|Featured Shopping Cart Vendors|
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (3 out of 5)
Last Updated: July 17th, 2013.
UltraCart is a hosted shopping cart solution with a twist. Similar to popular cloud-based carts like Big Cartel and Shopify, you won’t need to download any files to use the SaaS program. However, unlike web-hosted ecommerce solutions that enable you to build a store from the ground up as a part of your monthly fee, with UltraCart you embed "Add to Cart" or "Buy" buttons to your preexisting website in order to sell items.
The cart is really geared towards merchants who want to sell goods, ranging from tea to t-shirts, in one area of their website as opposed to launching a brand new store. If that’s you, the cart may be an option worth considering. You do have the option to create a store from scratch using UltraCart, but that means hiring an on-staff UltraCart developer to assist in the building and launching process.
The e-commerce management program began more than 15 years ago and brings together a shopping cart, shipping tools, order management and fulfillment, and some basic marketing extras. Current customers include Pike Place Fish Market and Zoka Coffee Roasters.
Users attest to UltraCart's scalability and ability to expand alongside your store. There’s probably more functionality in inventory and item tracking than you’ll want or need, and extras like discounting and product management are available. UltraCart includes some helpful tools like variable billing support and 1-click upselling, but in my opinion its age is beginning to show, with some missing out-of-the-box features like a mobile version and robust social media integrations. The cart also has a general lack of user-friendliness (at least compared to many of its peers) that left me desiring something more. Read on for my full review.
Before you sign up for UltraCart it’s important to make time to take it for a test drive. Most hosted carts offer 10 to 15-day free trials, but UltraCart kicks it up a notch by giving users access to a 30-day trial period. No credit card info is needed to sign up.
UltraCart's monthly plan pricing is based on tiers that slide up as your store’s sales increase:
- $49.95 - 0-250 Items / $0-$50,000 in sales per month.
- $69.95 - 251-500 Items / $50,001 - $70,000 in sales per month.
- $104.95 - 501-1,000 Items / $70,001 - $100,000 in sales per month.
- $154.95 - 1,001-5,000 Items / $100,001 - $150,000 in sales per month. (Each additional group of 5,000 items adds an extra $50 to your bill.)
To simplify the process of choosing the right plan for your business, I like that each option contains every feature and grows with your customer base. UltraCart charges no transaction fees and doesn't require customers to sign a contract.
Note that if you cancel your account you’ll have to pay a final invoice for your whole last month, even if you do so before the end of the billing cycle. Also, pro services like training calls and custom coupon configurations are available for an additional charge.
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
Web-hosted. You won’t have to download any software to use UltraCart. Your cart is completely cloud-based and maintained on UltraCart’s in-house servers. You’ll just embed “Buy” or “Add to Cart” links to your store. Note that you’ll still need to pay for hosting for your website and register a domain.
Ease of Use:
For me, setting up an UltraCart account was quick and straightforward. After my trial began I received an email with the code for “Add to Cart” and “Buy” links I needed to embed on my website in order sell items. They're similar to the buy buttons generated from third-party payment processors.
While I could access a PDF manual for help if I got stuck, a series of videos or online tutorials would have been welcome to assist me in exploring the admin. I did receive emails outlining a series of six steps to help me complete my store. But if you’re like me and learn faster by seeing rather than reading you’ll probably want visual illustrations, too.
After adding shipping and payment processing info, merchants can customize the look of their checkout page and start uploading items. The bulk import tool can save a lot of time here. You’ll also have the option to include add-ons that are the most relevant to you. In addition, you can tweak settings: For example, you can choose to be notified via email when a sale is completed.
In my opinion, there is space to include more info than most any merchant will ever need in the product area. The item editor in the backend requires you to add data to five fields for each product, including item ID, description, weight, cost, and product dimensions. I didn’t like the fact that I was required to fill in each of those fields before I could complete loading an item.
While you probably won’t have to hire a developer or designer to insert "Buy" code into your website, I’m giving UltraCart's overall ease of use below average compared to newer carts with sleek admins and stellar training tools. After clicking around the admin for a few minutes I understood basic navigation and item uploading, but in comparison to several other carts I’ve reviewed I was underwhelmed with the dated layout and missed the elegant, intuitive backends of carts like LemonStand and Ashop Commerce.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
UltraCart is a hosted, web-based software. While it’s always best to use the latest technology, you will only need a secure internet connection to access the service.
While some elements of UltraCart are powerful (configurable item options and variable billing support are examples) I'd like to see leaner software with a more up-to-date set of features.
In the marketing department, you’ll be able to issue gift certificates and execute campaigns and coupons. I like that the return email tool lets you automatically generate messages for dropped orders. There are also thoughtful processing options, like chargeback dispute tools and personalized packing slips.
In my opinion, UltraCart makes too big a hoopla over its PCI Level 1 compliance: These days, just about every reputable cart has earned the same level of security, and it’s now expected by the ecommerce crowd. More than enough reporting tools are included, although it’s a better bet to integrate the more elegant and powerful Google Analytics.
Since you integrate UltraCart into your website, SEO placements aren’t altered. Your URLs won’t change when you use the service and existing search indexes won’t be altered.
The cart integrates with major shippers, including UPS, USPS, and Fed Ex and can calculate real-time rates or generate shipping cost via order weight, subtotals, or items. To browse UltraCart’s full feature list, click here.
Unlike traditional shopping carts that include several free or paid templates you can use to build your online store, UltraCart users paste "Add to Cart" and "Buy" code on their own sites. While UltraCart advertises this as an advantage since you don’t have to change the way your website looks just to sell items, in my opinion this model can be a blessing or curse depending on the scope of your store.
Most merchants build stores from scratch using shopping cart software and like choosing a sleek skin from template databases maintained by other hosted competitors. They start a website to sell items, as opposed to having a store tab that’s one component of a larger website.
But if you already have an online presence and are looking to integrate a store without changing your existing look or feel, then UltraCart is an interesting option. You’ll be able to use headers, footers, logos, and graphics from your site to keep your aesthetic consistent throughout. Click here for details.
Again, another option is to pay an UltraCart developer or designer to create and launch your store, but if I was in that situation I’d strongly consider choosing an all-in-one cart like Ashop Commerce that includes simple setup and rich social media and SEO functionality.
UltraCart's backend is underwhelming and in need of a refresh. You’ll be able to get a lay of the land in a few minutes, but compared to other self-hosted and web-based carts, UltraCart’s admin earns a C average--nothing is blatantly wrong, but since you’ll be spending a lot of time here you’ll want the most elegant, clean layout possible. Test out other carts and do your own comparison before settling on UltraCart.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
UltraCart integrates with several marketing services, including Constant Contact and MailChimp. You can also integrate with fulfillment services and QuickBooks, eBay, and Amazon.com. In addition, a Facebook app is offered that lets you advertise goods on the social media site. You can check out the full list of UltraCart extras over here.
UltraCart integrates with most third-party processors and merchant gateways, including PayPal, Google Checkout, and all major credit cards. Merchants selling overseas will find plenty of international vendors as well. Click here for the full list of supported payment gateways.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
In my opinion, free customer care is one of the best things UltraCart has going for it. I was able to reach a staff member and had a shortlist of questions answered in a few minutes. That said, while reaching out during business hours (from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST Monday through Friday) is fine for general questions, I’d feel a lot better if I could talk to someone after hours or on weekends, when hiccups with sales or order processing seem bound to happen.
In addition to free phone and email support during your 30-day trial and throughout your time as a customer, you can access tech support via Skype. Check the FAQ for answers to basic questions, or reference the technical manual and documentation. You can also contact UltraCart on their Facebook and Twitter pages, though neither appear to be very active--another sign that the cart is lacking in social media connectivity.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
After a thorough search I didn’t find very many reviews out there for UltraCart. Considering the fact the software first rolled out more than 15 years back that's surprising, and not a good sign. If I was looking for a cart I’d want to find software with an active community and forum space, but the airwaves are pretty silent about UltraCart. The cart also starts out at a slightly higher price per month than many competitors, yet doesn’t offer templates or robust social media and mobile capability, which is really important for any shop that wants to grow. I was able to find some complaints about the service from users, including:
- Behind the Times. - Users report that the cart’s software is in need of more frequent updates and is falling behind competing carts.
- Lack of 24/7 Support. - Customer service isn’t available after hours or on weekends.
- Not User-Friendly. - Users report that the backend is overly complex.
Other negatives include:
- No videos or webinars illustrating how to use the software.
- While you can create a Facebook page with content from your store, there’s no additional social media integrations.
- No smartphone or tablet integrations.
If you want to search for other complaints about UltraCart, be sure to Google UltraCart reviews, UltraCart complaints, UltraCart comments, UltraCart scam, UltraCart testimonials, etc.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Again, there’s not a lot of positive or negative reviews out there, but overall users reported more satisfaction than dissatisfaction with customer service and appreciated some features. Positive aspects of the software include:
- Customizable. - Checkout pages can be tweaked and include graphic elements from your website.
- Integrations. - The software is integrated with popular add-ons like eBay and QuickBooks.
- Feature-Rich. - Users like the 1-click upsell feature and affiliate program.
Less frequently, users commented on the following positive site attributes:
- Free customer support.
- Extensive documentation.
In my opinion, merchants who want to operate a store as a portion of their overall website could do well with UltraCart. You could use another service to sell items on your website relatively easily and for less, although UltraCart does offer built-in security, coupons, and limited marketing tools that sweeten the deal. The checkout pages are malleable, and if you’re moderately tech savvy you can add pop-ups and embed video. Some sales may be dropped (I have no stats here, but am making an educated guess) when customers are redirected to the UltraCart site to complete a purchase, but you can minimize that risk by adding graphics from your website so branding remains familiar.
Or, you could avoid those extra steps and go with a competing shopping cart that’s leaner and slicker, which is most likely what I would do and recommend for others looking to launch an ecommerce site. Rumor has it that UltraCart may be close to releasing a new template system, so changes for the better may be in the works. Ready to learn more? Try a free demo and see for yourself if UltraCart is right for you.