Freewebs, which provides hosted platforms and tools for building Web sites, is releasing Web Stores, a tool for small retailers wishing to build e-commerce sites.
The company announced Web Stores April 30.
"Web Stores allows the retailer in a matter of minutes or seconds to post products and items onto their own Web store and sell those products online," said founder and CEO Haroon Mokhtarzada.
Mokhtarzada said a retailer can plug its e-commerce site built with Web Stores directly into an existing PayPal account to obtain merchant services and checkout security. He said Freewebs will also be offering a Google Checkout merchant services option soon.
Previously, Freewebs customers could build Web sites using the company's site-building platform, and then upload item photos through a widget and add a PayPal button, he said. "But our users want to add items quickly, have them catalogued and categorized, and have shopping cart functionality," he said.
Web Stores' shopping cart includes the abilities to offer item options such as color and size, provide shipping preferences and post sale prices, he said.
Web Stores is a remotely hosted application.
"You can link from any Web browser on a PC or even a mobile device," Mokhtarzada said. "You then upload item photos and the rest is typing in text boxes and selecting from drop-down menus."
To help users manage their customer base, he said, Web Stores comes with a "mailing list" feature that allows customers to subscribe to a Web site where retailers can send them marketing and promotional offers. Other CRM (customer relationship management) activities can be managed through the retailer's merchant services account.
Mokhtarzada said the philosophy behind Web Stores is to lower the barrier to entering e-retail.
"A huge number of people have some sort of small business where they're not trying to make millions, but to sell small things," he said. "We allow them to get a store running and sell a small amount of items for free. You can first test-market, and then pay a premium to sell more items and have more functionality. It's not based on a fee per transaction. You can ease your way in."
Denis Pombriant, managing principal of CRM consulting firm Beagle Research Group, said Web Stores could be a useful tool for the retail industry, especially for freelance retailers who may sell odd lots or overstock items.
"You'll probably first see traction in the marketplace at the grassroots level," Pombriant said. "This would be a freelancer's tool. When their need goes away, such as when the odd lot is sold, the site could [potentially] go away, too."
He said established retailers, which most likely already have functioning sales channels, would have less need for Web Stores, since their bottlenecks more typically occur in the product design and production process.
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.