E-commerce: The Secret Sauce for SMBs and Hosters

If you’ve sat in front of a television lately, chances are that you have seen an advertisement for a Do-It-Yourself website for your small business. Who would believe that in this hyper-wired world we live in that some businesses still don’t have a website? Clearly some don’t. And the fact that we’re getting bombarded with these offers every night during prime time shows you just how significant an opportunity exists.

DIY websites are all the rage. For the end-user, they are low-cost, low-risk, full-featured, and easy-to-use. For hosters, they are a great way to attract and retain new SMB customers, and to eventually sell them more services and increase ARPU. And, because of intuitive WYSIWYG design and editing tools, they are also fairly easy to support.

The jump from having no web presence to having a basic website can be dramatic for a SMB – suddenly they are discoverable and contactable – but it’s not the same as having a storefront with goods and services available for purchase 24/7/365. It’s like the difference between having a ‘business’ or a ‘business card’ at your web address.

Enter e-commerce, SaaS-style. Now SMBs have the ability to add very sophisticated, end-to-end e-commerce to their websites with little-to-no technical know-how. Now shopping carts, product catalog management, shipping, taxes, and mechanisms for receiving payments are all just a few mouse clicks away for any business that wants to sell online. Not only that, these platforms enable SMBs to surface their online stores on Facebook, share product purchases on social media networks, manage their stores via mobile phone, and more. And all of this functionality can be had for as little as a few dollars per month. 

Hosting is a numbers game, and it’s important to be constantly on-boarding new customers. But not all customers are created alike. Those with e-commerce shops are worth infinitely more to a hoster because they tend to spend more money to promote and protect their investments – custom domain names, SSL certificates, back-up, SEO, and CRM/email marketing are just a few of the additional services that SMBs add-on as their online businesses start to percolate. Given easy-to-use tools and quality service delivery, these SMBs will stay with you for the long-term, and continue to purchase additional services as they are needed. These are not your typical $5/month hosting customers – they are your golden tickets – and you should be chasing them to accelerate your own business growth.

Most SMBs looking for an entry-level website solution equipped with e-commerce will be fine in a shared hosting account, but some will require their own panel controlled server for a variety of reasons including performance, security, customization and control. Once they’ve made the move, it’s rare for them to downgrade back to a shared hosting account. By selling them on the value of dedicated resources, you can significantly increase ARPU. By providing them quality service and support, you can get them to recommend you. And by thinking about their businesses, and offering them additional services to enhance and grow it, you can keep them as customers indefinitely.

But if your approach to selling hosting is still price-based ‘good, better, best’ list of mailboxes, disk space and bandwidth, you may need to rethink how to sell to these largely non-technical users. You can continue to  sell them your $10/month ultimate plan, or you can offer them “Your business, open all day, every day.” Are you ready to make this pivot? Hosters who offer Parallels Web Presence Builder are!

Web Presence Builder is designed for hosters, and enables them to lead with their own full-featured, easy-to-use DIY website offer. It includes online store and shopping cart modules from Ecwid - a full-featured and affordable e-commerce widget that includes web, mobile and social stores managed from one control panel – and a free subscription limited to 10 catalog items. Market-savvy hosters can leverage ready-to-use marketing assets from Parallels - like the sample landing page shown above – and deliver campaigns and promotions specifically targeted at SMBs that want e-commerce. 

And to provide hosters an additional incentive, Parallels and Ecwid just announced a revenue sharing program that rewards hosters whose Web Presence Builder users upgrade to a premium Ecwid e-commerce subscription with 25% of that subscription. This can translate into $3.50 to $25 of additional revenue per user per month without even lifting a finger. Of course, should hosters wish to really capitalize on this opportunity, they can always run their own campaigns and actively promote premium Ecwid subscriptions to their SMB customers. And to sweeten the deal, Ecwid will manage all aspects of the program including tracking, reporting and payment. All the partner needs to do is to inform Ecwid of their desire to participate, and Ecwid will provide a single tracking code which a shared hosting partners adds to their Web Presence Builder configuration file. This revenue sharing program is available to Parallels partners who offer Web Presence Builder as part of their shared hosting offers, as well as to partners who attach Parallels Plesk Panel with Web Presence Builder to leased servers.

E-commerce is the secret sauce for SMBs because it can help them to grow revenue,  expand their reach and discoverability, attract new customers, and fulfill orders - all day, every day. It is the secret sauce for hosters because it enables them to market to a specific, lucrative, customer segment with a clear, non-technical value proposition with language and tools that SMBs can understand. And with the opportunity to effortlessly earn additional revenue each month, it’s a very sweet sauce at that.

Parallels Partners can learn more about the Ecwid revenue share program, and access Web Presence Builder marketing resources on Parallels PartnerNet (login required).

Posted on October 22, 2013 and filed under Cloud Service Delivery.