February 28, 2013, 5:44 PM

A gift e-retailer gets a gift from a vendor—a free tablet-optimized site

Start-up technology firm ShopPad is providing tablet sites for free to Shopify clients.

Lead Photo

The e-retailer's tablet-optimized site.

It’s easy to make a return on investment when a vendor is giving away technology for free. Such is the case with ShopPad, a vendor that optimizes an e-retailer’s e-commerce site for tablets for free. There’s one catch, though: An e-retailer must be using the e-commerce platform of Shopify, a vendor with which the start-up ShopPad has partnered to gain real-world insights into its technology.

ShopPad is currently in its angel round of financing and hasn’t yet revealed how much it has raised. But the company does say it has attracted as investors some top names from Silicon Valley, including: Allen Morgan, managing director of Idealab, which creates companies; Scott Rafer, founder of MyBlogLog, which was acquired by Yahoo; Oren Michels, CEO of Mashery, which manages APIs for businesses; and Ric Calvillo, CEO of Nanigans, a mobile and social advertising company.

Get Your Gift Here is taking advantage of the free ShopPad tablet-optimization technology. The online gift shop that specializes in collectibles, home, garden and seasonal décor, launched its e-commerce site on the Shopify platform in September 2012. It pays Shopify $179 a month for the e-commerce platform. It went with Shopify after trying two other platforms that failed to provide robust features and functions and integrated applications, which Shopify was able to provide, says Katie Taylor, CEO of Get Your Gift Here. One of those integrated applications was tablet-optimized sites through ShopPad.

During the first two months of operation, Get Your Gift Here saw tremendous growth in traffic stemming from tablets, Taylor says.

“We knew we needed to provide tablet users with a way to use our site, so we looked around for an application that was compatible with the Shopify platform,” Taylor says. “Through Shopify I read the specifications of ShopPad, installed it and didn’t really think much more about it until suddenly I noticed that our average order size for this one referral source listed as getyourgifthere.theshoppad.com was $88.40, and I was getting a sale every 20 visitors. Visitors were staying on this site longer and purchasing at a much higher rate than desktop PC visitors.”

These findings made Taylor send her husband out to purchase their first iPad.

“It didn’t take me long to understand why our customers like the ShopPad-optimized site,” Taylor says. “The visual images draw customers into the store and the Pinterest-style collection board makes it easy for customers to scan the web site and find the category of items they would like to view.”

Google Analytics show Taylor that 13% of total traffic at Get Your Gift Here is mobile and 59% of mobile shoppers access the site from an iPad. “So needless to say, we are now actively focusing on further optimizing our ShopPad site in order to make it even easier for our customers to find exactly what they want in a visually appealing manner,” she says.

Behind the scenes, ShopPad built a tablet site framework that uses JavaScript and HTML5, a web programming language that enables developers to create web sites that appear and function like mobile apps. A retailer embeds a line of JavaScript code on its e-commerce site that redirects tablet shoppers to the tablet version of the e-retail site hosted on ShopPad servers.

“When a merchant installs ShopPad we sync and mirror their entire store and put it on our servers, so if shoppers come in through Google or e-mail links or type in the URL, they don’t have to do anything, the optimized version is seamlessly served from our servers,” says Aaron Wadler, founder and CEO of ShopPad. “The merchant does not have to worry about coding or anything, we are getting all their information through their API. The merchant can manage their desktop site and changes are automatically made to the tablet site through the API.”

ShopPad’s tablet optimization is the first product among many envisioned by Wadler and his team. Though the plan is to charge for these additional technologies.

“First we’ll get average order value and conversion rates up on the tablet sites so we can prove the best practices, so we are very interested in being used by a wide range of verticals with a lot of different products,” Wadler says. “At this point we’re not focused on revenue, only on improving our product. We see our tablet product as one of our early products and then we’ll be able to offer the same type of services for additional screens, from the iPhone to Android devices even to Google Glass and all the new sorts of devices coming out very rapidly today. That’s our long-term plan.”

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