Bryan Seeds

6Apr/110

HOWTO : Select Your eCommerce Shopping Cart

Overview

So you want to sell something online, and you are sick of using eBay and Amazon, or you want to mix it up and scale out by opening your very own online store on top of using those services.  Well, that is fantastic! Now comes the big question, which shopping cart and approach is the best for me?  Do I need to hire a web designer, a marketing company, a programmer?  How are the customers going to be secured?  How are people going to find my site?  How much does something like this usually cost?

Well, no doubt there are a lot of questions for a newcomer or even a junior, when it comes to ecommerce.  After having over 14 years experience with ecommerce programming and electronic data interchange, I wanted to share some insights.

First I will address the question, "How much does something like this usually cost".  Well, as always, "it depends".   Some key reasons behind that statement are pointed out below :

  • number of customers
  • number of products in your catalog (how many individual unique sku's?)
  • number of catalogs (need distributor pricing, etc..)
  • number of product variations (colors, sizes, etc..)
  • are your products built to order (e.g. custom built)
  • computer hardware infrastructure requirements (servers, database, etc..)
  • internet and offsite marketing strategies (phone book, search engine, etc..)
  • personal experience with web design, graphic design, and computer troubleshooting

Above, you see a bulleted list of factors that can determine not only cost, but also can guide you to your perfect solution.  All ecommerce systems are designed, sold, and marketed around the above factors.  So, taking these into account let us describe a scenario, and see how it can resolve.

Common Scenario

Rosie is a knitter who wants to sell hand made curtains online, using her own store (so common I know).  She determines her budget is only $500 USD, and she wants to sell about 30 different curtains, with each a different price, image, and description.  Some of the curtains come in different colors, and all with different sizes.  She has some experience with computers including basic office, email, internet, social networks, limited graphic design, and photography.  She has a vision of what the store must look like, and she also has a marketing strategy to promote on search engines.  Finally, she does not currently have or operate a website, domain name, and knows nothing of them.

Requirements

Well, that is pretty basic, huh.  Sounds like a pretty common scenario and budget.  Ok well from the above paragraph, we can deduce her requirements :

  • cannot spend more than $500 USD
  • product catalog has 30 individual products
  • she needs product variations (e.g. colors and sizes)
  • she can do her own product adding, editing, and picture taking
  • she can figure out with guidance, how to do her own internet marketing
  • she can manage a web designer to meet her vision
  • she has no web host or domain name

Options

Now that we know what is needed, let's list her best options :

Solution 1

She can research on Google how to get her own domain name, web host, freelance designer, and have the web host install a generic shopping cart system.

  • go to GoDaddy and buy a domain name for $7.95 USD.
  • sign up for web hosting with HostGator for $6.95 USD per month
  • use the hosting cPanel to install a generic osCommerce installation, a free open source shopping cart system **
  • buy a SSL security certificate from GoDaddy for $29.95 USD
  • pay HostGator $10 USD to install the certificate onto your store
  • pay a oDesk freelance web designer $200 USD to design her site logo and osCommerce theme
  • put $50 USD towards Google AdWords campaign
  • creates PayPal acount to accept payments, sets up her own osCommerce configuration
  • creates UPS shipping account, sets up her own osCommerce configuration
  • adds her own products to the osCommerce product database

** osCommerce is only mentioned because it is included in cPanel with HostGator.  It is not recommended.  If you want open source shopping carts, look into Magento, osQuantum, and OpenCart.

Total Cost = $304.84 USD

Budget Balance = $195.16 USD

Not to shabby.. this solution works, meets her requirements, and budget.  However, everything went without a hitch, and she did spend countless days researching, managing web designer, and setting up her shopping cart payment/shipping modules.  Had anything not worked, she would have had to consult a more experienced person, possibly inquiring fees.  So, this is a solution that is not 100% simple, and leaves room for big errors.

Solution 2

She finds out there are "hosted shopping carts", available online for a subscription. She finds Shopify for $29 USD a month and BigCommerce for $24.95 USD a month.  Both carts offer similar features, she chooses BigCommerce because she doesn't want the 2% transaction fee** that Shopify adds on :

  • she signs up for BigCommerce $24.95 a mo
  • she elects to get a new domain name during sign up for $12.27 USD
  • security certificate is included in the BigCommerce package
  • chooses a free store template that makes her pretty happy
  • all payment and shipping modules are set up with guidance and video tutorials
  • she add her products with all variants and is pleased at how easy it was
  • cart includes free $50 value coupon for Google AdWords

** Shopify actually has a lot to offer, do not be discouraged easily by the transaction fee.  They more than make up for that.

Total Cost = $37.22

Budget Balance = $462.78

This solution fits her requirements perfectly, and is a breeze to setup.  She is up and running in less than two hours (domain propagation).  So safe to say, if you do not have existing infrastructure, large scale requirements, or a certain reason to obtain a custom shopping cart, one of these providers (Shopify or BigCommerce) can be largely beneficial.  Also, if you need to customized themes, modules, apps, extensions, add-ons, what have you.. they both offer and sell them for fair pricing.

Solution 3

You email me (generated110 {a-t} hotmail {d-o-t} com ), I create and manage your custom online presence starting at $500, includes internet marketing campaigns and I take a 3% transaction fee for one year.

This solution fits perfect for those who do not have the experience in the field, do not want to manage the process of customizing their store presence, and do not want to spend countless days marketing their new found brand online.

Conclusion

Well, I hope this article was helpful and can get your brain thinking the right way as to what approach would best fit your needs.  If you have any questions and would like to discuss with me about your needs, I would be more than happy to do so.  You can email me (generated110 {a-t} hotmail {d-o-t} com ), and I will reply.  Thanks for reading this and bookmark this page for future postings!

 

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