Snipcart the eCommerce God

eCommerce messes with our minds. There are so many offerings. So many options and none of them ever feel “right” unless a lot of money ($50-$100/hr) is spent customizing. These systems are huge, and they demand your design be submissive to them.

What’s a marketer to do if he wants a totally custom, nice looking eCommerce site – or he wants to integrate eCommerce to an existing site – and paying for a custom theme for one of those Goliaths is out of the question?

Well I can promise you, if you can get some HTML out there, I found exactly what you’re looking for if:

You’re looking to do ecommerce for 1 to a couple dozen products

I’m going to introduce you to Snipcart. It’s new with only about 5,000 businesses and developers using it right now. My gut says it will take the ecommerce world by storm.

First of all.. If you’re trying to build a huge store, this is not for you!

This post will help sites that want to sell a handful of products, and sell them well! It’s great for sites that want to add ecommerce to their offering. Since Snipcart is a “drop-in” solution, it doesn’t require flipping your site upside down trying to accommodate. You can achieve powerful, custom results with minimum effort on any type of site! (… including WordPress, forums, CMSes of any kind).

The whole idea behind Snipcart is simple. You code up, using basic HTML+CSS, whatever kind of design you want.

Examples of Snipcart stores

Examples of Snipcart stores. These are all HTML and CSS designs, no PHP or template code!

Then in your HTML you add Snipcart-specificdata attributes” to your Add To Cart buttons. After you do that and include their javascript file to your site, the magic starts. When someone clicks a buy button:

The checkout process pops out

A checkout wizard appears (which can also be totally customized). Users can checkout right on the spot without redirecting to different pages! They can also close it and continue shopping, the items are saved to their cart.

So what this means is you can have any type of site design you want, using just basic HTML and CSS. No need to conform to any type of theming system. All you have to do is drop in Snipcart, and it’ll turn your design into a working ecommerce store. You can have stores up and running very quickly as we will see in customer reviews.

Snipcart is meant for developers. They don’t have official plugins for any system (though some people offer 3rd party ones). But as long as you know HTML+CSS, you can go without hiring a fullstack web developer.  Their mission is to make it simple enough to embed an ecommerce store that you don’t need plugins.

You don’t have to create products in Snipcart

So what about the backend? How do you manage inventory, keep track of sales, etc. if you’re only writing the products in frontend HTML? That’s where Snipcart makes it easy. You don’t have to fill out forms creating products in Snipcart. They have a crawler that will scan your site for the products you put up. When you log into snipcart, your account will be populated with all the products you defined with your “Add To Cart” buttons. You can then fill out stock related info there. Otherwise the backend for seeing orders is nice. They even have a view for “Abandoned carts!”.

With shipping, there’s two options. The first one is automated and requires no coding. Once your product is in Snipcart, describe to them the dimensions & weight. Then hookup your Fedex, UPS, etc. accounts in the options and click what type of shipping you’ll offer. When a user buys, the shipping cost will automatically be calculated in the wizard and added on to the total.

The other option is having a small PHP script return the shipping prices you set based on country. I have one I made that you can use, it will be linked at the conclusion of this article. Using this script, you can set flatrate pricing based on country. So international shipments could be $14.59 and U.S. shipments could be $6.00.

Snipcart calculates their cut of 2%

In terms of accepting payment, you actually hook up your own solution to Snipcart just by filling in account details. You can connect your Stripe, Authorize.net, or Paypal accounts to Snipcart and payments will be processed through there. And of course you can’t talk about payments without fees… besides the standard payment processor fee of 2.9% + 30 cents, Snipcart will calculate 2% of the sale and keep a tally. At the end of the month, they will charge your credit card for the balance (much like eBay fees). Keep in mind, if you don’t sell enough product, their minimum charge for the month is $10. You can of course setup an account to test and make it all work without being charged.

If you were looking to do custom ecommerce sites without Snipcart, you’d have a tough time finding another solution. Nothing else lets you fully customize how your store will look with the least amount of hassle possible. The traditional route of setting up an ecommerce script or WordPress plugin, finding a theme, and tweaking that takes a lot more headache, and it’s not as customizable.

But what are the drawbacks of Snipcart?

• Well, you are locked into using their checkout wizard model. Depending on your product and audience it might not be ideal. It wouldn’t make perfect sense for bigger stores. But for stores selling dozens of products, it works fine. Plus, it can be customized really well.

• I wouldn’t use Snipcart for large stores. If you want a large, traditional ecommerce store that’s really SEO optimized and ready to power a real eCommerce business, check out something like X-Cart and get a custom theme made.

• To use Snipcart you do need an idea of how to present the product well (website design wise), and HTML+CSS skills to implement that design. If you don’t have those skills and just want a quick eCommerce store setup, a click-and-point solution like Shopify would be in order.

The above are use case scenarios in which you wouldn’t use Snipcart. But I think for the majority of eCommerce users, our needs actually fall within what Snipcart provides, and what they provide — they do it really well.

Let’s close up this post by looking at why other businesses have chosen Snipcart, pulled from their Case Studies page.

What made you choose Snipcart?

The thing that first caught my eye was the ease of integration with our existing website. We have built our website from the ground up, and didn’t want to transition to something that would give us less control over the look and functionality of the site. We also didn’t want to maintain a separate site for online purchases – we wanted customers to be able to purchase online without ever leaving our site. After researching more, Snipcart seemed to have all the right features for us. The cart is lightweight and integrates right into our website, no CMS required. The cart was user-friendly, with a polished look that doesn’t look incongruous with the rest of our website. And there are plenty of options for customizing the cart functionality.

I love the drop in approach. There is nothing worse than getting 90% done with a project and then the client says they want to add e-commerce. Years ago I would want to pull my hair out, now I say – No Problemo – plus it also works in reverse when a client wants to get rid of e-commerce.

[Fiverr] needed an e-commerce solution that would allow them to set up the selling of their promotional packages. They also needed it to be external to their actual transactional system, which didn’t allow users to buy a physical product directly on-site. They needed to be able to handle their own inventory. And, above all, they needed all of it to be done real fast. Quickly integrating full-on e-commerce on any given website? Pretty much up the Snipcart alley.

Up next, I will be talking about Amplify which is a great addition to Snipcart. Amplify is a fulfillment company – you have your product shipped to them, and they will handle the individual packing, mailing, and returns associated with fulfilling an ecommerce store. You can combine Snipcart and Amplify to quickly setup an automated ecommerce solution end-to-end.

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