With 30K Active Online Stores, Weebly Launches DIY eCommerce Platform To Take On Amazon And Shopify

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Startups Pitching A “Netflix For E-Books” May Have A Tough Sell

On the heels of Wix’s debut on the NASDAQ this morning, another veteran website builder is responding with some big news of its own. Since launching in 2006 (the same year as Wix), Weebly has taken a slightly different approach to website creation than its competitors: By catering to entrepreneurs. Today, Weebly users have created over 20 million websites using the company’s DIY platform and, of those users, more than 60 percent self-identify as entrepreneurs, co-founder David Rusenko tells us.

Thanks to these small business owners, Weebly now hosts over 30,000 active online stores, which collectively bring in $13 million in sales every month. In response, Weebly has spent the last two years building an eCommerce platform to help these mom-and-pop entrepreneurs boost online sales and let anyone get their own store up and running in a few minutes.

Launching today, Weebly’s new eCommerce platform aims to bring simple online store creation to the masses, Rusenko says, and will provide businesses access to a mobile store and checkout, filtered product search advanced merchandising and an integrated shopping cart. The company’s new eCommerce tools will be available for free, which includes support for businesses selling up to five products. From there, Weebly offers a handful of plans and pricing options that range from $4/month to $29/month, depending on the number of items one is looking to sell.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 6.32.46 PMUp to this point, Weebly’s eCommerce tools have been pretty limited, offering basic support for PayPal and Google Checkout and 150 templates as part of its website creation tools, but that’s about it. With its new eCommerce platform, however, Weebly is taking dead aim at both Amazon, Etsy and Shopify, providing a simple, easy-to-use alternative for anyone looking to sell their wares online.

As a part of this upgrade, Weebly now offers the ability for businesses to quickly create merchant accounts with either Stripe and Authorize.net (and Rusenko says more are on their way), along with a handful of tools that let them calculate VAT and shipping costs, track orders and offer simple product search functionality. Plus, in a move designed to help it cater to a larger market, Weebly’s new eCommerce tools will also include support for international payments.

The other potentially big draw is the addition of flexible shipping and tax options, which may seem like a minor feature but could has big appeal for resource-strapped small businesses, allowing them to offer free shipping on select orders, define carriers and speed while adjusting rates based on location.

Rusenko tells us that online stores can now be edited on the Web or through Weebly’s mobile app, and in an effort to prove to an incredulous reporter, showed that the process can be completed on both platforms in less than five minutes, which is pretty cool. To convert its new eCommerce offering into business, Weebly will take 3 percent of sales that take place on its sites — for free users, there’s no fee for users of its “Business Plan” — which, for mom-and-pops should compare favorably with Amazon’s 6 to 15 percent sale price and Etsy’s 3.5 percent.

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The idea, the co-founder says, is to lower the barriers to eCommerce and get as many people signed on as possible by allowing anyone to be up and running with their own mini Amazon store in five minutes or less. To show the size of the opportunity he thinks is available to Weebly by taking this tap, Rusenko tells us that the team found that, while the top 500 merchants on Amazon are doing just fine, the second group of 500 is growing exponentially faster.

By making a set of simple eCommerce tools available for free, Rusenko hopes that the company can start to lure these Amazon “Next 500″ types, along with the scores of small businesses without much presence online, over to Weebly’s side.

Based on its continuing growth and the expected revenue boost from its new eCommerce option, Weebly recently signed a lease on 36,000-square feet of a historic warehouse in SOMA in downtown San Francisco, which will become its new headquarters. As part of this move, the company also plans to begin a major expansion which will see it add up to 500 new employees across the globe. Apparently, life is good in Website Creation Land.