How do you know if it is time to move on from a venue-type online storefront? If you answer yes to any of these, it may very well be time.
- Have you started paying hundreds of dollars in advertising each month to generate the amount of sales you need to stay viable?
- Do you want some flexibility in the look and layout of your online shop?
- Are you already marketing yourself daily to the point where you feel like you are driving most of your sales yourself?
- Are you comfortable enough with HTML to make small edits yourself, or do you have someone who can make small changes on the site for you.
If you answered yes to any of these, it may very well be time.
Once you've made the decision to go out on your own, you have several options of how to get a shop up and running. They range from the basic and affordable to the extremely expensive. Every additional feature you want on your site is going to cost you, so keep that in mind when shopping around.
Step number 1. Register your own domain name. If you haven't already done this, take a break and go do it now. Go Daddy or Register.com are places I've used. It doesn't cost a lot, and it keeps you the owner and in control of your URL.
Step number 2. Decide what ecommerce solution is right for you.
This post will briefly discuss the "all in one" ecommerce solution. It is based on templates, fully functional without much work at all and often will cost a monthly fee.
Yahoo! shops is one example of this type. They have a one time set up fee (in Yahoo!'s case $50.00) plus a flat monthly fee ($39.95) plus a transaction fee (1.5%). So if you're making sales of about $5000/month - your fees to Yahoo! are about $114.00/ month. *** Those are fees to your host/provider only. You will also be paying a monthly merchant account fee.
An advantage to this type of set up, it's quick, it's easy and it really doesn't cost much. If it is a tried and true package, it may have good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which will help reduce your advertising expenses in the long run. It is an important question to ask before committing to a provider.
Another "all in one" solution is Volusion. Their pricing is based on the number of products you sell. An important thing to consider if you're a fabric shop. You may start out with 400 bolts, but when some of them don't sell and you buy more you'll find you're quickly at 600 then 1000 in the blink of an eye.
There are many more of these types of solutions out there - feel free to name your favorite in the comments. The two I've named are the ones I'm most familiar with. When looking into these kinds of solutions, it is best to figure out your own needs first. For example, if you want to sell fabric by the quarter yard, can they accommodate that? What is their administration panel like - is it easy enough to add products? Do they have gift card options? Newsletters? Is the shopping cart/ checkout easy to use? You get the picture. Make a wish list and start doing some research!
Next up: Your Own Web Shop - Part 2