Small Business Ecommerce Trends: Shop by Smartphone

By Stuart J. Johnston | Posted September 07, 2010

A new feature among big etailers provides yet another way for their customers to shop online, and the trend is catching on: shopping by smartphone. It's a growth market, and a potentially lucrative one. Take Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), for instance.

"In the last twelve months, customers around the world have ordered more than $1 billion of products from Amazon using a mobile device," Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO told investors in July when the e-tail giant announced its second quarter sales and earnings.

Major retailers may be able to offer remote access to customers who want to make purchases using mobile devices, however, until recently such bells and whistles were not available in small business software packages for ecommerce websites.

Shopping Carts and IPhones

In June, shopping cart software developer and services vendor 3DCart shipped version 3.2 of its shopping cart software. Among a slew of other new features, the update gives customers the capability to shop via their smartphones, and it gives the small business owner or authorized e-store administrator the convenience of managing and querying the site from a smartphone.


"For the first time, 3DCart retailers can post their products to Twitter or Facebook with a single click, easily integrate YouTube videos into product descriptions, and allow buyers to browse and buy from their iPhones and smartphones," a 3DCart statement said at the time.

3DCart is the product of Infomart 2000, Corp., which was started in 1997 -- 3DCart Shopping Cart software was born in 2001 from work done on custom ecommerce systems the firm had been developing for customers. The company now has about 10,000 merchant customers worldwide, Gonzalo Gil, president of 3DCart, told Small Business Computing.

Like many other services for small businesses, 3DCart's system is hosted in the cloud so customers don't have to invest a lot of time managing their ecommerce sites, and with the aim of being able to provide high-quality service for a competitive price.

"Nobody has the resources that Amazon does," Gil said. "What we're doing [is building a shopping cart] that can help customers compete with the big guys, with the resources that a small business has." "There are a lot of phones out there that can browse the Web, and this can make the experience a lot better," Gil added.

Mobile Ecommerce Down on the Farm

It turns out that farmers and ranchers need to order from their mobile phones too, and being able to do it using a browser is a plus. When a plow or a tractor breaks down in the middle of a field and needs a part, wasted time is wasted money.

Paul Bondsfield is the ecommerce manager for Rungreen.com, a site that sells John Deere merchandise, that is owned by John Deere tractor dealership Fillmore Equipment. The company has ten stores, and has been using 3DCart since 2007, Bondsfield said.

John Deere is one of those uniquely recognizable American brands that dates back more than a century and a half. As such, it has a community that consists of everyone from the owner of a driving mower, who identifies with the farming tradition and the quality of heavy duty tools, to the farm worker who drives John Deere equipment for a living.

For that reason, Rungreen stocks a store full items with the John Deere logo. The site has all things Deere, from accessories like sun canopies and external light sets to a four-foot steel blade for the back of that home tractor, to Christmas ornaments.

Of course, there are all the regular fan items like hats, jackets, coffee mugs and key chains. But there are also Deere-themed ceiling fans, wall clocks, flatware, even denim bedding, and John Deere diaper bags -- not to mention riding toys and die cast tractor models for the more grown-up kids. They even have a gift registry.

Because John Deere customers and aficionados are community oriented, Bondsfield said he's also interested in trying out some of the new social network capabilities in the latest version. For instance the site could use Twitter to send tweets about specials or new products. Rungreen also has a Facebook page that could be linked to the website. The company has already been using the blogging capability, Bondsfield added. However, there is another feature he likes -- it's easy to use. "You don't need a lot of technical ability to get started," he added.

Priced for Small Businesses

3DCart is also priced for the small business market, Gil said. "Most do under $1 million a year [in revenues]," Gil said of his customers. In fact, the product's pricing reflects that recognition. 3DCart offers five different bundles.

A starter-level package, dubbed the "Mini," costs a monthly fee of $19.99, provides support for up to 50 products, and anticipates "very low" traffic and fewer than 2,000 visitors to the site per month. That includes a gigabyte of storage for product images and a gigabyte of data transfer.

For $35.99 per month, the next step up -- the "Starter" -- supports 100 products and doubles the storage space and data transfer limits.

"Professional," the middle offering, costs $65.99 a month, anticipates 8,000 visitors monthly, supports 5,000 products and provides unlimited storage. Above that, the "Professional Plus" and "Premium" bundles support unlimited numbers of products.

Professional Plus costs $99.99, while Premium costs $199.99. Premium anticipates as many as 120,000 visitors per month. Additionally, you'll pay a set up fee of $99 for each package, except for the premium package, which has a $199 fee.

Unlike some service offerings, though, every package from Mini to Premium receive year-round, 24 hours per day phone support.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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