One formula for successful Facebook commerce

Small retailers like Apricot Lane Peoria are driving transactions on the social network by offering a personal touch and using the Ecwid shopping cart app.

There are a dizzing array of e-commerce shopping platforms available for small businesses that want to sell their wares on the Web. One of the simpler ones is from Ecwid, which powers about 375,000 online merchants. Ecwid's pitch is that it is a cloud-based store builder that can be integrated with existing Web, mobile or social sites that a small company is already using. 

"The people who use us are people who want to get selling very quickly and who want to reach their profile of customers through methods they are already familiar with," said Jim O'Hara, Ewid's president.

Even though Facebook commerce has fallen out of favor with some larger merchants, this is one of the places where Ecwid does especially well: its Facebook app is the leading shopping app on the social network, if you count active users, with more than 40,000 Facebook stores. 

One of those stores is run by Jena Green, co-owner of the Apricot Lane Peoria boutique (which is actually part of a franchise network, but it run independently by Green and her mother). About one year in (February 2011), Green said she noticed that many customers were making their way over to her e-commerce site after finding the store on Facebook. At the time, she only had 5,000 "likes," now the page boasts around 123,000.

"We absolutely need to sell on Facebook, so we needed to make it easy for people to check out from there," Green said.

When visitors click on the "Shop Here" app, they are directed to the Ecwid platform, where they can place orders without having to visit the boutique's main Web site. 



Apricot Lane Peoria generates around $2 million in annual sales, about half of which comes from its cyberpresence. The majority of that comes from the Facebook page, Green said. There are three reasons she believes this is so:

  1. Her store's team spends an appreciable amount of time adding personality to the page and responding personally to visitors as often as possible. "A lot of our customers feel like they know who I am," Green said.
  2. She has invested in Pinterest engagement and in Facebook advertising, which has helped drive up page likes and active visitors.
  3. It's easy to complete a sale. 

Ecwid's O'Hara believes there's also another reason: as more people use their mobile devices to shop and place orders, the developer has focused on creating a responsive application that can adjust easily to different mobile devices.

A recent survey of the company's customer base (in September 2013) showed that the portion of e-commerce sales being completed via mobile devices rose 61 percent during that month over the volume of mobile commerce transactions posted in November 2012.

Ecwid has also taken pains to integrate its technology carefully with incumbents with significant marketshare. So, for example, it links with more than 30 different payment solutions ranging from PayPal to GoogleWallet to to Sage Pay. On the social network side, Facebook isn't its only focus: it also plugs into Tumblr and Google Sites, among many others.

In addition, the company behind the widely used  Wix Web-site building and hosting platform has a tight partnership with Ecwid.

Generally speaking, you can get an Ecwid-powered store up and running for free if you have fewer than 10 products you're selling in cyberspace. If you want options like inventory controls and participation in the Google Shopping Feed, however, you need to opt for at least the $29.95 per month paid plan.