When Janice Whiting purchased Gourmet Dreams in 2004, the meal-delivery and catering business was still using a manual credit card swiper and a fax machine. And crazily enough -- considering the business is located in Silicon Valley and Whiting has a high-tech marketing background -- it stayed pretty much that way until 2014. She’d been focused on the culinary side and couldn’t afford a major tech overhaul. But as her four-employee business got busier, ordering and accounting became time-consuming for Whiting -- and a turnoff for her customers.
Gourmet Dreams had been operating like it was 1999: Customers had to download an order form, print it out and submit it via either fax or email. Then Whiting herself manually processed credit card orders and keyed data into QuickBooks accounting software. Eventually she decided to replace all this with 3DCart, e-commerce software she chose because it integrated simply with her company website and QuickBooks, and provided a simple online shopping cart to handle ordering, payment and shipping.
If Whiting hadn’t upgraded to 3DCart, Gourmet Dreams “wouldn’t be in business” today, she says. The time she spends on orders, accounting and invoicing each week has shrunk from a day and a half to just a few hours, allowing her to focus more on cooking food and building the company. Since the switch, revenues have gone up roughly 20 to 30 percent annually in the past couple of years. And 3DCart doesn’t take much to run: She pays $36 a month (prices start as low as $20), and unlike some of its competitors, the platform doesn’t charge transaction fees.
A Second Opinion
There are many e-commerce options for small businesses, including Shopify, Volusion and BigCommerce. They can look similar, but they’re not, says Dean Peckenpaugh, a Houston-based e-commerce consultant. “The big questions are: What other third-party systems [such as accounting software] can they plug into? And can the platform be implemented without a developer?” he says. Beyond that, look for -- at minimum -- a platform with integrated, streamlined shipping and payment tools, plus templates that allow you to customize the look and feel of a website’s cart and individual product pages.
David Port is a freelancer based in Denver who writes on small business, and financial and energy issues.
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