Miva Merchant Cart

The Miva Merchant platform is one of the most lasting eCommerce tools on the market. They have been around since the 90’s in one form or another, and they have brought that experience to bear with a massive new update: Miva Merchant 9. When a company jumps ahead on their version numbers (the previous Miva version was 5.5) you can usually expect it to feel like an entirely new product.

Miva also just passed a major milestone. To date, they have helped their customers transact over $100 Billion in sales. Their auspicious list of customers include Taylor Swift, Mezzetta, and Niche Modern, to name only a few.

One thing I can say about Miva is this: it is bigger in almost every way. Every star that it earned has a LOT to back it up. Every star that it lost indicates equally significant problems. This is software that can definitely support the weight of your business (if your business isn’t too light.) To see if it’s the right fit for you, read on.

Pricing:

Miva offers a “free” 30 day trial, but a credit card is required at the time you sign up. Your card will be charged for this first month, but if you cancel within 30 days, that money will be refunded. 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 four plans to choose from:

  • Starter – $79.95/month, 2GB online storage, 20GB bandwidth, 1 year free SSL ($49 after the first year), 1 year free domain, unlimited products.
  • Business – $249.95/month, 5GB online storage, 100GB bandwidth, 1 year free GeoTrustSSL Premium ($149 after the first year), 1 year free domain, and customer support.
  • Professional – $749.95/month, 10GB online storage, 250GB bandwidth, 1 year free GeoTrustSSL TrueBusiness ($199/yr after the first year), 1 year free domain, and customer support.
  • Enterprise – $1495/month, 20GB online storage, 1000GB bandwidth, GeoTrustSSL TrueBusiness EV ($199/yr after the first year), 1 year free domain, “premium” customer support.

This quote, taken directly from their website, is as refreshingly honest a statement as I have heard any company say:

We give you unlimited products and categories because the number of products you have in your store has only a marginal impact on the amount it costs us to host you.

If you’re wondering about hidden fees and unexpected gougings, here’s what I found; they charge a pittance for data overages, at $2 for 1gb data transfer and 100 MB storage, each.

* Be aware that if you cancel your account, even during the “30 day reimbursement period,” you will have to buy back your registered domain name if you want to use it elsewhere. This will mean a $19.95 purchase, just to complete your cancellation.

Web-Hosted or Licensed:

Web-hosted. Miva Merchant also offers a licensed version if you prefer self-hosting your cart. For a mere $19,995.00, that is.

Hardware and Software Requirements:

As a hosted platform, all you’ll need is an updated web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) and a reliable internet connection. For the self-hosted option, see their list of requirements here.

Features:

The exhaustive list of can-dos made me a little giddy (yes, I geek out of business software. Don’t judge.) This is a very small cross section of features that Miva provides in-house, as opposed to relying on third party integrations:

  • Auto-generated email confirmations
  • Customize pricing and show unique content based on user login
  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript ready
  • One Page Checkout, 2 Step Checkout, or more traditional 3 and 4 Page Checkout
  • Unlimited depth of product options, and unlimited categories
  • Hide out-of-stock products or allow special “backorder” orders
  • Inventory tracking, including by specific product options/variants
  • Inventory can be managed manually, or batch processed automatically by CSV, XML or EDI imports.
  • Multiple admins with customizable access
  • Advanced reporting and analytics
  • API ready

For a quick overview in their own words, here’s their polished rundown. Or if you’re feeling bold, here’s the exhaustive list.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

Miva has full JSON API connectivity. They advertise partnerships with a lot of big names: payments through Chase Paymentech, PayPal, and Amazon Payments, shipping through FedEx and UPS, and email marketing through MailChimp.

They also partner with a few non-plugin-specific companies to give you a professional edge. This includes companies like Ortery, which can help you take dynamic 360 degree photos of your products.

For more information on their integrations, see their Business Partners page.

Ease of Use:

Getting started with Miva could, and definitely should, be simpler. Before I could even begin trying out the software, 1) I had to provide a lot of personal information, 2) my credit card was charged for a service I wasn’t at all sure I even wanted, 3) I had to legitimately register my official domain name, 4) I had to choose a theme for my store blindly, 5) I had to wait a full day after all of this before I could even log in, 6) I had to hunt through SEVEN emails just to find my login information (which I eventually found in an attachment to one of those emails, which none of the emails bothered to clarify.) And after ALL of this had transpired, 7) they finally offer up their TOS, which I had to agree to in order to FINALLY get to try out the admin.

Again, this is long after they’ve charged my card for their “free trial.” Up until this point, I’d been flirting with the idea of giving Miva my first-ever perfect 5 star rating. SO disappointing. This is by far the most difficult onboarding I have EVER encountered, with no help from their Customer Service department. So much so that I’m forced to use all caps in order to convey the seriousness in my inflection.

Onboarding just… isn’t smooth. If your budget allows, I recommend using one of their specialized services for getting up and running. After that, however, maintaining your store should be achievable without too much trouble.

Web Design:

Once you get past the arduous login process, you can finally start digging in to your store. Which brings me to my next disappointment. Whereas some eCommerce providers out there have dozens or even hundreds of themes to choose from, Miva has (drum roll please…) three. Ok, technically four, but one of them is a DIY blank canvas. Hardly a full-fledged theme. Sure, these themes are device-aware, but that should be a given in this era of technology, not their sole saving grace.

Once you’re digging around in their admin panel, the environment is very functional, if a bit utilitarian. I can tell that this SaaS was developed by very competent engineers. Which is great for functionality. But not so great for non-engineers. The silver lining is that, once you master the learning curve, you can always get a second job as a Miva Consultant. Most users out there will need to hire you.

Or you can skip the time and Tylenol involved in learning how to build your site, and go here to invest in some design help.

Payment Processing:

Miva supports many of the most trusted payment gateways available, such as authorize.net, Chase, Amazon, and PayPal. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the payment gateway that works best for you and your customers.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

I enthusiastically give Miva some bonus points for their approach to customer service. They make a point of informing new users that their phone support is not only based in the U.S., and it’s provided by Miva (rather than being outsourced to a Customer Service agency,) it is available around the clock, and oh yeah… free. For all subscription levels. I could weep for joy. Until I get to their email support, that is. That’s where the bubble bursts.

Their Support main page is a gateway to:

For those who opt for the licensed and self-hosted solution, there are several levels of tech support subscriptions available.

As for my own experience with their customer support, the best thing I can say is that they have a lot of self-help options. But if you’re looking for urgent answers to a make-or-break problem, you will be sorely disappointed. I recommend going with almost ANY other Shopping Card providers if Customer Support is important to you. It took almost a week before my ticket with Miva Support received any sort of response, other than the auto-generated “hey, we got your email” reply. After two weeks, my ticket is still unresolved. And to top it off, it took me 30 minutes of scouring every email and admin panel looking for a way to cancel my account, with no luck. When I finally called, I was on hold for an agonizing 45 minutes 50 seconds before I spoke to a human being.