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Way back in 2000, Beacon developed its own ecommerce engine from scratch – “BeCommerce“. It was during the dot.com heyday and since Beacon was composed of many top-notch developers that had departed Fortune 500 companies, it made perfect sense. It was designed as a “framework” for ecommerce knowing that customization would nearly always be required. After 15 years in this business, I can tell you that nearly every ecommerce website has some nuance, some special feature, function or interface that requires custom development and design.
Ecommerce has evolved tremendously since then. There are so many standard “bells and whistles” that website owners expect. So a little over 5 years ago, I had a Beacon task force evaluate several ecommerce platforms to consider as an alternative framework for our clients. Beacon is a primarily a Microsoft shop, so .NET was required. It had to be easily extendable or customizable, especially with respect to design and interfaces. In other words, our developers had to be able to get their hands into the code! The software needed to be complete enough and priced right, out of the box, to make sense for small projects. Yet it had to be strong enough to support very large clients in terms of volume (traffic/orders), third party integration and custom development. Of course there were many other pre-defined requirements, but most importantly, we had to have a copy of the source. Our selection? AspDotNetStorefront!
As I’ve stated in previous interviews, partner relationships are vitally important and AspDotNetStorefront is another good one. This is why Beacon has been a long-term Premier Partner and regularly attends & sponsors their User/Developer Conferences out west. Recently, I chatted with Jo Benson, the COO at AspDotNetStorefront & Vortx to get her take.
MD: Tell me a little about AspDotNetStorefront (Vortx), the company.
JB: Vortx, Inc is a company that operates out of Ashland, Southern Oregon. We have been a full-service company in software development since 1990 but in 2005 we made the strategic decision to move into product development and relinquish our strong hold on the service sector. It has taken us eight years of hard work and a significant acquisition, but we now own two very consequential e-commerce products – AspDotNetStorefront and its SaaS sister, EnnyWare.
MD: What are the main reasons that your customers use or like your product so much?
JB: If you don’t mind, I’ll answer for the two products separately. AspDotNetStorefront is software that is wholly owned by the retailer. Better (in my humble opinion!) than ‘open source’ – this product offers ‘fully available source’. The truly powerful thing about this software is that a small/medium sized business can grow with this e-commerce platform without limitation. EnnyWare is really very different and hugely exciting. It combines traditional e-commerce (where shoppers are brought to a central online store to do their shopping) with some really amazing ‘social selling’. An online seller who uses ennyware.com can upload each product once and see it for sale on Amazon, Google, Bing, Facebook, Pinterest, eBay Commerce Network ….. AND it can be selling at different prices in all those places.
MD: What do you see as the most important feature(s) of an ecommerce product?
JB: I think that the world of online shopping (notice, I talk about SHOPPING, not SELLING ….. if sellers don’t learn to watch the behavior of shoppers, then they can’t expect to succeed) … anyway, I was saying , the world of online shopping has changed dramatically in the last year. In 2011 most of us went to Google, searched for ‘red shoes’ or ‘fishing rod’ and then started clicking through the top ten results, looking for a product that was affordable and looked just right. In 2013 it is estimated that over 60% of shoppers start their shopping at either Amazon or Google’s shopping engine. In both those places, images of products for sale are lined up side by side for comparison. Oh! And go and look at wanelo.com … it’s a social phenomenon. E-commerce has to stop expecting the shopper to look ‘in-store’. Shoppers find their purchases in social, central places and just need a safe, secure way to checkout. That’s what e-commerce has to match, today.
MD: Tell me a little about the Beacon-AspDotNetStorefront partnership?
JB: It was Annette Fowler from Beacon who first came to our attention, and this was before Vortx acquired AspDotNetStorefront. We were all together at an e-commerce conference in Vegas and she was just so SMART and forward-thinking and professional. She stood out as being ‘one to watch’. Therefore when we took over the shopping cart, we actively went looking for her – and therefore for Beacon, in order to make sure that we could bond together. We discovered that Beacon is full of people like Annette and we really value partners of this incredibly high caliber.
MD: What’s on the horizon for AspDotNetStorefront?
JB: You’ll see us putting ever more focus on ‘connection’. Not only are we connecting to the shopping and social engines, but we’re working on linking to email marketing solutions, ERP, accounting solutions, catalog management systems. The next release of MultiStore will also have more focus on ‘retention’.
MD: As you can tell, Jo and her team are constantly looking ahead, using their innovative and creative staff to stay on the front edge of ecommerce. EnnyWare is an exciting new offering that demonstrates this. See you in Chicago at IRCE (June) and at your User Conference in Denver in August!