For more than a decade, BV Software has been building and selling commercial .NET shopping cart software. Now, they’re releasing an open-source project – MerchantTribe – based on the award winning BV Commerce software. Applied Innovations met with Marcus McConnell, founder and president of BV Software, to talk about this exciting new launch.
Applied Innovations: Tell us about MerchantTribe, Marcus.
Marcus McConnell: MerchantTribe is a free, open-source ecommerce application that is designed specifically to help customers build better stores. It’s an ASP.NET MVC platform in C# based on our flagship BV Commerce shopping cart application.
AI: What’s special about MerchantTribe?
MM: MerchantTribe is a free, open-source platform that provides specific intelligence to help build better online stores. It takes shopping carts to the next level beyond feature-focused to performance-focused.
More than 2 billion people will be online spending more than $1.4 trillion by 2015. But creating successful stores is more difficult than ever. MerchantTribe makes it easier by analyzing real-world data from our stores to identify best-practices and share specific things store owners can do to improve their sales.
AI: Is this just an open-source version of BV Commerce?
MM: MerchantTribe is a rebranding of BV Commerce, but it’s much more than that.
We were inspired to develop MerchantTribe because we saw a lot of small business merchants struggling to be successful. Early on, the problem was lack of good tools. Now, they have great software and all these social networks at their fingertips but don’t know how to get traffic to their site or optimize it.
We are, in fact, rebranding the whole company and product line MerchantTribe, so we’ll offer both an open-source and commercial version of the software. An announcement has gone out to our existing customer base and we hope to have the transition completed by end of year.
AI: So an online store owner builds a great site, and he gets on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube. But he’s not sure how to really take advantage of that, or what impact it will have on his site’s success.
AI: And MerchantTribe offers a solution to this?
MM: Yes. BV Software has been in the shopping cart business for over 10 years, and we’ve done a lot of research. Even the so called experts on ecommerce don’t have good data on the impact of using different sized checkout buttons, background colors or positioning of call-to-action elements. Gartner and Forrester do great research and offer excellent analysis on large companies, but smaller ecommerce businesses don’t offer large enough samples individually. Collectively, however, all of these small online stores have this great resource. Thousands of little stores can aggregate data and grow by learning from best practices across the board.
AI: Power in numbers, right? By pooling the analytics from multiple smaller sources, you have access to greater business intelligence.
MM: Yes. And by design, we need as many people as possible using MerchantTribe for it to thrive. We need thousands of Merchants, Developers and Designers to participate and help us improve the software and the community. The more participants, the more robust and valuable the analytics will be. That’s why we made it a free, open-source application.
AI: When did you start building MerchantTribe?
MM: MerchantTribe is based on BV Commerce 6, which we stared building about two years ago. For this version, we took a different approach: instead of selling individual copies, we built a hosted platform. Then about six months ago, we started developing the analytics component and rebranding it as MerchantTribe.
AI: So is MerchantTribe is essentially an open-source version of BV Commerce 6?
MM: The features and functionality are the same, with some additional product page templates and the analytics template. But now we will offer both a free open-source version of MerchantTribe and a commercial version.
AI: What will be different about the open-source and commercial versions of MerchantTribe?
MM: There are three differences.
First, as with any open source license, any customization has to be given away for free. That’s the obligation of open source.
Second, the open source version doesn’t come with any support. Of course, the community will offer support, but there won’t be formal support.
Third, if an open source user switches over to the commercial version of MerchantTribe, they’ll have the option to turn off the analytics information sharing. This means they’ll lose the insight that MerchantTribe provides, but they can integrate their own analytics. They will also be able to maintain propriety over any customization they may choose to implement.
AI: BV Software and Applied Innovations go way back. What do you think is important about a partnership like this?
MM: Yes, BV Software has partnered with Applied Innovations for over eight years. BV Commerce has long been available as a one-touch button install on Appliedi’s control panel, which is a testament to how committed you are to supporting our platform. And as soon as we have the latest installer available, the open-source version of MerchantTribe will also be available as a one-touch install through Applied Innovations.
AI: We’ve also worked together to ensure your latest version continues to support scalability, which is a key objective at Applied Innovations.
MM: Exactly. MerchantTribe is designed to easily scale up as a customer’s site evolves. This leverages Appliedi’s environment, which is set up to handle that type of scaling.
AI: Anything else we should know about MerchantTribe?
MM: We recently integrated the software with Acumatica — a .NET ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) package — into the commercial version of BV Commerce 6. This means a user can automatically send orders into the ERP system, integrate customer information, orders, shipments, etc.
Merchants, Developers and Designers to are encouraged to download, contribute and join the MerchantTribe today to get in on the ground floor of this exciting new platform.
Download from CodePlex at MerchantTribe
Source Code Hosted at http://github.com/mmcconnell1618/MerchantTribe
Documentation Available at http://merchanttribe.com
Online Demo Create a free store at http://www.bvcommerce.com
Twitter Follow MerchantTribe on Twitter @MerchantTribe