Recently, in the world of eCommerce, PrestaShop has been making somewhat of a splash.
It serves a massive community of around 700,000 merchants, and has been in business since 2007, but 2014 has probably been its most expressive year to date. The release of PrestaShop 1.6 brought about a face lift on all fronts, a bunch of genuinely useful features, and a more focused approach to statistics.
To get a deeper understanding of PrestaShop's story, I was given the opportunity to ask Sabrina Marechal a few questions.
Introducing Sabrina Marechal
Sabrina Marechal is no newcomer. She joined PrestaShop in November 2007 as a Communications specialist.
As PrestaShop expanded, she built a Marketing and Communications department within the company gathering 20+ team members. By early 2011, Sabrina has moved to PrestaShop's US office in order to create a Marketing Department responsible for PrestaShop's expansion in the Americas.
Today, with a fully cross-border Marketing team, Sabrina now focuses on expanding the area of Product Marketing within PrestaShop.
1. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to be the Director of Product Marketing at PrestaShop?
I’ve been with PrestaShop since November of 2007 where I started as a Communications Specialist. At that time, the whole team was made of about 10 people. Today, we’re over 100!
In 2011, we opened our Miami office. Since then, I've built a Marketing Team now comprised of 20 team members. From the time I started, I’ve really seen the Community growing around PrestaShop and the product evolve thanks to its input. That's why today I've decided to focus on product marketing: to highlight to the world how great our software and our Community's contributions are!
2. There's no shortage of eCommerce platforms on the market today, and I don't see that changing any time soon. What makes PrestaShop unique?
I would say that what makes PrestaShop so unique is its openness, and the amazing Community that results from it. With over 700,000 members, as a PrestaShop user, you know that you can rely on someone anytime if you have questions or need any advice, simply by connecting on our forums or social networks.
The Community is also a great source of input and contribution to the software: we get feedback and features from all over the world, helping us make the most powerful and international ecommerce software.
Further than just being Open source, this openness is also present through our User Club. We’re the only ecommerce solution with a User Club made of merchants and developers, that we consult during the development of a new feature or a significant change within the software to make sure it answers their needs.
PrestaShop is a software made for the user, with the user.
3. Speaking of PrestaShop being an open-source platform, what does that mean to the average online merchant, and what kind of edge does that give you over proprietary platforms?
Being Open source means a lot for us because it helped us grow so much, and so internationally. When we launched PrestaShop, it was translated into 15 languages in less than a year, with users in France, Italy, UK, USA but also Indonesia, Brazil etc. Just thanks to word of mouth!
The input that you’re able to get when you’re Open source is remarkable.
For our users this means that they can do anything they want with our software. If they need a custom feature, they can get it by either creating it themselves or by working with a freelancer or an agency. They definitely don’t have to wait for a future release! And that’s what gives us edge over proprietary platforms: the ability to be more reactive, to evolve much faster and more internationally thanks to the input of external developers.
Even after so many years at PrestaShop, I’m still amazed to see that we power online stores on little islands, including Micronesia!
4. As I covered in a previous article, PrestaShop are big on Community. What does a strong community mean to you, and why is it so important?
To me, a strong Community means a strong product. When you have so many people sharing their feedback with you, your product only can be better and better.
Also, our Community members act as true ambassadors for us and as a great source of ideas and suggestions. It’s thanks to them that we are where we are today.
Our Community is literally our ecosystem: from web agencies to merchants, to developers and designers, our Community is PrestaShop.
5. Does PrestaShop have any plans to expand its online community in any way? You guys already have a buzzing online forum, but I'm interested in finding out about any other ideas that may be in the works. Perhaps a simple “Off Topic” forum section for members to show some more personality?
Our product is at the heart of everything and I do believe that our next product release will naturally bring a lot of new members to our Community, especially merchants starting online. They’ll appreciate how they can rely on our active Community for advice and tips from people who went through the same path.
6. So far, what would you say PrestaShop's greatest achievement has been?
Our greatest achievement EVER is currently in Beta ;-)
Our upcoming Cloud solution is really going to shake up the ecommerce industry by breaking all the barriers a merchant can encounter while creating an online store, either financial or technical. With it, we’re truly in phase with our vision to make ecommerce accessible to all.
With that said, so far, I'd say the release of PrestaShop 1.6 was a very exciting journey for us and the success it achieved has been amazing. During the first 24hrs, it was downloaded 17,500 times, i.e every 5 seconds from everywhere in the world. The success of 1.6 has also allowed us to reach our 200,000th online store which was a great step.
7. The Cloud beta is definitely an exciting step, I can't wait to see it live in action. Version 1.6, as you mentioned, was similarly momentous. In fact, since 1.6 released, I've seen PrestaShop spearheading its way into the spotlight of the eCommerce industry, competing more fiercely with other platforms, free, open-source, hosted, proprietary or otherwise. With that being said, what can we expect to see from PrestaShop in both the near and far future?
Well, in the very near future, expect the official launch of our Cloud solution.
We’re also working hard on our taxes system, and some key interfaces within the back-office (such as the order page, the catalog page…), these improvements will be included in our next releases.
Worth to mention that we’re also thinking about launching products on ecommerce markets where PrestaShop isn’t present yet.
8. In particular, the Intelligent Merchant KPI and forecasting features of PrestaShop 1.6 seriously impressed me. Can you expand on those features, and explain why PrestaShop felt they were important to introduce?
The Intelligent Merchant KPIs come from our commitment to give merchants the power to know exactly what’s happening in their business, in real time, and help them to make the right decisions.
Sometimes merchants just look at their sales and think they’re doing well, but the real answer hides behind the customer acquisition cost, the shipping cost, the transaction fees, the merchandise price… That’s why we have made this information accessible at a glance on the dashboard. Our merchants don’t have to calculate anything, they get the insights in real time, are able to make smarter choices in their business and become more successful.
9. PrestaShop 1.6 also brought about a revamped back office user interface. Was the facelift just as important as the more technical implementations?
Yes! Our users’ everyday experience with the software must be smooth, efficient and appreciable. It was time for us to implement a new interface, totally responsive for our merchants on the go, and super easy to work with. People love it, and so do we. To me PrestaShop 1.6 is the most beautiful version we’ve ever released and the feedback we got was amazing.
10. Now, back to the cloud. You guys recently announced the beta for PrestaShop Cloud, something I'm personally pumped to see in action. What can you tell us about PrestaShop Cloud? What makes it different to “normal” PrestaShop?
I can say that our Cloud solution will shake up the market! Basically, you’ll be able to create an online store in minutes thanks to a super quick onboarding. Plus, this store will be hosted for free, and will offer the same powerful features as a “normal” PrestaShop. We’re committed to break the barriers that e-merchants encounter while creating an online business. That’s truly ecommerce for all!
Regarding the hosting, we know that site speed and performance is key to maintaining a successful online store. That’s why we’ve teamed up with a powerhouse in quality hosting, OVH. OVH has over 700,000 customers worldwide, and their servers (based in Europe and Canada) are equipped with the latest Intel processors and high performance SSD hard drives to ensure your store will be quick to take orders and make sales.
The question that we usually get is “How can we make it free?” Well, the same way PrestaShop is completely free, through our trusted partnerships with industry leaders and the thousands of Addons extra features. These partnerships and Addons give you access to tools aimed at making your online store successful. It also allows PrestaShop to remain free forever.
If you can’t wait to see it in action, sign up for our exclusive Beta program! It is the best way to start using our hosted solution before anybody else.
11. Finally, with the 2014 CMS Awards almost over, is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to add that our whole team is very thankful for the mission we accomplish every day: helping our merchants be more successful. It’s a great feeling to see people selling more and more, and expanding their business. Winning this Award would make us even more proud.
To find out more about PrestaShop, check out their website.
Or, explore more of PrestaShop via our CMS Directory.