In this (rather long) blog post, I want to tell you the story that led to the creation of our new integrated app store and development platform we’re announcing today. If you’d rather hear less story and more details, just click here to jump to the details on the new platform.
Before I jump into the back story of how our platform was built and how it’s changed, here’s a quick video we’ve put together to give you a 60 second overview of what’s launching today:
Why platform companies are important
I admire platform companies like Salesforce and Facebook. Both companies realized the benefits of providing a platform based on open standards so developers around the world could build on top of what they’d already created. Not only does this lead to massive value for those companies and the developers who build on them, but it provides an order of magnitude gain in features, customizability and integration capabilities for their customers, too. Long story short, it helps their customers and users be more successful, however that’s defined.
Salesforce revolutionized what a CRM means to modern businesses and Facebook changed the way businesses engage with customers. Both of course have gone on to achieve huge success, with millions of businesses standardizing on Salesforce and billions of people relying on Facebook every month. One thing both Salesforce and Facebook have in common is a continued investment in building great platforms. And I believe all great software businesses are platforms.
So how does all of this talk about platforms apply to Bigcommerce?
The journey from product to platform
Well, over the last 18 months we’ve been busy making the shift from product to platform. And we’ve progressed along this journey with multiple milestones. First up, we introduced our API way back in 2011. This actually came about as a result of a chat I was having with our first investor, Larry Bohn from General Catalyst. “Mitch, Bigcommerce is great, but why don’t you have an API yet??!!” Six weeks later, version 1.0 of our API went live. Uptake by our 500 design and development partners at the time was fast.
Fast forward to 2012 when we rolled out version 2.0 of our API (RESTful, JSON) and our $2 million integration fund, which lead to almost 200 apps being created that worked with Bigcommerce. We gave away a lot of cash to our amazing development partners and it was great to see not just how many apps were built, but how many new businesses were built on top of Bigcommerce. Several of these “app businesses” that sprung up as one or two person startups (building apps like loyalty programs, analytics and marketing dashboards) have now received millions of dollars in venture capital and are doing amazing things to help us improve commerce for small business.
It was at this point that we’d made the transition from being a piece of e-commerce software to becoming a commerce platform. And this change was measured in a few different ways. First, we had over 3,000 design and development partners not just building apps on Bigcommerce but also integrating their client’s stores with all sorts of software and services. Next, usage of our API sky rocketed to hundreds of thousands of calls per hour. Finally, we started to eat our own dog food, using our APIs to build all new features and capabilities for Bigcommerce, specifically our mobile apps for iOS and Android (where usage numbers are absolutely mind blowing, plus they’re great apps with 4 and 4.5 star ratings).
Our new app store and commerce platform
So by mid-2012 we had the broadest and deepest APIs of any commerce platform (that we’re still investing heavily in). We had a strong network of amazing design and development partners. We were helping new startups gain traction and funding by building on top of Bigcommerce. We also, very importantly, remained (and continue to remain) technology agnostic and open, which means we don’t recommend one app over another, but instead work with all software and service providers to help integrate them with our platform. Plus, we don’t compete with our development partners by seeing which apps do well and then building them into our platform.
With all of this, we were still missing a way to connect all of these apps back to what matters — helping our clients Sell More. So today I’m excited to tell you about the next milestone we’re unveiling, which has two parts. First, an app store and launch bar built right into Bigcommerce, making it easy for you to find, install and manage apps. Second, an open development platform and portal which allows our development partners to build, submit and generate revenue from the apps they build on top of Bigcommerce.
Our new integrated app store
Part of being a true platform means having a seamless and delightful experience for your clients, regardless of what they’re trying to do. While our app store was great, the experience of finding, installing and managing apps was less than ideal. By bringing the app store right into the Bigcommerce experience, we’ve made it easy to browse, search, install and manage all of the apps you use with Bigcommerce.
Installing apps is easy too, much like on Apple iTunes or Google Play. Once you’ve found the app you like, just click the install button and in one click it will be added to your launch bar, which shows all of the apps you’ve installed. No need to create an account at the app’s website, have separate logins, copy and paste any code, etc. We now take care of that for you automatically.
Our new developer platform and portal
To compliment our new app store, we’ve spent just as much time working on the user experience for our development partners (we love you guys and gals!). Not only have we made oAuth available for seamless authentication, we’ve also built a brand new developer portal from scratch, which allows you to learn how to build apps, submit them for approval, watch them through the (fast) approval process and also get insight into how many times they’ve been installed and how much revenue you’ve generated. For all paid apps, you’ll receive 70 percent of revenue.
Because the app store launch bar is part of the Bigcommerce experience, your apps receive huge exposure to our 50,000+ clients every time they go to the app store. By bringing the app store into Bigcommerce, we not only make it easier for our clients to find and use apps, but we give you as a developer a much better chance of having your app seen by our clients because accessing the app store is now so easy.
The first development platform built just for commerce
So I’ve taken you on a bit of a journey as to why we’ve built our integrated app store and development platform. I’ve also explained why I think platform companies are important. But the reason I’m the most excited for this release is because it’s yet another way we can help you, our Bigcommerce clients, Sell More.
I hope you’ll browse the app store and give some of the new apps a try. If you’re a developer, make sure you check out our new developer portal for everything you need to build apps that run on the Bigcommerce platform.
Thanks for reading and watch this space — there’s a lot more to come — both apps and features…
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