November 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

App Publishing offers retailers low-cost entry into m-commerce

App Publishing has debuted Mobile Store Maker, which, for $20 a month, enables retailers to go mobile with a fairly rich experience.

It has been the case since the dawn of m-commerce that going mobile can be inexpensive and easy to do. MPoria Inc. was one of the first vendors to make a name in m-commerce and its business model is to provide a self-service system enabling retailers to enter product information and images and publish a site. MPoria charges as little as $20 a month (depending on the number of products offered) for the site, which it hosts, and manages checkout and payment.

About 30 retailers-most very small-today use mPoria for their mobile commerce sites, which are very basic compared with most of the other more than 100 mobile sites in m-commerce, most created for between $20,000 and $200,000 by vendors much bigger than mPoria. But that number, 30, has been stagnant. And mPoria has been very quiet, not returning calls for comment for months.

A newcomer to mobile commerce is going with the same business model, targeting small businesses, but offering significantly richer mobile experiences for $20 a month (for product catalogs of up to 1,000 items) and the ability to inexpensively create basic mobile apps for smartphones. That newcomer is App Publishing LLC, and yesterday it launched Mobile Store Maker, a self-service system that enables retailers to create their own m-commerce sites, with App Publishing connecting the site to payment manager Authorize.net and offering checkout via credit card, Google or PayPal.

App Publishing goes beyond mPoria not just in the richness of the mobile site but also by offering assistance in tailoring sites using templated cascading style sheets for a one-time fee of $500, as well as turning sites into mobile apps for the iPhone ($350), BlackBerry ($500) and other smartphones.

“A lot of mobile commerce systems are robust but very complex,” says Link Stevens, president of App Publishing. “Our spreadsheet management system is very, very simple.”

App Publishing is launching Mobile Store Maker with six retailers that have used the system to create m-commerce sites. Those retailers are Amanda Jones, BJJ Coach, Denny Mike’s Barbeque Stuff, Eternal Light Jewelry, Lisa Gent Creative Jewelry Design and Mobile T-Shirt Shop.

To create an m-commerce site through Mobile Store Maker, retailers can use a set-up wizard to manually enter products for the site. But App Publishing recommends its Excel spreadsheet system. Retailers enter in a spreadsheet the SKUs, product names, product descriptions, prices, image file names, and additional attributes such as size or color. Then they name all image files and zip everything together. They upload the zipped file into Mobile Store Maker and it instantly creates the m-commerce site, the company says.

App Publishing stresses its low cost of entry into m-commerce. “We do not have any hidden fees or take per-transaction fees,” says Bill Broadbent, CEO. “We’re going to make our revenue on the monthly fees per store and in helping retailers tailor stores and apps. We’re keeping costs very transparent.”

The company also has unveiled Mobile Invoicer, a system for businesspeople on the go who can use their smartphones as virtual point-of-sale terminals. And, Broadbent says, the company has a half-dozen other mobile products on the way.

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