Being able to sell online is a great benefit of living in the technology age. This fantastic idea allow everyday people the ability to have a successful store. Gone are the days of overhead. No more need to rent a brick and mortar location, pay a light bill or gas bill, or furnish a physical location (unless, of course, you want to). Building an online store and selling online is becoming increasingly easy.
The shopping cart software available today allows your one-person business appear as if you have 50 employees. With the right shopping cart, your small business will be able to do the following, all for a lot less money than you may think.
- allow customers to rate and review each product right there on the page
- have an “Email-a-friend” referral system
- add products via a WYSIWYG editor or HTML editor; if you can write a document in Microsoft Word, then you can add information to your website
- offer coupon codes (i.e., Enter “take20” at checkout for 20% off)
- offer a gift registry to your customers
Now, if you plan to sell online there are a few things you must do. First, you have to think about what you want your website address to be and purchase that domain. You may have to get creative, so think of a few different options. Domains are ridiculously cheap at around $14 per year. So if your domain is available, grab it up before it’s gone. I like to purchase my domains through GoDaddy or BlueHost.
Next, you need a hosting account to hold the information you’re going to put on your website. Again, GoDaddy or BlueHost are great hosting providers. Now, hosting is slightly more expensive than just buying the domain, but still relatively cheap at around $80 – $90 per year. Depending on how you decide to add your information to your website, your hosting may be included. We’ll talk more about that later. If you’re not very familiar with creating a website, going with a company that combines the cost of both the domain and hosting will probably be the best option for you since it’s very simple.
At this time, I would think about receiving payment. The easiest, safest and most cost effective way to receive payment is through PayPal. Just sign up for a business account and you’re ready to start getting paid. As you grow, you will want to think about investing in a SSL certificate that allows you to accept credit cards on your own website instead of having customers go to another site to complete transactions.
Now it’s time to find a shopping cart. There’s hundreds available, some good, some not so good. I’ve read about and tried quite a few and here are the ones I feel are the easiest to get started with and maintain for small business owners.
3DCart is a feature rich shopping cart that includes hosting, and starts at just $19.99 per month. After you purchase your domain, there is no need for separate hosting because they will take of this for you. I use this one currently for my website, Ambreose Collection. With this shopping cart, you will be able to implement a loyalty program to each product which allows customers to accumulate points when they purchase items and then use those points to purchase more products. I really liked this feature because it is something you see big companies offer, therefore it allows you to appear to be a larger organization than you are. Simply pick a template, add your products and you’re good to go.
BigCartel is a great shopping cart for beginners. What it lacks in features, it makes up for in its beautiful minimalistic design. With this shopping cart, you don’t even have to purchase a domain if you simply do not want to. For free, BigCartel will give you a subdomain on their website (i.e., www.YourShop.bigcartel.com). If you prefer you own domain, they offer that as well for as low as $9.95 per month. If you’re an artist looking to sell your creations, you will love BigCartel.
GoDaddy Quick Shopping Cart
GoDaddy’s Quick Shopping Cart is also another great cart for beginners with no need of separate hosting. Since they also sell domains, it is very easy to get started with a shopping cart. This was the very first shopping cart I used and it helped to really introduce me to the world on ecommerce. GoDaddy offers templates to assist with your design, and if you are a little advanced and know HTML, you can tweak them to your own liking. Quick Shopping Cart is very reasonable in terms of price, starting at just $4.99/mo. If you pay for one full year in advance, they even include a free domain.
Volusion is a another feature-rich option that includes hosting. This cart was built with your bottom line in mind, by offering features such as a soft add to cart, which allows customers to add products to their cart without leaving the product page. Starting at just $15 per month, this is a great option for someone just starting out.
These are just a few of the options available for you to sell your products online. With a little bit of time and research, you can realistically start selling in as little as two weeks. Many of these options offer a free trial period. Take advantage of that to determine if that particular option is a good one for you. Think like a customer when designing you site and pages. It can be time consuming initially, but well worth it.
Do you already sell online? What shopping cart are you using?