|What's needed for an online store|
Someone asked me for advice on getting their first eCommerce site up. Not having done it before myself, I wanted to make sure that I got all parts right before suggesting things.
It's a small web store outfit and they want to process payments the "official way" ie. through merchant account, none of that PayPal stuff. From what I gather, the parts they'll need:
- shopping cart (I'd send them towards an open source solution, Magento maybe?)
- secure server certificate
- payment gateway
- merchant account
Also, if anyone is quite happy with their providers in any of the above categories, I'd appreciate recommendations.
PayPal stuff? You mean the method that millions of people use to pay for merchandise they buy online?
If this is their first store, and they have no preexisting identity for their business, I think diving in with all that is a mistake. Test the waters with what they have to offer first, then if it goes somewhere.. they can do all that later.
My money processed through Paypal spends the same as my money processed through a merchant account. You can keep things simple (i.e- Paypal), and still be professional.
They need to find the customers first... then find out if they can sell... I'd start with PayPal first to see if A and B work... if so, then go whole hog.
actually you don't need a SSl with a 'proper' bank processor, most have a gateway type service/option that will process the actual payment for you (not on your website) - this is good to start with as it takes away 'compliance' problems.
If they are just starting out and want a merchant account, prepare them for the settlement charges that they will not be aware of until they get their next statement. With PayPal you know immediately. No surprises.
A reliable and secure site, with good customer service.
none of that PayPal stuff.
Paypal's reputation varies by country. In some locations it would be considered a bit "low rent".
|What's needed for an online store? |
Seriously, the one thing they ABSOLUTELY need is A GOOD STRATEGY!
Which particular shopping cart or payment system, or any technical detail is INSIGNIFICANT when compared to having a good strategy.
I say this not as an expert, but as someone who has been muddling their way through ecommerce for 12 years and still finds it a challenge to pay the rent.
After all this time, I am finally, FINALLY learning what it is going to take to succeed at ecommerce, much thanks to the people on this forum.
so the first thing they need to do is figure out:
1) Do people want the product? (Maybe try selling on ebay or amzon stores or something like that first to make sure there is a market for the product).
2) Decide if they will be able to win out over the competition? Can they say why people should buy from them instead of every other guy and their dog who are selling the same thing online? (And no, saying "people should buy from us because we need the money" is NOT valid reason.) They need to know EVERYTHING about their competition - what their prices are, where they get their customers from, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses. EVERYTHING.
3) Do they know how they are going to get the word out to potential customers? They need to know how much time and money it is going to take to get customers to their website. Because you can have the greatest product in the world, and if no one knows about it, then you are still hosed.
I am not trying To be overly pessimistic. There are a lot of people who started a lot later than I and have been WILDLY successful. That gives me hope.
But at the same time, there is a vast graveyard of domain names for sale. People registered these domains planning on making a living online, and gave up after a couple of years, or months, or weeks, once they saw that nobody wanted what they were selling, or the competition was selling it for less, or they couldn't get anybody to come to their site.
So strategy is 95% of success online and all the other stuff is only 5%
DPD1 said it in the first response:
|If this is their first store, and they have no preexisting identity for their business, I think diving in with all that is a mistake. Test the waters with what they have to offer first, then if it goes somewhere.. they can do all that later. |
Encourage them to try out yahoo stores, or amazon stores, or some other solution first.
I haven't used magento, so I don't have an opinion. But be aware that if it is open source, they will have to be ready to download updates to keep their software secure and up to date. Had a friend who was using open source software for a shopping cart. Their site was hacked. In the end, their FREE software ended up costing them A LOT of money.
Also, do they have a facebook fan site set up, or a blog? If they find those kinds of things challenging, then they will be overwhelmed with running a shopping cart.
After 8 months doing a Ecommerce shop the above posters cover most of the bases. If they plan on earning a living on the site in the first year then they need to reconsider. Using a ecommerce platform that covers updates and security for a monthly payment is a great option to try and keep the time investment down. Do your market research! You can run a ecommerce site for 40.00 a month and that includes using an online shipping service. My experience has been it will take 3-4 months to tell if its going to be worth keeping it open unless you do a massive marketing campaign. I didn't have the funds so had to do it the slow difficult way. FB is a good option for traffic but my experience is very very low conversion. I have close to 700 friends on my FB bus. page I know of 3 that bought something.
There's a quote that is sometimes attributed to Ben Franklin, sometimes attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but it goes like this:
"If I had three hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first two hours sharpening my axe."
also, even though I have been doing ecommerce for ten years or so, I am just learning about all sorts of tools that have, apparently, been around for a long time to help you source labor. they are gong to have to learn how they can leverage their time and resources effectively. they will simply NOT be able to do it ALL themselves.
You know what? I would actually encourage them to borrow money from a bank or credit union to finance their endeavor. Want to know why?
Because a bank or credit union will REQUIRE THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD BUSINESS PLAN before they will loan you a penny. And a good business plan is THE BEST THING YOU CAN HAVE when starting a business.
I wish somebody had told me that all those years ago...
Two thumbs up to Planet13!
You really need to know what you're selling, so research this before you jump. Your list is otherwise OK. It may be the most widely used, most accepted ecommerce solution, but I dread having to work with Magento. It's a resource hog, many of the more advanced features are not free, most of the worthy plugins are VERY expensive (Quickbooks integration, for example,) and has many things that make managing a "store" a royal pain. The most glaring example: if you have a product that offers red, blue, and green in small, medium, and large, you have to create one product for each variation then offer a "super product" in order to get one product with two drop down lists. This is insane IMO.
The real reason, you said "small." Magento is indeed huge, and indeed robust, but it's probably over the top for most site owners. Dig around, look at demos, do your homework and be sure you'll be able to stand behind what you suggest. There are some more simple ones out there. I can't suggest any, most of the time I just write something lightweight and simple for small businesses.