virtuemart IAH joomlaOne of the most powerful and popular capabilities of a Joomla website is the ability to deliver robust ecommerce solutions. While there are a growing number of options for ecommerce in Joomla, the pioneer and still the most popular shopping cart option is the Virtuemart shopping cart extension. It has been exciting to watch how a great basket of ideas has grown to become one of the most popular engines for ecommerce on the web.

Small businesses like it because it is FREE to download, it is easy to implement and maintain and it is scalable to meet the needs of their business as it grows. Shoppers like it because it looks great, is intuitive to use and is secure for handling their transactions. Developers like it because there are many extensions, accounting systems integrations and it is open source code so they can deliver real world business results and be the hero. Yippie everybody wins!

Let’s start with a quick overview of the core features and then I will get to some real exciting stuff that I like about this solution.

Virtuemart release 1.1.4

General Features

  • capable of using Secure Sockets Layer (https) Encryption (128-bit)
  • flexible Tax Models
    • Model 1: ShipTo Address-based Tax Calculation
    • Model 2: Store Address-based Tax Calculation
    • Model 3: EU Mode (Store Owner based Tax Calculation when Customer comes from an EU Country)
  • Shoppers can manage their User Accounts (registration required)
  • Shipping Address Management (Customers can enter their own Shipping Addresses)
  • Order History: Shopper can view all their previous Orders (and Order Details)
  • Order Confirmation Mail (customizable!) is sent to Shopper and Store Owner
  • Multiple Currencies (you can allow Customers to change the Currency and buy using an alternative Currency)
  • Multiple Languages (using the Joomla! Component Joom!Fish or Nooku).

Product Catalog Features

  • Powerful Web-Administration Interface (Javascript-powered)
  • Manages an unlimited Number of Products and Categories
  • Can be used as a Shop or just as an Online-Catalog (you can even turn off Price Display)
  • quick Search for Products, Categories and Manufacturers; filter by features or discounted Products
  • Product Ratings & Testimonials (moderated or auto-published)
  • feature specific Products by setting them "on special"
  • Product Availability: show how fast a Customer can expect delivery
  • Handles downloadable Products (virtual Goods)
  • "Product is back in Stock"-Notification for subscribed Customers

Administration Features

  • multiple Images and Files (like Spec Sheets and Flyers) per Product
  • Product Attributes (like Size or Color) can be added to Product
  • Product Types for Classification (like "Car", "Motorbike" or "Music Album")
  • Shopper Groups for Customers (allows different Price Levels and Payment Options),
  • multiple Prices per Product (Quantity-based and/or Shopper Group-based Prices)
  • flexible Price Display (number & currency formatting; including or excluding tax)
  • On-the-Fly Price Conversion between different Currencies using Live Rates from the ECB or other banks
  • Shop Statistics / Control Panel with a Summary of new Customers, new Orders....
  • Stock Level Control for Products and Item
  • Order Management with Order History, Customer Notification and Order Edit Functionality
  • basic Reporting Feature: sold Items, monthly/yearly Revenue
  • Order Status Management
  • manage different Currencies, Countries & States

Payment Modules

  • capable of live Credit Card Processing
  • pre-defined Payment Gateways like authorize.net®, PayPal, 2Checkout, eWay, Worldpay, PayMate and NoChex
  • extend your Shop with other Payment Modules using the Payment Module API!

Shipping Modules

  • flexible Shipping Carriers and Rates Configuration
  • Live-Shipping Rates using Shipping Modules (e.g. InterShipper, UPS, USPS, FedEx or Canada Post; Modules can use the Shipping Rate API).
  • extend your Shop with other Shipping Modules using the Shipping Module API!

For even more information drop by the projects web site: http://virtuemart.com/ and if you are a developer you may want to track the changes and upgrade evolution found in the change log.

Virtuemart Extensions:

In addition to the many core features there are many folks that have taken initiatives to build add-on’s and themes to enhance this Joomla extension with an even more rounded collection of capabilities for both look and feel of the shopping experience and functionality to serve niche markets

Check out the extensions available as well: http://extensions.virtuemart.net/

There are so many but one that caught my eye recently was supporting the idea of On Page Check out: http://www.onepage-checkout.com/features.html.

Templates:

Virtuemart has been around for a while, has a pretty nice user interface and is overall very flexible for delivering a comfortable and astatically pleasing customer experience. However, I happen to like the surge of interest in developing template options for Virtuemart. Here are a couple of my favorite resources

These folks have some very nice designs and I am eager to try them out myself but they are relatively new to the scene so I have not yet had the chance. However, they appear to do very nice work. http://www.vmjunction.com/

This group was one of the first to deliver a 3rd party option for Virtuemart design goodies. While this was not the most graceful process to implement these into my cart they have done a nice job if you like the style of their designs. http://www.yagendoo.com/ If you are new to Joomla or do not understand css and html well you may find working with this a bit challenging.

One of our favorite template designers released a nice Joomla template called Mynxx that offers a nice theme for the Virtuemart experience. Take a look at their live demo. Go to http://demo.rockettheme.com/ and select the dropdown item Mynxx.

I think one of the reasons many of the template design vendors have not jumped on board with template designs for Virtuemart has been that unless you deliver Virtuemart as part of the installation it can be difficult for the average non-technical user to install. I think this will only get better over time and since it has grown in popularity there is now a stronger business case for vendors to invest in this.

Payment Gateways:

One of the biggies for setting up ecommerce is having a connection between your shopping cart and a payment gateway. Something I especially like is that connecting to PayPal with Virtuemart is a real no brainer. Just enter an email address for your PayPal accounting and you are mostly “DONE”. While Authorize.net is another popular gateway there are several others supported and since the Virtuemart framework is open source, well, you can build your own if needed. We work with the OSDCS.com folks to connect the dots on any gateway issues. They are the simply the best and have many prebuilt gateway extensions at http://www.oscds.com or you can also drop by http://www.cmsextensions.org for more useful components and gateways.

Small Business Management Solutions – Real world value

The real power and value for your small business with the Joomla CMS and Virtuemart combination is the ability to integrate Joomla and Virtemart with other accounting and Customer Relationship Management systems.

Synchronize with QuickBooks and CRM

The key integration that I am particularly interested in is the Info@hand Customer Relationship Business Management platform, where there is a bridge between the users in a Joomla/Virtuemart experience and the contacts and accounts in info@hand CRM. With this solution you actually manage your products inside of the CRM (info@hand) and then synchronize this with your Virtuemart extension in Joomla. Then to make this even more interesting, when a customer makes a purchase an ecommerce invoice is passed to info@hand and associated with the account so you can then manage all of your accounts from a centralized dashboard in info@hand... And then to make this even more exciting you can synchronize info@hand with QuickBooks Accounting software so that you have a full transaction life cycle management solution. This will allow small businesses to actually have a low cost of ownership solution that could allow you and your niche products to compete effectively in the marketplace.

Click here for full list of many robust features.

For more information on this solution visit these sites: http://www.learningcrm.com and http://www.crbm.net

Another solution I found interesting was not as full featured as an info@hand CRBM solution but offered the synchronization with Quickbooks was bay a company called Webgility. There solution which I have yet to try, looks like it would do a good job for connecting the dots with QuickBooks but is just limited to this function and it is a desktop application so you lose the portability of the web.

http://www.webgility.com/quickbooks-integration-video-demo.php?utm_source=vm&utm_medium=directory&utm_campaign=virtuemart

Why we feel Joomla and Virtuemart are the best solution for small business ecommerce:

We have implemented sites for customer ranging from selling a single product to working with companies with huge databases of products. In this experience we have found the Joomla and Virtuemart solution to be very easy for our customers to configure and manage. It offers most of the functionality out of the box and if you use PayPal for your payment gateway it is about a easy as eating pumpkin pie to set up. Since this is a popular open source project supported by a global community the support and advise will not limit you to one vendor and you have the freedom to expand the code base to meet your particular business need.

We hope this overview is helpful and if you ever need configuration support custom coding or training on the Joomla or Virtuemart solution we would be happy to talk with you.