But these merchant will remain confined in that small-business model even when they grow. For example, the merchants cannot separate the management of the business from the selling of merchandise because StoreSense insists on handling both for its service providers. Kurant could improve StoreSense considerably by strengthening its data import and export capabilities for an easy work-around.
StoreSense is a closed solution in that it doesn't support customization via programming. Service providers can differentiate their StoreSense offering by changing the environment in which it runs, but the core StoreSense application is untouchable. Kurant's position is that a common base of software makes StoreSense easier to maintain and support. Indeed, the provider needn't lift a finger to get a new merchant going. StoreSense takes the merchant's order, sets up its storefront site, and creates a secure administrative interface, and then the merchant does all the work of creating the site using the Web-based tools StoreSense provides.
Both the providers with their Site Stores and their merchant customers have quite a bit of control over the look and feel of their respective sites. StoreSense pours each store's unique data into XML templates to shape that site's appearance. By uploading new templates, a merchant can dramatically alter the look of its site, and each template can be linked to a particular type of device or browser. A Web-savvy merchant can use Kurant's supplied HTML, WML (Wireless Markup Language), and HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language) templates to rapidly adapt a storefront to wired and wireless devices.
We'd like to see Kurant extend this customization model to include server-side scripting for both the provider and their merchant customers. For example, our testing found StoreSense too limiting in its handling of sales tax and shipping charge calculations, a shortcoming that might have been addressed with a few lines of Perl if StoreSense had allowed it.
Based on the customizable templates, the merchant sites StoreSense creates for the service providers are clean and easy to navigate. Buyers can search for items by manufacturer and category, and payments are handled online. The system will automatically send customers e-mail confirmation of orders and shipments. For low-volume software (such as shareware) sales, StoreSense will assign a unique serial number to each unit and forward comma-separated invoice data via e-mail or HTTP to a system that processes the order.