We initially set out to have an Early Adopter Preview in June but I was overly optimistic on that date. Today I’m pleased to announce that our first round of Early Adopters have already been sent access to their private stores to begin providing feedback. We’re focusing on those customers that have a live storefront store and are hosted with Applied Innovations.
In this article, I’d like to provide additional information related to the work that has been accomplished to date.
Storefront Import Tool
A key focus for our team has been on the Storefront Import Tool. Store owners today that utilize storefront are our #1 focus for our new platform. Today the storefront import tool will do the following:
- Import existing store categories and sub categories ensuring that relationship remains intact.
- Import products into categories and along with the import bring over the following attributes/tags:
- Product Name
- Product SKU
- Product Price
- Product Status (Active, Disabled)
- Product Descriptions (Long Description, Short Description)
- Product Meta Data
- Product Retail Price
- Product Sale Price
- Product Internal Costs
- Tax Schedule
- Shipping Properties (Weight, Length, Width, Height, Extra Fees)
- Product Image URLS
- Product Inventory
- Import Customers
- Import all customer details such as name, address, email.
- Import customer’s address book (list of addresses and shipping contacts)
- Import Orders
- Import all existing orders and associate orders with customer.
- Import all order line items
- Import all order pricing.
- Import order shipping status
- Import order payment status
- Associate orders to customers
As you can tell a good deal of work has gone into the storefront import tool. Because of the several different versions of storefront over the years it each version seems to have modified the database structure and required tweaks to the import tool. We believe we’ve addressed all of these but continue to work towards that goal.
Storefront Shopping Cart Preview Release 1
We’ve been working towards Storefront version Preview Release 1 over the past few months and realize we’re a couple weeks behind where we had hoped to be. We’re building the framework for a modern e-commerce platform and not just another shopping cart so this initial development is really key to our overall mission. Here are the features that are ready for testing today:
- Mobile Responsive site design framework. Our solution is built on top of ASP.NET MVC and uses the bootstrap framework. What this means is that it will be easy for developers to build new themes, add-ons and extend the functionality of Storefront moving forward with minimal effort. By building the solution so that it’s mobile responsive you’ll have the ability to not only accept orders on any type of device (important considering roughly 50% of all online transactions today occur on a mobile device) but also able to manage your store, products and orders from any device and any location.
- In-Page Content Editing. This is something I’m extremely proud to say we have today. This is also what’s held us back from announcing our first round of previews as well. The in-page editor allows you to edit page content without the need of any 3rd party software or tools. You simply open the page you wish to edit, click on the content area you want to edit and edit it. Changes are saved immediately! This will be very powerful and will really streamline operation for storefront merchants today.
- Payment Processing. Let’s face it, having an ecommerce store today is important for merchants but being able to take payments online is critical. Today our solution integrates with PayPal, PayPal Express and Authorize.net. We’re currently working on Stripe integration but would like feedback from our preview merchants as to whether this is sufficient or not. Of course the ability to enable offline options such as: Purchase Orders, Company Account, Check, Cash on Delivery and Telephone are all included as well.
- Robust Shipping Options. We support a number of different shipping options. We believe we have covered the most important options today including:
- Rate by Total
- Rate by Quantity
- Rate by Weight
- Rate per Item
- Real-time FedEx Rates
- Real-time UPS Rates
- Real-time USPS Rates
- Sales Tax Collection & Reporting. Today we support the ability to configure sales tax rate tables manually. Enabling you to set rates for specific countries, states, postal codes and define if tax should apply to shipping fees or not. We’re actively working on integration with Avalara as that’s the most commonly requested real-time tax calculation service we’ve heard from our merchants. We’d love additional feedback here.
- Regional & Language Settings. We know today it’s a global economy and the new storefront is set to serve the global economy. You’ll have the ability to localize your store to meet any language and currency in the world.
- Product Variants. We realize many products today come in different colors, sizes, shapes, etc and these variants may be priced differently. We support the ability to define variants and variant prices and then automatically create all product combinations based on these variants today. A huge time savings for merchants.
- Social Integration. We’re just getting started but we support integration with Twitter and Facebook today.
- Analytics, Trackers and Integrations. Today almost everyone uses Google Analytics and Google E-Commerce Tags and that’s included out of the box. In addition we’ll also support custom tracking codes such as integration with Google Tag Manager for other 3rd party tools like Split Testing, Conversion Tracking and Retargeting.
- Reporting. Reporting will be a major component to our platform and we’re just getting started. Today we have some basic reports, orders, products, customer and stock reports are all built out today. Additional reporting will not be far behind.
- Mailing Lists and Email Templates. Email integration is key to online commerce today and we’ve integrated some basic mailing list functionality and email template customization for our merchants today. We’re working towards additional integrations here and have a few unique surprises in store as we get close to production launch.
So that’s a quick overview of where we’re at today. I hope you see that although we’ve been delayed a couple weeks to get where we’re at, it’s been well worth the delay. What’s not included above is the additional themes for the store. Today we’re working off of a developer theme which is very generic. It’s key we get the overall form and function dialed in before we complicate things with design. Our developers and designers are working on a set of additional themes and new themes will be released soon but today we’re focused on functionality and ensuring our merchants have the ability to manage their stores effectively.
I’d like to include a list of upcoming features and their release timelines but we’re at a pretty critical point in initial development. We’d like our customers and merchants that are relying on our platform to define what those features are and how important they are. We’ll be releasing a series of surveys to our merchants and asking them to help shape what features come next. Over the month of July we hope to finalize version 1.0 and have a formal production release before the end of the month. We’ll continue to add features and functionality to the cart but we know e-commerce season for most merchants is just around the corner and we want to make sure they’re ready.