Integrating shipping with an online store has it’s share of challenges and is a common subject of conversation in the forums for Ubercart (USPS Shipping Labels), osCommerce (non-answers on USPS integration and no answer though there does seem to be some integration). Sadly, if you should be so lucky as to be on osCommerce, X-Cart, Zen Cart, Magento, CRE Loaded or Cube Cart, you can get Quickbooks and shipping integration for only $160 from Magnetic One. Some of these are good carts and not expensive (Cube Cart), but for one reason or another I rejected them for the project in question (mostly because of Ubercart’s incredible ability to structure, remix and present data).
Webgility’s eCC seems to be the leading solution for most carts and the ones that have a really nice shipping integration are mostly hosted solutions, which poses a problem if your store has out of the ordinary situations. So what are the options?
This is actually a great solution. It has only one real problem from our perspective – it expect all computers to be on the same network. This is not, as it happens, our use case. The ony downsides here seem to be that to get eCC working, you have to have Quickbooks working and if your copies of eCC will be running in a non-networked environment, you have to have 2 full licenses, rather than a full and an add-on license. So the total extra cost is $170 extra for a full eCC license and whatever it costs for a cheap, outdated copy of Quickbooks on EBay (about $50). So for $220, this issue goes away.
In addition, you’re on the hook for a monthly fee of about $16-$35 or so, which is the cost to have a Stamps.com or Endicia Dazzle account which is required for shipping label printing to work. This is typical of most of these systems and not eCC specific.
Deep Thought Courrier
Deep Thought Courrier handles only the Quickbooks end and is $500, so a fair bit pricier than eCC. On the plus side, the Courrier Deep Thought website is actually powered by Ubercart, so they are presumably eating their own dogfood. The app also works with Cubecart and osCommerce. But this still leaves the shipping integration unsolved.
(eCC OR Deep Thought Courrier) + Pony Express Mailer
Meanwhile, Pony Express Mailer handles only shipping integration, though I use the term "integration" a bit loosely. Pony Express is only $40 and connects to a database if it’s local and then to USPS Click n Ship. Of course, an e-commerce site is not going to have a local database, so that means creating a method of building an XML file in your store, downloading that, and then uploading it to Pony Express. At that point, Pony Express supposedly integrates with Click n’ Ship, though I can’t test this because their link on their free trial page is broken. Hopefully they’ll get back to me soon.
The disadvantage here is the extra step required: open website, download orders, open orders from Pony Express for shipping, and then input shipping info into the site, which presumably is going to be a manual cut and paste affair.
The advantage is that it uses Click n’ Ship directly, without going through Stamps.com or Endicia, and thus has no monthly fee. This means a minimum savings of around $200/year.
Atandra T-HUB is basically the same functionality as eCC, though a fair bit more expensive. If you want Quickbooks and shipping integration, you start at $500 with additional fees for support contracts ($250 per year) and setup and training ($250). Unfortunately, T-HUB does not have an off-the-shelf Ubercart integration, despite supporting a zillion other carts (sigh). So for Ubercart you have three options
- Use their CSV datafile option. Essentially, have your store generate a CSV file, download it, load it into T-HUB and off you go. On the other hand, ugh… Not a very convenient solutions
- Hire them to do a custom integration. Let’s assume this is not cheap
- Do it yourself based on their published XML spec. In this case, you must pay about $450–$700 to have your integration "certified" and of course you still pay the T-HUB license fees.
If you want to look outside the Book, then you can use xTuple/Postbooks which is sort of an open source Quickbooks as near as I can tell (and more — it looks like a full Enterprise Resource Management system) and it has full Ubercart integration. That will, of course, be a massively hard sell to anyone who already has a business running on Quickbooks.
Then there have been some attempts at a direct Quickbooks integration with Ubercart. That still leaves the shipping problem unsolved, but the bigger problem is that neither of these projects, either Ubercart Quickbooks Integration or Quickbooks API have ever made it as far as an official stable release. Since this is critical financial data were talking about, it would be nice to see something a lot more mature, but it’s a potential place to start if you’re looking to roll your own. If you want to go that route, it looks like the best place to start is George Montana Harkin’s fork of the QB API project.