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Miva Merchant Review
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (3 out of 5)
Last Updated: June 4th, 2013.
Miva Merchant is a web-hosted ecommerce software that enables you to sell and manage products online. With Miva, you can create a store and maintain inventory, customers, shipping, and more. Miva Merchant’s roots can be traced back to 1996, when HTMLScript Corporation was founded. The company released its original catalogue-based ecommerce tool KoolKat the following year. KoolKat was later renamed Miva Merchant. The company was purchased by FindWhat.com a decade ago and adopted the name Miva, Inc. in 2005. After a major change in management in 2007, the firm became Miva Merchant, Inc. With a client roster including, Skip Hop, Mezzatta, and Naturals Inc., Miva Merchant earned accolades in 2012 when BuiltWith Web Technology Usage Statistics named it one of their top ten ecommerce tech firms.
In addition to offering PCI compliant ecommerce hosting, the company has rolled out various other products over the years, including XML-based scripting language Miva Script. Users can also hire Miva to complete custom site development and design.
Merchants that choose Miva tend to be happy with its customer support and capacity to integrate new features. That said, if you’re looking for fresh templates, cutting-edge social media integration, or the most competitive pricing, you’ll definitely want to consider other options.
The following review is the result of hours of research and interaction with Miva Merchant. In my opinion, Miva needs to spend less time diversifying its offerings and more time updating branding and rethinking the fees it slaps on features that are standard elsewhere in the industry. Read on for all the details.
San Diego, California.
As opposed to most every other software cart, Miva Merchant does not offer a typical free trial that does not require a credit card. Potential users are required to sign up for an account in order to access Miva’s admin and try out features. A credit card will be charged for your first month of service, then refunded if you decide to cancel within 30 days. (It should be noted that as of 6/25/2013, my credit card still has not been refunded the initial payment for the first month, even though I cancelled my subscription within 30-days.) 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 ($19.99 after the first year), 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 ($19.99 after the first year), and customer support.
- Warehouse - $129.95/month, 40 GB data transfer, unlimited email accounts, 1 year free GeoTrustSSL True Business ID ($199/yr after the first year), 1 year free domain ($19.99 after the first year), and customer support.
- Dedicated servers and enterprise plans are also available.
Plans can be upgraded or downgraded at any time, and no long-term contract is required. Each includes $100 of Google Adwords credit after spending $25. You can also save 10% by paying up front annually. If you exceed monthly storage space or bandwidth you’ll be billed for overage charges at the rate of $4 per 100MB of storage and GB of transfer.
The Miva Merchant store offers additional products that will cost you: For example, social media buttons can be added to your homepage for $199 and blogs can be integrated for $999. In my opinion, these fees are outrageous. Competitors offer superior third party social media integrations like ShopConnection for $10 per month. Modules that add features not included with basic plans can also add up.
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
Web-hosted. Miva Merchant also offers a licensed version if you prefer self-hosting your cart.
Ease of Use:
After signing up for a Miva Merchant account here, you’ll receive an email with a link that lets you select a domain name, SSL, and theme. You can choose a basic CSS-based shop ready for customization or use one of 15 templates. When you’re done, you’ll see a message that says, “ We have received your choices. You will receive an email that details your account access within the next 24 hours.” I was pretty surprised at this point: Instead of having instant access to my store’s backend I had to wait an undisclosed amount of time until I received further instructions. In my case, account access arrived about an hour later.
You’ll next be able to complete your store using a temporary domain that allows you to input items and alter settings. A single backend offers access to inventory, customer info, etc.
If you’re ready to go live with your store and have an existing domain, you’ll need to add it to Miva Merchant’s name servers 24 to 48 hours before you launch. You’ll also have to set up email accounts first. When you’re finally ready to roll out your store you’ll need to call customer support and request that it’s activated.
Miva Merchant’s admin needs a refresh, with a purple color scheme and typeface that’s not easy on the eyes. That said, once you click around for a few minutes it won’t take long to get a lay of the land. You’ll be able to access everything from products to customers to shipping from a drop-down list that hugs the left side of your screen. While it’s not elegant, the backend does offer the right balance between ease of use for the novice and easy-to-access HTML for developers.
Is Miva Merchant intuitive to use once it’s set up? Yes, relatively so. But when competitors like Shopify and AmeriCommerce offer instant set-up without following extra steps or calling a phone number before going live it’s hard not to feel like you’re launching a store a decade ago.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Miva Merchant is a web-hosted ecommerce software that only requires a secure internet connection and browser (Chrome, Firefox). While there aren’t any hardware requirements, your shop will best run if you use the latest technology. If you choose to self-host the licensed version on your server you’ll want to view hardware requirements here.
Miva Merchant offers a basic feature list that includes some useful tools, including wholesale price calculators and the ability to create cross-sells. Adding orders and products can be done in batches or individually. Order tracking and one-click reorders are available for customers, as well. Merchandising includes options to load several product thumbnails. Also, real-time shipping rates can be generated for orders via USPS, UPS, and Fedex. While you’ll be able to modify tags and meta titles, competitors such as Shopify and BigCommerce offer more robust SEO functionality. The same goes for tracking tools.
Click here to read more about Miva’s features. If you’d like to add increased functionality to your site, you can access several modules, but they’re going to cost you. Extras ranging from SEO link services to mailing list managers are available.
Miva Merchant offers 15 free templates, as well as an option to build a site from a blank white theme. Once you choose a template, you’ll be able to add your logo, alter colors, add pages, etc. Like the backend, the templates are underwhelming and need to be freshened up through customization.
Realistically, you’re going to have to know some code to make meaningful adjustments to your store. You may feel more comfortable working with a designer or developer to fine-tune your site, which can add additional cost to your launch. Under “domain settings” in the backend, choose “SEO settings” to check or uncheck a box that reads “Enable SEO-friendly store front.” It’s hard to imagine a shop that you wouldn’t want to optimize. The existence of the option is more evidence that Miva needs a serious refresh.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
From your Miva Merchant admin, add-ons can be viewed under “system extension settings.” Miva offers a broad assortment of integrations, including:
- Runa - Integrates your Miva site with merchandising service Runa.
- Mailchimp - Connects your store with the Mailchimp email newsletter service.
- Shipwire - Allows you to integrate Miva Merchant with cloud-based enterprise logistics platform Shipwire.
- Olark - Integrates Olark live chat service with your shop.
Miva Merchant integrates with major payment gateways, including PayPal, Checkout by Amazon, and Google Checkout. Note that the company became a certified Chase Paymentech Orbital Gateway reseller a few years back. Sellers with a Chase account can complete transactions using several different payment types and control refunds and voids without the need to log into a separate gateway account.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Customer service may be Miva Merchant’s biggest strength. Representatives are available by phone seven days a week and calls aren’t outsourced. I was able to connect with tech support via phone with no problem after a short wait. There appears to be a thriving Miva Merchant community, with developers and merchants mingling at an annual conference in San Diego featuring workshops on a range of ecommerce topics.
Miva Merchant offers an assortment of support methods in addition to tickets, including a quick start guide that begins with the basics for new users. Additionally, you’ll be able to reference video tutorials, a knowledge base, user guide, and community forum. There’s a good deal of documentation available here. You can also connect with Miva Merchant on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
A thorough online search uncovered various common Miva Merchant complaints.
- Added Cost - Fees for domain registration, security, integrations, and extra features can rack up your monthly bill.
- Lackluster SEO and Social Media - While you can add short URLs, meta tags, etc., it’s more difficult to ensure keyword density and set URL structures. Additional social media integrations come with a fee.
- Too Complex - Small businesses or ecommerce newbies that are uncomfortable with basic code might have trouble confidently navigating the admin.
Other negatives reported by Miva Merchant customers include:
- Reporting tools are basic.
- Out of date admin design.
- Uninspired templates.
If you want to search for other complaints about Miva Merchant, be sure to Google Miva Merchant reviews, Miva Merchant complaints, Miva Merchant comments, Miva Merchant scam, Miva Merchant testimonials, etc.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
In addition to videos of clients discussing positive experiences using Miva Merchant, users appreciate its accessible customer service and ability to customize. Frequently, customers attested to the following positive attributes:
- Support - In addition to the US-based support team, Miva offers a large user community and hosts educational conferences each year.
- Flexibility - Users control page template designs and possess the ability to customize sites to their liking.
- Functionality - The backend is robust with the capability to handle multiple orders.
Less frequently, users commented on the following positive site attributes:
- Data is safe and backed up by 256-bit SSL encryption.
- Servers are dependable; minimal downtime.
- Users have the capability to sell several items in a kit, up-sell, or cross-sell.
Some aspects of Miva Merchant aren’t broke and don’t need to be fixed: The customer support is quality and the backend is accessible for both shop owners and the developer crowd. But several other elements of Miva, like not offering a free trial without signing up for service and charging hundreds for simple blog and social media integration, convey the message that this shopping cart is out of touch.
The dated templates also don’t do the cart any favors. In my opinion, if you’re not constrained by a budget and are seeking access to a customized site and an active ecommerce community you’ll want to consider Miva. Otherwise, you’ll probably be better off using a cart with a streamlined backend, smarter mobile and social media integration, and more free features. Try a 30-day demo and see if Miva Merchant is the right fit for your business.