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STRATEGIES
 


Product Review: Interland’s Online Catalog Suite
By Sean Michael Kerner

March 17, 2005

Continued from Page 1


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Upon selection, Interland’s Online Catalog Site Builder automatically creates common pages used in most e-commerce Web sites. (Click for a larger image)

An Amazon Item Listing function is also included, which won’t necessarily help you to sell product from your own catalog but will help you to drive incremental revenue from Amazon’s affiliate program, “Amazon Associates.” This program allows you to display Amazon products and earn an affiliate commission when an item is purchased.

An eBay auction connector is also part of the suite, which, again, doesn’t directly sell a product from your catalog but does help drive traffic to any current eBay auction you may have running. With the Amazon and eBay features you can leverage whatever eyeballs your site captures and cross-sell, hopefully driving increased sales.

In most cases, sales are driven by some form of marketing. It’s not enough to just build a site and hope buyers will magically appear. Interland includes Constant Contact’s email marketing program (read our review of Constant Contact here). Constant Contact is an industry-leading email list management and promotion program. With it you can manage all aspects of your email marketing endeavors, including subscriber sign up, list management, message creation, reporting, and tracking.

Search engines are of course a crucial part of marketing a site, both in terms of organic and paid listings. Interland’s Online Catalog Suite helps in both regards.

The Search Engine Manager feature is a complete suite of tools to help you optimize your site for search engine indexing as well as submitting and tracking your sites to search engines and a tool for tracking your site’s ranking. If that isn’t enough, Interland also throws in a $75 credit to use for Google’s AdWords system to begin search engine advertising for your new site as well.

Online Catalog vs. the Competition

However, Interland’s Online Catalog suite does not offer a Web-based interface to implement conversion tracking for your Google AdWords campaign. Nor does it have a direct feed submission to Google’s Froogle shopping index. Both of those features are ones that Interland’s competitor 1&1 Internet (see our 1&1 review here) does offer.


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Interland’s Online Catalog Suite has an easy-to-use control panel to help you maintain your e-commerce site. (Click for a larger image)

The Online Catalog suite also lacks direct integration with an automatic shipping cost calculator (i.e USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.), which we consider to be a serious oversight.

With the long list of features that Interland includes, it can be a bit overwhelming digging through all the bells and whistles. Though, as previously mentioned, the help function is always there (and always helpful). What makes it a bit annoying, however, is that they’ve included a few items that we’d consider to be redundant (of course, we didn’t initially realized they were redundant until we spent the time trying to figure them out).

For instance, the Constant Contact Email Management system handles all aspects of email promotion. Yet, there’s also a separate feature called “Announce Your Site,” which exists outside of Constant Contact and is designed to help you email a site announcement — something that can be done with the Email Manager as well. There are also two different ways of building a catalog, either with the e-store builder or via Miva Merchant. We didn’t realize until after calling tech support that they were both essentially doing the same thing, which was a bit confusing at first.

Conclusion

All told, Interland’s Online Catalog suite is one of the most robust, full-featured, hosting company-offered e-commerce offerings that we have worked with. In three weeks of testing we were continually amazed by how much Interland has packed into this offering and how easy they’ve made it to get everything to work.

By packing marketing and site promotion features into the e-commerce suite, Interland has created a package that will help users not only build but also really “sell” their wares.

Product Review adapted from ECommerce Guide

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