For our European bookmarket project for used and rare academic books I was hesitating between choosing the Multi-Vendor International edition of the Russian CS-Cart and buying their new MV Plus edition.
The promise: Pay the difference of 2050 USD and you will get access to seven new addons in MV Plus designed to significantly boost the Multi-Vendor and Multi-Store functionality of CS-Cart.
- Promotions for vendors – addon seems to work, but already significantly lags behind the prototype of the Polish developer, so – in view of the tedious improvement routine of CS-Cart, – it’s better to buy the original addon which is constantly taking account of the users feedback, pro-actively maintained and developed.
- Design editor for vendors: Vendors can choose the style and include particular layout or unit into chosen categories or products. But, it is better not to allow this because changes come into effect immediately and can break the whole site. In fact, some of the addon blocks stopped to work when a layout change was introduced by one of the vendors. Instead of fixing the behavior of the Design editor, CS-Cart technical support advised me to disable this feature for vendors. I turned it off, so this module does not work.
- Direct customer to vendor payments [BETA] – Still in BETA after half an year. Works, but the order goes to PayPal only in the default currency of the site – regardless of the choice of the buyer. The buyer receives an invoice in pounds or dollars, but once on PayPal, only Euro appears as payment option, which is the default currency. There is also no differentiation between checkout for VAT registered and VAT unregistered buyers.
- Common products for vendors – there are a lot of problems here, which seem to get deeper and larger with the planned Product Variations v.2. There is also incompatibility of this addon with some important modules brought about by the chief developer of CS-Cart which happens to be a daughter company of CS-Cart.
- Category commissions. Good functionality, but insufficient. It is necessary to include also the possibility of one-time fee for the product inclusion in the category, the so-called Insertion fee. With separate checkout for vendors. it is much more safer to rely on fees and upsell taxes rather than on commission-based income – despite the mechanism of closing the particular store if its owner fails to pay the commission and recurrent fees on time.
- Advanced vendor restrictions. Interesting choice of words. This addon must be an integral part of any MV platform, as without it, it is impossible to create truly effective and enticing vendor plans, with proper set of permissions for this or that user group. The present permission scheme should be improved and must include additional permissions and restrictions, without which any multi-vendor platform would be simply impossible. We’ll speak about this further. Now let me point to a bad business practice linked with the implementation of this addon. It was sold for an extra price to the users of the regular MVE up to version 4.8.x. With the release of 4.9.x, this addon has been designated exclusively for use with MV Plus – so those who purchased it for the regular MV have either to buy MV Plus or stay forever stuck to 4.8.x version, because they will loose this addon alonf with the associated vendor groups and plans when upgrading to 4.9.x – without whatsoever compensation.
- Mobile application for customers. No doubt a valuable addon, provided there are vendors and customers on your site. There are reasonable suspicions, however, that the normal responsive template for mobiles is of better use. App can be ordered during the license period and requires a month of internal development and Google Play implementation.
For me, and probably for other MV Plus buyers, the most important thing about it was the possibility to have a separate checkout for each vendor, so as not to handle all day long orders, money transfers, and returns. It seemed to me that this feature was worth paying the difference of $2,000 between regular MV and KV Plus – provided everything works as promised in the public offer.
We have seen that the MV Plus specific addons – with rare exceptions – either do not work, or work with defects, or in practice are not usable. But maybe the basic modules that are present in the regular MV will hopefully work. Well, empty hopes. At least 7 other basic modules and core functions do not work as they should be working, because they are incompatible with the very concept of multi-vendor – their philosophy is stuck at the level of the single-vendor solutions.
- Destination points (Locations, Shipping zones) are available only for a single vendor use. If shipping zones are created for a vendor from Berlin, the vendor from Athens or Paris will not be able to use them, forget about the vendor from Delhi. Vendors should be able to assign their own shipping zones and consequently different rates – but they are not allowed to do so. As a site administrator I am facing the dilemma of creating as many shipping zones as there are countries and states/provinces in the world, or create one common shipping zone for all, including all countries and possible states in them. CS-Cart architects stubbornly refuse to recognize the problem and provide a solution. So, no Multi-Vendor here. You should be prepared to invest thousands of dollars for developing your own integration with the shipping services you need – if you don’t happen to use or don’t like the prices of DHL, USPS and Fedex. My customers and the customers of my vendors don’t like them.
- The same with Taxes. They are geared on a single nation and conceived for a mono cs-cart again. If you have vendors from different EU countries, then the taxes will be different for each country, so and the vendor should have the permission to set their own taxes – valid in their country or state. But if there are no Locations determined by vendors, there will be as a corollary no country or state-specific taxes for each vendor. Again, Multi-Vendor Plus as well as the regular MV fails to meet this requirement.
- Bonus points – a powerful instrument of e-commerce and a valuable addon for which I have paid – do not work with Separate vendor checkout, because they cannot be split, i.e., distributed among sellers and applied accordingly to the purchase of their only goods.
- Gift Certificates is another module that is not compatible with the Direct Payments for Vendors (Separate Checkout) addon.
- Return Management System does not work with MV Plus, because only the site administrator has access to it, but by definition he has no business at all are the products returned to a particular vendor or not. Neither has the desire to spend his/her time in PayPal disputes and refunds. The site admin is no longer part of this as all money goes directly to the vendor.
- The Review management is not available for individual vendors, only the site admin can approve or reject reviews and ratings. Thank you, but I will not do it, at least for free. Make it possible that the vendors manage their own product reviews. Now vendors can only submit reviews for their products, which is entirely pointless.
- Pages and Blogs. Vendors can create pages immediately after the domain extension. This is wrong and unacceptable. Once they have virtual directories like /vendor1, or /vendor2, let them create their pages in these forlders, along with their blog publications.
I would rather leave without comments the absence of simple features vendors and customers are used to have in other systems, because they are really of no importance here. What is of paramount import is that MV Plus does not fulfil the expectations associated with its name, purpose and price.