Many shoppers may not realize it, but there's a good chance that their ecommerce transactions with small and midsized business (SMB) merchants this holiday are powered by Ecwid. So, what exactly is Ecwid?
First, the San Diego-based company's name is not just a random bundle of letters, Jim O'Hara, president of Ecwid, assured Small Business Computing during a phone interview. Founded in 2009, and spun out of the successful PHP shopping cart software company X-Cart, "Ecwid stands for e-commerce widget," said O'Hara.
As the company's name suggests, Ecwid's cloud-based platform provides small business with an ecommerce "widget" that they can easily incorporate into their websites and social media channels, most notably Facebook. In five short years, the company has amassed a big worldwide following, at least among Internet-savvy entrepreneurs and small business shop owners.
Small Business Ecommerce: Social-Enabled Online Stores
Today, more than 600,000 online merchants across 175 countries use Ecwid, and it's available in 45 languages. It's also a major player in the rapidly-expanding market for social-enabled ecommerce solutions—meaning platforms that let you sell through your social network pages.
The company claims that Ecwid is the top e-commerce app on Facebook. It's a feat Ecwid accomplished by offering small business owners a secure and flexible shopping cart and payment processing solution minus the effort and expense required to set up an online store.
"Small businesses are not locked into a website," said O'Hara. Boutiques, artisans and small retailers with online ambitions can quickly place their wares online on any number of website, blog platforms and content management systems. Ecwid fits seamlessly into popular website builders and other small business favorites like "Wix, Weebly or Wordpress site," among several others, he added.
Setting up an online store is a matter of logging in to a free Ecwid account and populating the catalog—sample categories and products offer guidance—with items, images and product options (size, color, etc.). You then name your store and select your currency, shipping rates, taxes and payment options. Paypal integration not only takes care of the payment processing step of the transaction, it allows store owners to sync their online sales with their in-store inventory.
Ecwid offers several templates that you can use to create a look that best suits your business. For a more personalized touch, you can brush up on your CSS skills to create a customized templates of your own.
Mobile App or Responsive Web Design?
Regardless of how they go about setting up shop, prospective online store owners can expect a mobile-optimized shopping experience with Ecwid, according O'Hara.
The writing is on the wall, he said. Ecwid's customers are "seeing much more traffic via mobile devices," which in turn leads to sales.
But it is better to add more fuel to the app craze or to create a mobile Web experience?
In tackling the issue, O'Hara and his team explored their choices. "Do you create yet another mobile app or do you build in an effective, responsive design?" Since it's more than a little unfair to toss small businesses into the overpopulated app stores and hope for the best, Ecwid chose the latter.
"How many small business retailer apps do you have downloaded on your smartphone?" said O'Hara.
So the company set out to help small merchants attract mobile transactions in a way that increases their chances of success. "The idea is to render [the website] beautifully on every device type," said O'Hara. Ecwid's technology auto-detects a smartphone, tablet or PC browser, and then renders the online store accordingly.
It's not just online shoppers that can benefit from mobile technology. Store owners can enlist their smartphones and tablets to offer more personalized service in their own brick-and-mortar shops or to score sales during street fairs, conferences and events.
"The full Ecwid store is available from a mobile device, and it syncs with your online store," said O'Hara. In essence, the tech functions as a "full point-of-sale terminal anywhere you go."
Ecwid is free "forever" for 10 products or less. The Venture plan costs $15 per month for up to 100 products, while the Business plan costs $35 per month for up to 2,500 products. The Unlimited option with priority support costs $99 per month.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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