BigCommerce: Big E-tail Features for Small Money

By Jennifer Schiff | Posted October 14, 2009

Like many small business owners, Brett Rosenthal, the founder and president of ThatsMyShirt.com (and several other t-shirt sites), gets a lot of help from friends and family, including his brother, Reid, who model many of the company’s cool t-shirts.

However, when Reid appeared on season five of the popular ABC reality show The Bachelorette earlier this year, his brother got more help selling his t-shirts than he – or his e-commerce host – could handle.

“In June and July our sites spiked in traffic significantly due to Reid being on The Bachelorette,” Rosenthal explained. “This would have been great for business, however our existing carrier could not handle the load and we lost a lot of business as a result.”

Even when the show ended, interest in Reid and his t-shirts did not. And Rosenthal got nervous.“We’d been experiencing a lot of timeouts and server issues – and we couldn’t process or even view or edit orders,” he said.

On top of that, customers were getting error messages when attempting to add items to their cart or checkout, so they left. “And we were getting scared of what the holiday rush would be like based on this traffic we saw from Reid.”

In order not to lose critical holiday business, Rosenthal went in search of a new hosted solution, one that would be easy to use, easy to customize and that wouldn’t conk out during peak periods.

After looking at many different hosted solutions, Rosenthal chose BigCommerce, which bills itself as “the world’s easiest to use e-commerce software.”

A Simple Yet Powerful E-commerce Platform

Released in Beta this past June and officially launched in early August, BigCommerce already has more than 8,900 store owners, who pay between $24.95 and $149.95 for the service (depending on the number of products, the number of staff logins, the bandwidth and the amount of storage they want/need). It is also available for free for a 15-day trial.

“We created BigCommerce because we felt there was a need for a really simple yet really powerful e-commerce platform that online retailers could use to sell their products and reach more customers,” explained Mitchell Harper, the co-founder and co-CEO of BigCommerce.

Indeed, the company mantra in designing BigCommerce was “Could our moms use this feature without an explanation?” If the answer was “no,” they’d go back to the drawing board.

“We felt that opening an online store wasn’t simply about displaying your products online and hoping customers would buy from you. Online retailers need an e-commerce platform that goes beyond that,” he said.

“As an online retailer you need built-in marketing tools, such as a site-wide promotions builder, coupon codes and gift certificates. You also need to see powerful reports showing which products are selling, your profit margins, inventory levels and even customer locations.”

Harper and his team also knew customers wanted the ability to customize the look and layout of their online stores, so they built a feature (unique to BigCommerce) called Drag & Drop Design Mode, which lets non-technical people change any text and re-arrange the layout of the pages in their online store by dragging and dropping.

“Drag & Drop has been a really big hit with our customers,” said Harper. “They can get as creative as they like – all without knowing HTML.” BigCommerce even comes with a social media component, so online retailers can include a blog and share news on sites like Facebook.

“Long story short, we took all of these different systems – a shopping cart, a content management system, marketing tools, business intelligence reports and backend integration – and combined them into an all-in-one solution for online retailers of any size, from mom-and-pop stores all the way up to global brands,” said Harper. And the strategy appears to be working.

Lots of E-commerce Features

That combination of “the features you need at a price you can afford” is what led Cyndi Pedrazzi, the founder of GetYubo.com, which sells “the world’s best lunch box,” to choose BigCommerce.

“We did a thorough review of more than 50 e-commerce tools on the market,” she explained. She added that the platform they chose had to meet several important needs including:

  • Clean and efficient store administration, to process large order volumes
  • Integration to leading payment transaction services
  • No transaction fees from the cart provider
  • Hosted service (they didn’t want to be an IT shop)
  • Offer features like discount codes

Pedrazzi said that only BigCommerce made the grade. “It is well laid out and works great,” she said. And “compared to the many other products out there it is a joy to use. It’s easy to add pages to the site.”

She also really likes the order and customer management, which, she noted, are “rock solid and built for real vendors with a decent volume.” Best of all, customers like the site, which looks professional and is easy to navigate.

In the con column, Pedrazzi said she wishes BigCommerce had the capability to make certain products available only to certain customers, and she’d also like it to have a better blogging engine.

Still, after checking out many different hosted e-commerce solutions, Pedrazzi is happy with her choice. “Personally, I haven’t seen a better solution in this space. BigCommerce has a great mix of high quality features and reasonable pricing.”



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