Maps of the Past switched to Miva for an ecommerce plaform they can grow with.
When your ecommerce platform won't scale with your company's growth, it's time to consider an upgrade.
Maps of the Past found the limits of what they could do on ShopSite, so they switched to Miva for a platform that contributed to their success instead of preventing it.
Maps of the Past is a leading online retailer of historical maps. The company sells high-quality reproductions of many different map types, including topographic plots, railroad and mining plans, and charts used during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Their product library houses over 5,000 unique items and they take special pride in their passion for map restoration and reproduction. In addition to collectors and map enthusiasts, their customer base includes universities, libraries, and museums across the United States.
Ric Glaubinger and his company, BR Internet, bought Maps of the Past in 2009, and as part of the purchase he inherited the site's legacy ShopSite platform. In the interest of smoothing the ownership transition and building on the company's past successes, Glaubinger decided to keep Maps of the Past running on ShopSite.
For the first year of their ownership, Glaubinger and his team did their best to work with the ShopSite platform. He owns 10 other web businesses that all run smoothly on Miva, so Glaubinger had a strong sense for how ecommerce software should perform. But after a year of trying to make ShopSite work for them, the team found their business hindered by three main problems with the platform.
"When Maps of the Past started in 2002," explains Glaubinger, "the site had just under 300 maps available for sale." In 2009 when he purchased the company, Glaubinger says that number was up to 700. "Even though that is a lot of growth, I knew we needed to get the number up around 5,000."
As the team worked to upload new product, they found the import process to be unwieldy. "It was impossible to easily add large amounts of product," Glaubinger says. "I was having trouble adding sets of 20 maps because I had to do it one-by-one."
Additionally, each map available on the site can be purchased in five different versions (gloss, matte, laminated, on canvas, or as a digital download). "Getting those choices for each map was a problem," continues Glaubinger. "We had to manually check each individual item since ShopSite wasn't handling the attributes very well." This contributed to a growing sense of constriction on the platform. Glaubinger summarizes the impression by saying, "It just felt like ShopSite wasn't designed to handle large amounts of product."
As they sought to perform maintenance on the site and add new features, Glaubinger and his team discovered that it was difficult to find qualified help for ShopSite. "In our experience," he explains, "there was no real wealth of knowledge among the ShopSite developers."
Furthermore, Glaubinger points out that most of the development for ShopSite stores is done by the hosts themselves. "This was a problem for us," he says, "because you never know who to call if you need help." Third-party developers were hard to find, the hosting companies weren't experts on the platform, and ShopSite only had limited support available in-house. "We tried ShopSite directly," says Glaubinger, "but they didn't have too many people capable of answering our questions."
Maps of the Past found that their ability to provide a premium customer experience was hindered by being on ShopSite. "The site didn't give the customer very good communication surrounding their purchase," Glaubinger says. "It wasn't very friendly with its payment processing, and there were features we wanted to add that we just couldn't do on ShopSite."
They also experienced performance issues as the business grew. "ShopSite was okay for the store when we had a small amount of stuff," explains Glaubinger. But as they added more and more maps, they watched performance begin to degrade. "The platform really is geared toward a business with 300 items or less."
The last straw came for Glaubinger and his team after a year of trying to make ShopSite work. "We arrived at a point where we needed to upload hundreds of new maps," he says. "When we realized it was going to take six weeks to get them all added, we decided it was better to change over at that point rather than later."
When the time came to leave ShopSite behind, Ric Glaubinger knew exactly which platform he wanted for Maps of the Past. His other web businesses all run on Miva, so he knew that he could get what he needed from them. He tapped Andreas Toman, his Miva developer, to perform the conversion.
Andreas Toman, president of the ecommerce development company PCINET, is no stranger to Miva conversions. He helps Glaubinger and BR Internet with their other Miva stores, and he has been working with the platform since 2002.
To begin the conversion process, he took a good look at Maps of the Past's existing ShopSite web store. "The ShopSite platform wasn't very sophisticated," remembers Toman. "It wasn't user friendly and it seemed complicated to maintain." When Glaubinger asked about converting the store to Miva, Toman wholeheartedly agreed.
"I prefer Miva as a platform," Toman explains, "because it is extremely safe, and has a great record of not being hacked. Compared to other platforms out there it's more secure, and Miva does an excellent job of staying up-to-date with security, PCI compliance, and other modern features."
As a third-party developer, Toman also appreciates Miva's openness and efforts to help the people working with their platform. "Miva goes the extra mile to help developers get what they need to complete the project," he says. "It's really about the support with Miva. Once you meet somebody, they are open to talk to you and you can always get a hold of them."
Toman and the Maps of the Past team set out to convert the site to Miva, and the process went smoothly. "The transition took about 10 weeks," says Ric Glaubinger, "and there were no major hiccups." As part of the migration they needed to build custom modules around the product import process, and this was no problem. "With Miva," explains Glaubinger, "we can build the customizations we need."
Now that Maps of the Past has been converted to Miva, Glaubinger is able to create a premium shopping experience for his customers. Massive batch imports are simpler, so he can get new product onto the site and available much more quickly. Miva's SEO capabilities are an improvement over ShopSite, so customers can more easily find him.
Additionally, on Miva he can build custom features like the "Visual Search" tool now available on the site. Customers can search for available historical maps using a location-based Google Maps visual search. "This is a feature we wanted to build," says Glaubinger, "but ShopSite couldn't do it. To get that we needed to be on Miva."
All of these features and improved support from Miva mean that Maps of the Past is now poised for even more growth. "Adding more maps obviously helps boost total sales," says Glaubinger, "so when that process is simple for us, we can grow our business more quickly."
Glaubinger is a Miva veteran, and it comes as no surprise to him that the service and support continue to be top-notch. "We get our issues handled very well," he says. "I now have two servers with Miva for all my sites, and they treat me like a VIP!"
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