Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: buckworks

Message Too Old, No Replies

Cost to be among top players in the specific niche?

serious ecommerce start-up - turnkey solutions or custom built



3:07 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hello Everybody!

I work for a retail store - we resell specific goods to the public. Business is very profitable, so the business owner has big "cash chest". Online market for our niche is still very immature, but certain players (3-4) are dominant. Recent year <number one> player reported more the $20M in web-sales.
Owner wants to be in the top 3 players within one year. All sites have the same goods and the same prices. Catalogs are huge (more the 50 000 items) and it is all about the way to search/present the goods.

What kind of investment should he be prepared to lay out?

What would be more effective - have generic site (X-Cart etc.) but spend bucks on marketing/advertising? OR spend more time/money on the custom site (to make it really stand out), but spend less on advertising?

Thank you in advance.


7:12 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

What would be more effective - have generic site (X-Cart etc.) but spend bucks on marketing/advertising? OR spend more time/money on the custom site (to make it really stand out), but spend less on advertising?

Gotta get people to the site...

Make sure the site is reasonably attractive, functional and functional. Did I mention functional? Make sure that everything works. Make sure the server can handle the load. Test, test, test. Do everything you can to make sure that the site works and can handle the traffic.

Then, advertise the heck out of it.


9:58 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I would recommend having a quick read of Seth Godin's Purple Cow.

It depends on the amount of products, but you can generally do customization of an OSCommerce/Zen-Cart/X-Cart whatever site to make it look different and stand out.

I would concentrate on having a site that aims for conversion well and SEO/SEM/offline marketing to the max.

Good luck!


3:03 pm on Jul 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the reply guys.

In our specific market, everybody (online) is a reseller and dropships the orders, and online catalog has 50000+ items to choose from.

Is it really feasible to be the best (or one of the best) while having your site built based on X-Cart, or similar?

Whenever I go on the prepackaged ecommerce sites and try to look on their best clients - could not find anything close to the level that top market players are (feature-wise).


3:09 pm on Jul 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The best looking site may not have the highest sales or the best conversion rates.

E-commerce is a game of testing.


7:30 am on Jul 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would recommend having a quick read of Seth Godin's Purple Cow.

You mean the same guy that has this still on his website for the book?

No, its not NPR pledge week, but yes, were giving away free stuff (until September 10th, 2003)....

[edited by: Wlauzon at 7:31 am (utc) on July 10, 2007]


9:34 am on Jul 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Id give up on OSC et al, as the amount of work and money it requires to make it unique looking would be better spent on having a custom cart written.

Go custom


10:28 am on Jul 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Wlauzon - the very same.

Most of the time he spends on squidoo/his blog and doesn't update the book sites..

That being said, I find he's one of the few authors who practices what he preaches. The book is inspiring, so I recommend it for the OP. I have nothing to do with SG other then that I enjoy his books tremendously.



1:14 pm on Jul 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

A successful e-commerce division is a delicate balance of all factors involved,usability, marketing, SEO. Having a site up and running is only the begining. You need a site that is not only professional and establishes consumer confidence in your business but most importantly has very good usablility.

As the other guys mentioned not all "good looking" sites drive the traffic and sales. I've developed e-commerce divisions in industries with similar online sales revenue ($20-24 mil) and it was not always the best looking site at the top.

In order to hit your sales targets you will also need a site that is fully optimized by someone that really knows SEO. The site will need to optimized from the images and page names to the rotating content linking to your blog, as well as link exchanges, optimization and usablitiy reviews etc, etc. This will drive the longer term more stable traffic.

In addition, with 50k plus sku's you will need a robust PPC campaign.

The PPC campaign will of course run in parallel to your longer term SEO campaign for natural clicks. You really can't set a budget for PPC as long as you are meeting your ROI margins for each product, upsale and LTV (life time value)also play a factor in PPC budgeting.

There are a number of other factors involved in managing an operation of this size so it is hard to calculate a budget. Jut keep in mind having the site actually up and running is only the begining.

If you want to compete online in an industry generating an average of $20mil a year you will need to put together a comprehensive e-commerce package that hits your goals. If the online presence of your industry is still immature then I would say with the right team you could hit your target within year 1.

Even if you are in a crowded industry like baby products, that has similar annual sales revenue(20-24mil) I would still say it could be done if it was done right. You would be suprised at how little a lot of the big players actually do in terms of proper SEO and marketing to drive traffic.

I would also recomend that you employ a seemless integration of your online store with your brick and mortar buis (your catalog is the key). I have seen annualy growth increase by 30% with the integration of the brick and mortar catalog with the online store.

Thats it for now...any more and I will have to send you a bill :) jk.


3:13 pm on Jul 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Go custom, absolutely.

The advantage to having a custom cart isn't just about having the look and feel to the website that you want - it's about having control of the features, capabilities, and technology.

Standing out (in terms of look) is easy. Standing out with functionality will get you the most loyal customers.

Why do people prefer Google? Chances are, for the majority of users, it's not because of their minimalist design (although that may play a small, psychological part). Why do is endless.com (Amazon's new-ish shoe venture) popular? They have a rocking vertical search tool that thoroughly understands the needs and wants of their endusers.

Custom, baby - custom!

Oh, yeah, and spend money on marketing, too. :) Site first, though - no sense in wasting all those advertising dollars without a proper site in place.


10:27 am on Jul 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yeah I purchased a off-the-shelf software application, but being a developer I am so VERY tempted to write my own software (I am in the planning stages for that).

But at the end ofthe day I have to decide if I want to spend the next few months writing code of selling products.

At the moment I am creating a internal Purchasing/POS type application where it will pull the orders from the ecommerce application and help me create purchase orders and manage inventory and posssibly even do POS transactions.

Lizion Solutions

6:37 pm on Jul 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

For a new start up, unless you want to do something crazy right out of the gate, it is best to go with an out of the box solution.

You can always purchase the code later or develop your own once you know what extra capabilities you will want. To spend 10k on purchasing a solution that you can rent just doesn't make sense for most new start ups. Save the funds for marketing, branding and SEO where you will need it the most.


2:52 am on Jul 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If you're sitting in a forum asking a question like should we go custom or use an off the shelf platform then you're in trouble. If you want to compete against people with 20 mil. in sales you need to tell your boss that he needs to bring someone on board with some serious ecom background and has been there done that. You're going to make very little headway against competitors who know what they are doing while you learn as you go.

Unless you have someone running the show who knows what they are doing you're not going to get anywhere. I'd tell you're boss to spend some money and hire someone who knows everything about running an ecom company and have them build your online division.


11:49 pm on Jul 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Go Custom

Think about it --- you need to be the best (one of the best) and differenciate yourself, allowing to scale and build your framework in such a way that you can be the best. Taking a out of box solution is like suicide. I mean, to make it in such a high volume yet immature market with what everyone else has is just illogical. Invest, and then youll be able to create the needed functions whereas your competition with that prebuilt cart just cant. In the future who wins --- i hope it is you


12:39 pm on Aug 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

We went with Elastic Path and have heavily customised it for our needs. It has a great object model with a separation of concerns between domain model and data layer.

I don't think there is a big dichotomy between off-the-shelf and custom. You can have a hybrid. Start off with a package that is designed to be easily customised and then change it to meet your needs. That way you don't have to write a load of code in which there is very little opportunity to innovate (like the cart or product) and will get you more quickly to writing the code where you can start to differentiate yourself.


Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month