November 12, 2012, 5:00 PM

A start-up e-retailer finds answers, even when he’s not sure of the questions

Fred Kinney of GlobalZombie.com relies on consultants from e-retail software provider BigCommerce.

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Fred Kinney, owner of zombie products and geek toys store GlobalZombie.com, launched his web store in August after just a month of work setting up his e-commerce site, hosted by e-commerce technology platform vendor Bigcommerce Pty. Ltd., he says. Within a week he was making sales, he says, and he’s now generating $600 to $800 per week in revenue. 

Kinney had never sold online before—though he owned a restaurant for 20 years prior to opening Global Zombie, he says. So he took advantage of the marketing tools in the Bigcommerce e-commerce platform, including posting product listings to auction sites like eBay and comparison shopping sites like Bizrate and Nextag, he says. He also used the platform to reach out to consumers on social networks—his Facebook page now boasts 2,500 Likes—and to launch e-mail marketing campaigns.

However, what Kinney found most valuable was Bigcommerce’s consultating services, he says. In the beginning he became discouraged a at times when he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t making sales for a few days at a time, he says, so he set up the free consultation that came with the platform. The consultant he worked with was able to answer all his questions within his 50-minute consultation provided, he says.

“Everything she recommended, I did,” he says. Now he pays $50 for weekly sessions with the consultant. “She was able to answer all my questions even though I wasn’t able to explain them—I didn’t know any technical terms or anything.”

The consultant is part of what BigCommerce calls its “success squad,” which also helps clients to launch sites in a few days and drive traffic to their stores, says co-CEO Eddie Machaalani. “One thing we found early on was we could easily get retailers up and running, but they couldn’t figure out how to drive traffic,” he says. The company hired search engine optimization experts to configure the Bigcommerce platform so that client retailers’ pages are more likely to rank high in Google searches, he says. For example, sites automatically include a site map, custom URLs—for example yourstore.com/products/cool_art  versus yourstore.com/PS39451,default,pd.html, which might result from another platform’s default URL naming system—and the meta tags that the search engine looks for, he says. Meta tags are pieces of software code that identify content on a web page, enabling search engine spiders to recognize the content, even if it’s graphics files that spiders can’t crawl.

Bigcommerce also offers clients platform extensions in an app store. The internally developed ones are free, Machaalani says, while those built by other developers are available for fees that range from $20 to $50 per month. The 200 apps in the store include integrations to popular accounting software like Intuit Inc.’s QuickBooks or e-mail marketing software from Constant Contact Inc., he says. Additionally, Bigcommerce established a $2 million fund that it uses to encourage developers to build new apps, he says. Bigcommerce has so far spent about a quarter of that on funding the work of roughly 70 companies.

The built-in marketing tools and the app store help Bigcommerce cater to small and niche businesses, as well as brands entering e-commerce for the first time, Machaalani says. Its Internet-hosted software is available in subscriptions ranging from roughly $25 per month up to $300 per month.

“They made it really easy, so with zero experience I was able to do it on my own,” Kinney of GlobalZombie says. He pays $35.99/month for the vendor’s silver plan.

With almost 30,000 clients in multiple industries and in 60 countries—though 70-80% of clients are in North America—Bigcommerce has been growing more than 100% year over year in terms of both revenue and employee headcount, according to Machaalani. The company employs 160 staff globally, it says; It declines to share specific revenue.

Bigcommerce’s clients include sports shoes and apparel retailer 33-off.com, No. 999 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide.

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