So you have a great product and you want to start selling online? What are your options?
There are a few ways of doing it:
If you decide on this option you’ll need to set up a web hosting account and then install whichever eccommerce package you choose. This is only going to be an option if you’re comfortable with setting up and managing a web hosting account and have the confidence to deal with problems if they occur. It’s NOT an option for the novice as you are responsible for keeping the software up to date and ‘glitch’ free.
There are lots of open source shopping carts available – open source is free to use and is developed by the combined efforts of programmers and users that form a community around the project. They also have active support forums where you can go for help and advice for installing, settin up and managing your online store.
Thirdy party outlets are sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy. You generally pay a monthly fee to list items and then pay a comission when a product sells.
The advantage of selling on sites like these is that you have instant access to their huge customer base and many of them have a faithful following. From a practical point of view there’s also the advantage that you don’t have to worry about things like payment processing and site security, which of course these days is of utmost importance.
The downside is that you are at the whim of such sites and it’s not unheard of for changes in their policies or site to affect your sales, making you rather vulnerable and lacking in control. Most of them are also very customer centric which of course is not a bad thing in itself but many customers can use this as a form of bribery, knowing that threatening a seller with a negative review can sometimes mean they take advantage and make unreasonable demands!
You also have to pay commisions which can be as high as 20% of the selling price so you have to make sure you take this into account with your pricing.
From the outside this looks just like the first option – you have your own website on your own web address but this is where the similarity ends. You don’t have to set up the hosting or install the shopping cart, that’s all done by the shopping cart themselves. All you have to do is create your account and you’re good to start setting up your shop.
There are plenty of shopping carts to choose from, each varying in functionality and price but my two favourites have to be Shopify and Bigcommerce. They’re both very easy to set up and have lost of great functionality like being able to have product options (sell a shirt in different colours and/or sizes in one product).
Both have some good looking free templates so when you’re starting out you don’t need to pay a designer a fortune to get your shop looking decent.
Not sure which to choose? Both offer a free trial so set one up and have a play!