There is now no barrier for small independent fashion retailers to have an eCommerce store. Take a moment to visit small independent Selendari’s Secrects new website, have a look at the stunning multiple images on their dresses and have a guess at what the site costs them a month to maintain.
Under £50. That’s not a typo, the site has been created using the open design toolkit available free to web designers on the Venda eCommerce platform and the ongoing license for the site is £49.99 including VAT. As the toolkit is freely available to designers who join the Venda developer community there are now hundreds of agencies that will produce you a lovely customised design for a fraction of what a bespoke site would cost.
What’s so different about the model that enables this? Firstly there is a clear separation of roles between the platform provider, in this case Venda, and the designer. Venda’s job is to host, support, keep secure, etc the underlying platform and keep enhancing it (they release new functionality to retailers every 6-8 weeks). The designer is then left to purely work on the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) using a simple to use Firefox Plug-in toolkit. The content management system on Venda has been designed to empower the shop owner to run the store themselves – zero technical skill required – so that the web designer doesn’t get any support calls around how to use the system. There is full support including live-chat for the retailers too so designers have found that they can concentrate on what they do best, design.
Lucy Whittington from one of the design companies using Venda comments:
“Ecommerce and online selling can be hard to get right — you need have a robust, well tested, and well designed ‘engine’ managing your web shop. You need to be able to easily manage stock, your catalogue, pricing, new products, offers, brands, the buying process — in fact all aspects of online sales. Venda SBS does all this, so we don’t have to worry about it. What we can then concentrate on is making an online store ‘look good’ and work well for sales.
We offer a creative service that sits on top of Venda — and can make your Venda site bespoke in terms of design. We can also assist with catalogue uploads, ongoing maintenance, and all associated marketing (online and offline) as required”
So the cost barrier has been removed, what about generating sales? Well, the savvy designers building on the platform are also providing value added services like blogs (see the Ibson Men’s Blog which links back to their site), Twitter accounts, email marketing and more. These services not only drive sales for the retailers but keep the relationship between designer and retailer going – all the while the new functionality on Venda handles the eCommerce basics like keyword intelligent page addresses (URLs), strong integration into Google Shopping, promotion codes, discounts etc.
With a full integration into Google Analytics out of the box the designers are armed with performance information for the sites so can recommend new tactics and changes to the retailers. Adding images, changing texts, updating featured products and promotions can all be done by the retailer themselves which is vital as it means that money spent with the designers is not on admin, but on value add.
Our own publishing business has been transformed since we added a designed Venda site. eCommerce sales are up, both in the UK and USA and critically for us new author enquiries as our site looks fresh and professional.
Designers who want to join the growing developer community on Venda can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.