The name "Miva" applies to more than just an e-commerce storefront, thanks to a corporate re-branding of FindWhat.com and a string of acquisitions. Yet the name, Miva is still best known for its Miva Merchant e-commerce solution, which recently released version five. The new version includes a number of new and improved features that will likely help to keep the name Miva synonymous with e-commerce storefronts for some time to come.
What is Miva Merchant 5?
Miva Merchant 5 (MM5) is a mature e-commerce storefront solution that offers the usual sorts of e-commerce functionality. It lets you create and manage an e-commerce catalog, handle payments and shipping and inventory and merchandising capabilities, too. (See the full feature list here.)
As was the case with its predecessors, MM5 is quite extensible thanks to a long list of add-on modules (at various prices, many of them listed on http://mivacentral.com/). You can also buy the program directly from Miva (for do-it-yourself installation on your Web server), or from Miva partners as a hosted service. For the purpose of this review, we tested a hosted version that had been set up by Miva hosting partner Hostasaurus.comS
In general, you can set up MM5 easily thanks to a step-by-step wizard and a "simple administration" mode (there's an advanced mode that you can use for site tweaking as well). Following the wizard's instructions is a painless experience.
The basic steps to setting up MM5 include:
1. Add a Category
2. Add a Product
3. Add a Product Attribute
4. Set Up Payment
5. Set Up Shipping
6. Set Up Fulfillment
7. Design Your Look
8. Set Up Sales Tax
9. Set Up an Affiliate Program
10. Add an Affiliate
11. Advertise with Miva Marketplace
12. Set Up Miva Mailer
13. Create Mailing Lists
14. Send E-mails to Your Customers, and;
15. Set Up Miva Submit.
Not everything listed in the step-by-step wizard is necessarily included as part of your MM5 installation, though. Miva Mailer and Miva Submit are not default modules and (depending on your host) may well be available at an additional cost.
Building up your Miva 5 catalog is also easy thanks to some additional flat-file import capabilities for category as well as customer modules.
A very long and thorough list of both payment and shipping options ultimately makes Miva a superior e-commerce solution over many of its competitors. Payment gateways include Miva Payment, Debit-it, Authorize Net, e-ValuCheck, CyberSource ICSv2, Innovative Gateway Solutions, Cardservice/LinkPoint Payment Gateway, Lynk Internet Processing, Verisign Payflow Link, Verisign Payflor Pro(PaymentNet), PayPal, Rodopi Payment Gateway (R-P-G) and U.S Merchant Systems. Also, basic standby methods — Credit Card Payment with Simple Validation, Check Payment, as well as COD — are all part of the Miva solution.
|One of Miva Merchant 5's few drawbacks is its very limited design template offerings.|
On the shipping side, Miva customers can use USPS, FedEx and UPS as well as price, weight, quantity and "base+weight" based shipping options.
MM5 improves upon its predecessors (and many of its competitors) through its expansive list of payment and shipping options and in how it calculates proper shipping amounts based on product attributes. Product attributes (such as size) may increase a product's weight and thereby its cost to ship, which can be accounted for in MM5's weight controls attributes feature.
One of the things we particularly like about the program is its "upsell" feature, which presents an upsell item based on designer-specified criteria.
|You can use Miva Merchant 5's "Upsell" feature to drive more sales during checkout. (Click to enlarge)|
Payment and shipping are, of course, the two fundamental cornerstones of e-commerce that are too often under-serviced by many solutions in favor of slicker interface controls and/or design tools. That's not to say that design isn't important. The default MM5 solution presently only includes four design templates that you can modify (as compared to Interland, GoDaddy, etc.).
Easy customization of a Miva store is actually among MM5's principal improvements, with something called "Store Design Controls with Store Morph Technology." It's a big name for what is essentially a code-editor. There is presently no "slick" WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) Store Morph or other such advanced visual page control design tool within the default MM5 product.
According to a Miva spokesperson we contacted, "being able to edit the underlying code directly for each page enhances the power a designer has over the look of his or her online store. However, we are currently developing add-on utilities to simplify the store-design process."
Store Morph does provide for a degree of customization that was previously difficult to implement in Miva. Complementing Store Morph, Miva has added version-history tracking to MM5, which allows developers to keep track of what they've done with their customized storefronts and revert to a historical version if necessary.
Miva e-commerce solutions have been leading the pack almost since the first Miva product was released at the dawn of the Internet era in 1996. It's not perfect, but with the additional extensibility that you can purchase (from Miva and various third parties) MM5 does just about anything you need it to do. A visual design layout tool would be a welcome addition, but that's not a deal breaker. P>
On its own, Miva Merchant 5 is an impressive e-commerce application in many respects and one that will likely enhance the already good name of Miva among e-commerce site builders.
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