PeC: How would you describe the merits of a hosted solution compared to various software solutions that are in the marketplace?
Krakovsky: I think it starts with the fundamental premise that people start businesses to sell products and services to customers, not necessarily deal with computer IT (information technology) issues. I think a great advantage of hosted solutions is that it removes a lot of headaches that you need to deal with on the IT side: There’s zero installation, there’s zero administration, you don’t need to know about patches, you don’t need to know about security holes, you don’t need to know about network operations, you don’t need to know about this techno-babble stuff that most small businesses don’t necessarily need or want to know about. You get scalability. You get reliability. You get load balancing if your business is a little more cyclical and you sell more during Christmas season. The really, really big merchants, who can absorb all this cost and can pay for the flexibility themselves, might benefit from a software solution. It’s our belief that, in the low end all the way pretty much to the really high-end merchants, hosted solutions give you more than the software solutions options.
PeC: What is the technical skill level needed to operate a hosted store?
Krakovsky: It really depends on how fancy and different you want to get. You can open a simple Yahoo! Store very easily. If you are familiar with what we have, and you read our manual or you talk with one of our consultants, you can probably do it in a day or a couple of days. If you have lots of products or you desire to have a really specific look and feel, and you need different kind of designs, that takes little bit longer. But in general, it’s not about your IT IQ, it’s really about figuring out what you want to do on your business side—what products you want to sell, what your best sellers are, how much you want to charge for them. So, we try to make it a business problem not a technological problem.
PeC: The stereotype many people have of hosted solutions is that they get only a few templates for site design. Are there custom-design options?
Krakovsky: It’s mostly limited by the imagination you have and the resources you want to spend on it. But, the fact it’s a hosted option doesn’t limit you at all. Pretty much everything you can do with a software option you can do with us. We just run it for you.
PeC: How does a hosted solution fare in a typical organic search?
Krakovsky: It’s obviously a very complicated question. How you end up in an organic search depends on how good of a site you have, the content you have, the links others have to you, the quality of information you provide on your section and item pages, etc. We spend quite a bit of time trying to make sure whatever parameters you choose, the way we implement it in our solution, they end up the most search-engine friendly as they can.
PeC: Do you see other trends in ecommerce of which small ecommerce businesses ought to be aware?
Krakovsky: To me, the highest level question is … how do I get the leads, how to I convert the leads and how do I make money on the leads? That’s really what most folks are thinking about, and the rest of the stuff is secondary to the mission. So I think a lot of future trends will have to do with being able to help merchant customers market effectively and deal with the complexity of whether I should optimize for search engines, buy some keywords, should I think about shopping (sites), should I think about affiliate programs, should I think about direct marketing, etc. There’s so much complexity associated with getting a lead right now. Frankly, a lot of merchants just don’t have enough time, money or other resources to deal with this complexity. I think, over time, that whole area is going to simplify significantly where a merchant is going to say, “Here’s how much I want to pay for this and just give me a qualified lead,” and we’ll need vendors to provide qualified leads for that.