitarian. I can tell that this SaaS was developed by very competent engineers. Which is great for functionality. But not so great for non-engineers. The silver lining is that, once you master the learning curve, you can always get a second job as a Miva Consultant. Most users out there will need to hire you.
Or you can skip the time and Tylenol involved in learning how to build your site, and go here to invest in some design help.
Miva supports many of the most trusted payment gateways available, such as authorize.net, Chase, Amazon, and PayPal. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the payment gateway that works best for you and your customers.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
I enthusiastically give Miva some bonus points for their approach to customer service. They make a point of informing new users that their phone support is not only based in the U.S., and it’s provided by Miva (rather than being outsourced to a Customer Service agency,) it is available around the clock, and oh yeah… free. For all subscription levels. I could weep for joy. Until I get to their email support, that is. That’s where the bubble bursts.
Their Support main page is a gateway to:
- Web tickets
- Knowledge Base
- Training videos
- Phone: 800.608.6482 (608-MIVA)
- Sales Email
- Support Email
For those who opt for the licensed and self-hosted solution, there are several levels of tech support subscriptions available.
As for my own experience with their customer support, the best thing I can say is that they have a lot of self-help options. But if you’re looking for urgent answers to a make-or-break problem, you will be sorely disappointed. I recommend going with almost ANY other Shopping Card providers if Customer Support is important to you. It took almost a week before my ticket with Miva Support received any sort of response, other than the auto-generated “hey, we got your email” reply. After two weeks, my ticket is still unresolved. And to top it off, it took me 30 minutes of scouring every email and admin panel looking for a way to cancel my account, with no luck. When I finally called, I was on hold for an agonizing 45 minutes 50 seconds before I spoke to a human being.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
As for the sobering end of the spectrum, some users had very legitimate complaints:
- From a technical perspective, our IT department has problems working with and managing the data generated by Miva for use in other applications. 3rd party development is not as well supported as the Drupal platform. Additionally, unused shopping carts must be cleared weekly or our site WILL crash. There does not seem to be an automated way of clearing the unused carts. We use 3rd party modules, a serious source of concern for any version upgrade.
- When I cancelled, they would not give me a refund, even though I cancelled just 2 weeks into the 30 day trial period. No explanation, just “No refund is due”. I read others have had this same complaint with them. That’s more than just a little red flag. I found their support responses to be sluggish and not very helpful. There are much better products.
- My own experience with Miva was difficult. I am fairly adept at creating websites with eCommerce, and I have tested most of the SaaS shopping carts out there. Mive is a handful. It will be great once your store is up and running, but getting there may be a limiting factor for users who are new to online retail.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
The majority of user feedback out there is positive. I found plenty of four and five star ratings from satisfied customers. I collected some snippets from user reviews that summed up the most common praise:
- The recent Miva 9 upgrade has been a long time coming, but I believe it was worth the wait. The whole admin has been overhauled, and many new features have been added. Our search engine ranking has gone up since the overhaul because we have more tools in Miva 9 to tweak. Our site traffic can really spike during our peak periods, and Miva handles that with ease. Miva’s technical support is outstanding, and our up time is phenomenal.
- I was extremely impressed with my service call to MIVA Merchant. In fact, I’ve been using their service for about 9 months and wanted to call for help on several occasions but didn’t because I expected a painful experience (typical of other online services). A real person answered by call within 1 minute. He spoke clear English and was very knowledgeable and professional. He followed up with me to update me regarding the status of my case and had the answers I needed within 24 hours. Keep up the great work!
- Miva Merchant is a great company for me and my company’s needs! Tech support and Sales have been there 100% for us, AND they follow up to see how we’re doing and if we need additional help. They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me get my site launched.
- I use this product for several clients and cannot begin to express my joy with the ease of use – once you get over the learning curve! There’s excellent support from Miva’s Tech team, and a lot of information available online for support. Absolutely recommend this product!
Miva has more than an average disclosure of their security and privacy policies. From hosting to end-user specifics, I was able to dig up the following information:
As I approached Miva, scouring through their website, scouring through every website that even mentions them, I was convinced. I was ready to sign up for my own legitimate account and kick my side business into high gear. In fact, before I even started building my website, I could tell that Miva wasn’t cutesy. They may very well be friendly, but it’s not fluff. This is business. This is software that I feel like I can put some weight on.
After my full experience with their software, I can confirm the above impression. But I can only do so with a huge, neon, flashing caution: Miva is not for the faint of heart, nor for the delicate budget. Do you have a sizable pool of discretionary funds for starting your online retailing venture? Do you have web developers, graphic designers, and IT specialists on speed dial? Do you have a huge bottle of Tylenol? If so, then by all means, get running with Miva.
If that’s not you, however, I suggest you start with someone smaller. And easier. Miva will be there for you when you’re ready to grow into it. And at that point, it will be a very good option for you.
Miva gets an optimistic 3.5 star rating from Merchant Maverick. Especially since the recent release of version 9, I can confidently recommend them to larger companies who are looking for a robust eCommerce builder. But, given my experience with exceptionally poor customer service, difficult onboarding, limited in-store pricing structures, and unexpected fees, getting started with Miva will be quite a challenge for most medium and small sized businesses. However, if you have development teams to handle most of those concerns, then by all means, go ahead and give them a try here.