|Featured Shopping Cart Vendors|
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (4 out of 5)
Last Updated: June 21st, 2013.
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X-Cart is a shopping cart that enables you to create and operate an ecommerce site. X-Cart offers both a cloud-based cart that includes storage and security you pay for per month called X-Cart Next and a self-hosted, licensed software option you purchase upfront and install on a server.
The shopping cart was developed more than a decade ago by a group of three students. Today, the Russian-based firm employs more than 100 engineers and is affiliated with parent company Qualiteam. X-Cart boasts an international user community of 30,000 online stores, including the Greg Norman Collection, Goat Milk Stuff, and Standout.net. In addition to their open source PHP licensed cart and cloud-based cart, X-Cart offers web design, migration, installation, hosting, online monitoring, and fraud services.
Overall, I found X-Cart’s downloadable version to be a well-established licensed option that keeps getting better. The licensed cart has made several improvements over the past 12 years: Version 4.6 was introduced on June 3, 2013, with refined search scripts, speed optimization, and some new integrations. Its admin is clean and easy to use, its basic skins are better than average, and it comes with useful features out of the box. Another big plus of the licensed version is that the cart is totally customizable. But even though the self-hosted software is ready to be molded into whatever kind of store you can imagine, you’re responsible for purchasing security, hosting, technical support, and extra features from X-Cart or a third-party processor. Also, unless you’re moderately comfortable working with code you’ll probably want to find a developer or designer to help you launch X-Cart’s downloadable software. Doing so can add cost but will get you selling faster.
The web-hosted X-Cart recently rolled out its latest version v.1.2.3 in May of 2013. While X-Cart Next isn’t as feature-rich as the downloadable version it does make social media integration easy and is SEO friendly. I found the admin to be designed with the shop owner in mind: it’s totally accessible, eye-pleasing, and easy to use. Examples of businesses currently using X-Cart Next include Medshop and Real Supplies.
While spending several hours researching and demoing X-Cart’s licensed and cloud-based versions I explored ease of use, pricing, features, and everything else you’ll need to know before deciding if X-Cart is the shopping cart for you. Each section is broken down into “X-Cart Downloadable” and “X-Cart Cloud” sections for easy reference. Keep reading for my full report.
2001 (Downloadable Version.)
2013 (Cloud Version.)
X-Cart offers Gold, Gold Plus, Platinum, and Mobile plans:
- Gold. - One-time fee of $195 includes SEO-friendly catalog, Facebook app, and several more basic features.
- Gold Plus. - One-time fee of $395 includes all Gold features plus a few more, like MailChimp integration, a banner system, and multiple currency support.
- Platinum. - One-time fee of $1795 supports large, multi-vendor stores and includes unlimited support and installation.
- Mobile. - One-time fee of $299 includes the Gold desktop version and integrates with Apple, Android, and Windows-based devices.
X-Cart also offers an Enterprise option. You can upgrade plans at any time, but if you want to build additional stores with X-Cart you’ll need to buy more than one license. Each option can be demoed or downloaded for an unlimited trial period here.
In my opinion, choosing either the Gold or Gold Plus plan will more than suffice for most merchants. You’ll only need to invest in the Platinum option if you’re running a multi-vendor store that supports several individual administrators.
While you can buy any of the following elsewhere, X-Cart bills itself as a one-stop shop and also offers:
- SSL Certificates.
- Technical Support. - Cost for assistance is $99 for a single non-urgent incident with a response arriving within one business day.
- Custom Development.
- Web Design.
While it makes sense to buy a support ticket or two from X-Cart if your questions can’t be answered in documentation or on the forum, be sure to shop around and compare pricing for hosting, security, etc.
X-Cart Next offers four hosted solutions:
- Basic. - $19.95 per month, includes 100 products, 10 GB bandwidth, 1 GB storage, e-mail support. Only includes the following add-ons: product comparison, volume discounts, user permissions, wholesale prices, and coupons.
- Standard. - $59.95 per month, includes 3,000 products, 20 GB bandwidth, 3 GB storage, e-mail support.
- Advanced. - $99.95 per month, includes 10,000 products, 40 GB bandwidth, 5 GB storage, “high priority” support.
- Business. - $199.95 per month, includes unlimited products, 65 GB bandwidth, 10 GB storage, Skype support.
While very small merchants will do fine with the Basic plan, I’d likely choose either the Standard or Advanced plan based on the scope of my business. It’s important to select a plan with enough bandwidth and storage from the beginning, and unless you’re going to include a ton of images or data, the Business plan is probably more than you need to get the job done. Note that there are no transaction fees associated with any of the options and that all are PCI-compliant, but the basic plan can’t be customized. Be sure to check out any of the above plans first during a free 15-day trial.
Web-Hosted or Licensed:
A downloadable licensed or web-based cloud version of the cart is available. If you buy the downloadable version you’ll need to purchase a commercial license and self-host or find a host for the software. X-Cart recommends several hosts and also offers their own hosting plans. The cloud-based cart is hosted by X-Cart for a fee that’s rolled into your plan’s monthly bill.
Ease of Use:
Let’s start here: If you’ve never installed software on a web-based server or used FTP you’re probably not going to like the process involved in order to get X-Cart up-and-running. But if installing software and using code to tweak and customize the look and feel of your shop sounds like a piece of cake, you’re probably ready to jump right in. In fact, the installation process is a lot simpler with X-Cart than some licensed competitors like LemonStand or open-source options like Spree Commerce.
Once you’ve chosen and customized your template (there are free and fee-based options) and imported categories, products, store info, shipping details, and payment data, your store is ready to accept orders. While you may need help altering your theme or installing software, if you’re comfortable adding posts to WordPress or uploading photos to Flickr odds are you’ll be fine navigating the X-Cart admin after a small learning curve.
Adding products simply involves uploading images and thumbs of each item and inputting details. I like that in order to improve SEO, X-Cart generates “clean” URLS to replace original dynamic URLS and includes fields for meta keywords and descriptions. Also, under “settings,” then “general settings” you can set customer info and define purchase limitations, including minimum and maximum order amounts.
If you’re scratching your head after reading the above paragraphs, X-Cart's cloud-based solution may be what you’re looking for.
The latest version of X-Cart Next’s admin includes a new product cloning tool, a comparison module, and a product search bar. I like that X-Cart’s developers are improving the cart in ways that really benefit the merchant--the team appears to be in touch with the nuts-and-bolts of running a store instead of living way off in developer land.
I created a store that was ready to begin customizing in less than a minute. Although there’s no formal setup wizard it’s very easy to fill in data under “store setup” in the admin, including payment, shipping, and tax info. I’d leave a couple of hours free to complete store set-up and get a basic feel for the backend. I like that there’s a drag-and-drop product editor and an import/export tool to save you from transferring products from an existing store one at a time.
I also really like that the backend’s homepage includes usage info, listing storage and bandwidth amounts and product totals front and center so you can easily monitor whether or not you're close to going over your plan's limits. You can also view revenue totals from the backend homepage by day, week, month or lifetime.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Since X-Cart is self-hosted, the software must be installed on a server before it’s ready to be used to build your store. If you choose to self-host instead of working with a cloud-based host like Rackspace, your system will need to meet requirements based on the size and scope of your store, including:
- Dual-core CPU.
- PHP version 5.3.7 or later.
- An FTP that can upload data to GoogleBase.
- 1 GB to 16 GB of RAM.
Click here to read X-Cart’s complete documentation about server requirements for its latest version.
X-Cart Next is completely web-based. While it’s always best to use the latest technology, all you’ll need to operate your store is a secure internet connection.
I like that X-Cart is feature rich without oversaturating your store with unwanted extras out of the box. Marketing and search capabilities include the basics you’ll most likely want, including a best-selling product display, cross-selling capability, and data export to QuickBooks. SEO is better than average, with configurable URLs and category and product metatags. Traditional, express, ‘fast lane’ and one-page checkout is available, along with order tracking, customer order history, and an option to include customer reviews and ratings. X-Cart completes USPS, FedEx, and UPS shipping calculations in real time, offers printable invoices and receipts, and includes a WYSIWYG catalog and CMS editor. Also, you can use a product option module to sell single items with variations, like different sizes or colors.
X-Cart’s back end is intuitive and holds up well against some of the best cloud-based carts I’ve demoed. The dash lets you jump to current orders, products, and more through a quick menu. Reporting may not have as much finesse as Google Analytics, but you can learn valuable details about conversion rates and page views and filter data by date without any trouble. You can read more about X-Cart’s features here.
X-Cart Next includes social media add-ons and comes with Google Analytics integrations, SEO-friendly URLs, customizable meta tags, and a sitemap. You’ll have access to real-time shipping rates from USPS and one-page checkout. Also, there's no cap on the number of admin accounts you can create, so different staff members can securely access your store’s backend. Since the cloud-based X-Cart is still new you won’t find as many integrations or shipping and payment processing options in comparison with the original licensed version, but I predict that will change as the cart’s user base grows.
If you use X-Cart’s cloud-based cart, hosting and security will be taken care of, and updates will be completed automatically. I also like that customers can zoom in on item images and drag and drop items into your store’s cart. Developers can access source code for X-Cart Next, which is a less common feature in SaaS-based shopping carts: That lets the tech crowd enjoy the ease of working with a cloud-based program while being able to go one step further in the customization process.
There are a dozen free, CSS-based themes for your cart: none of these are likely to knock your socks off, but many are fine starting points before you modify. While you can also pay for several other skins I’m pretty underwhelmed by what X-Cart offers. If I was starting a shop with X-Cart I’d probably pick an understated, clean skin like this one and tweak colors, fonts, columns, etc. until I had the store I wanted.
I was able to navigate through X-Cart’s backend within a few minutes of clicking around. You can access add-ons, including free and fee-based templates, under the “goodies” tab in the admin. It’s also easy to change themes or view your store from the customer’s perspective from a bar above the top-level navigation. Overall, while I’ve seen more elegant admins I found X-Cart's backend to be very easy to use and easy on the eyes: it’s searchable, links to a help section, and includes a “webmaster” mode.
The hosted version’s backend uses the bones of the original, downloadable cart and adds user-friendly details, a “look and feel” tab under “system settings” that includes a place for you to upload a logo and add custom images. Advanced, Business, and Enterprise stores come with a product filter extension to access CSS and Java and customize your shop. Other than that, X-Cart Next doesn’t offer a lot of wiggle room in the template department. That’s in contrast to most other carts that include anywhere from dozens to hundreds of skin options. So it’s a good thing that the basic theme is clean and eye-pleasing, defaulting to simple top-level nav and a cascading category list.
If I was selling products, ranging from housewares to t-shirts I’d probably be happy tweaking the default X-Cart theme. But if I was running a store for musicians, a homemade craft site, or other specialty store I’d take pause. In general, if you want a highly customized shop and are open to licensed options you should stick with the downloadable X-Cart and find a developer to help you launch, or check out other web-based competitors like Shopify. I communicated with a team member who confirmed that X-Cart v.1.2.4 (that version is currently being tested and will be released shortly) will include four design schemes.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
In addition to extras like image zoom and product bundling modifications, you can access an assortment of add-ons to improve your store’s performance and personalize it to fit the needs of your business. There are a couple of free extensions, including a nice module called f-Commerce Go that adds X-Cart to Facebook. While the basic plan is free, note that the Silver plan costs $195 per year. A service to install and configure the add-on is offered for $99. More extension highlights include:
- Mailchimp. - Integrates Mailchimp email marketing software for $79.
- eBay. - Lets you upload and maintain eBay items. Pricing starts at $19.95 per month.
- Multicurrency. - Allows you to display unlimited currencies for item prices for $99.
- Google Trusted Stores. - Integrates Google’s monitoring and “Trusted Stores” badge to your store for $45.
The X-Cart marketplace is loaded with third-party vendor add-ons and modules that can customize your shop even further. You can check out offerings here.
X-Cart Next is still new, so there aren’t as many third-party add-ons as you’ll find with competing web-based carts, but I expect that to change in the near future. You’ll find some popular integrations in the mix already, like Go Social to access sharing and comments on social media sites and Google Analytics. Check out all of the offerings here.
In addition to Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, X-Cart integrates with nearly 100 payment gateways, including PayPal, Checkout by Amazon, and 2Checkout. Click here to view a full list. Business and personal checks, money orders, and wire transfers are also supported but require sales to be completed manually. If you need help navigating the world of payment processors, check out our Merchant Account Comparison page or contact us for a consultation.
As mentioned above, X-Cart Next doesn’t integrate with nearly as many processors as the downloadable software. The industry leader PayPal is supported, so that’s probably good enough for most sellers. A few other processors, including 2Checkout and Authorize.net can be plugged in to your X-Cart Next store as well. Again, it’s hard to knock X-Cart for not offering more integrations since the service rolled out earlier this year, but it would be nice to see the payment processing list expand in the near future.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Live chat is included on the X-Cart site, but it doesn’t appear to be available on a regular basis: After checking multiple times on different days and at different times I always found the message, “We're not around, but we'd love to chat another time.”
While in most cases it shouldn’t matter that X-Cart is based in Europe, if you have a problem with your store during certain hours you’re not going to have instant access to phone support, which can be a problem when you need help right away. That said, most users reported satisfaction with customer care.
Be sure to check the areas support doesn’t cover (unless you pay more) before you buy a ticket. Unsupported topics range from SEO to upgrades and performance issues. See the whole list on the bottom of this page.
All other phone and email contact info is the same for both versions of the software. You can also reach out to X-Cart on their Facebook and Twitter pages. My query via Facebook was responded to within about 12 hours.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Overall, merchants reported more compliments than complaints about X-Cart. I also found that to be the case from my own assessment. While I agree that the licensed cart model isn’t for everyone, I generally found few negatives with the cart. Common complaints reported by users include:
- Not for Beginners. - In order to optimize your store and customize design you’ll need to be able to install the software on a server and have a true basic grasp of HTML. Otherwise, be ready to hire X-Cart or another programmer or designer to help roll out your store.
- Paid Support. - While merchants generally report positive experiences with tech support, some were frustrated by the lack of 24/7 access.
Other negatives reported by X-Cart customers include:
- CSV import and export needs improvement.
- Dashboard could be better arranged.
If you want to search for other complaints about X-Cart, be sure to Google X-Cart reviews, X-Cart complaints, X-Cart comments, X-Cart scam, X-Cart testimonials, etc.
Some features included in the original, downloadable version of X-Cart aren’t yet available on the cloud version, but other than that I personally found little I didn’t like about the software. I just wish it was already more developed and offered merchants the ability to more easily customize the look and feel of stores. After spending time digging around the web I found very little feedback about the shopping cart, and that’s because it was only launched a few months ago.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
In addition to positive testimonials and success stories listed on the X-Cart site, users have posted plenty of positive reports about the software online, with many mentioning satisfaction with customer service and the flexibility to build the exact store they wanted. X-Cart also tends to retain customers for several years and has established a loyal user base. After a thorough online search, I can report the following software highlights:
- Totally Customizable. - The cart is scalable and able to be tweaked with ease.
- Strong Support. - Users report that help is efficient and that engineers quickly resolve issues.
- Feature-Rich. - While the cart comes with useful features after it’s downloaded, you can add extras that you need along the way.
Less frequently, users commented on the following positive site attributes:
- Competitively priced.
- Supports a global customer base.
- Integrates with social media, major shippers, and credit card processors.
- Can add unlimited products.
- PCI-compliant and secure.
Again, there is very little user feedback about X-Cart next since it’s still new.
If you’re on the hunt for a licensed cart that offers a ton of useful features X-Cart’s downloadable version may be what you’re looking for. The software lands ready to customize with basic themes that can be molded into a one-of-a-kind store. In contrast to some carts I’ve reviewed that have become clunky or obscure with age, X-Cart keeps getting better. While at $399 the Gold plan with the Mobile option (that’s the plan I would choose unless I operated a very large merchant site) is priced within the reach of most store owners.
Also, before you commit to X-Cart's licensed version it’s important to factor in the cost of hosting, security, a merchant account, and any other monthly fees. But the ability to customize your store and access reputable customer support makes X-Cart one of the best licensed options I’ve seen on the market. I can honestly say that I’d seriously consider using X-Cart if I was launching an online store with a licensed cart. The mobile skin only sweetens the deal.
As I mentioned a few times throughout my review, X-Cart’s licensed option is best suited for merchants that are comfortable adjusting store designs with HTML and installing software on a server. If that’s not you and basic features are all you need to get going I’d seriously look at X-Cart Next. The major benefit of the cloud-based cart is that your store will be up-and-running in no time. If you feel comfortable uploading posts to a blog you’re probably going to be confident using the software. Security, hosting, and updates are also taken care of, so you’ll also save time and potential headaches with X-Cart Next. It’s a good bet that future updates will include even more features that other leading carts like Shopify and Ashop Commerce already offer. But be sure to check out the competition first so you know exactly what functionality you’re getting out of the box.