The hosted cart thing is a fair notion however most shopping carts are quite easy to update. The plugins sometimes arent compatible with the new version though. The problem with hosted carts is often the lack of plugins.
If a cart doesnt have the ability to automatically update Google Shopping data as well as spit out Amazon and eBay upload-able info you're probably not going to bother with those really really cheap methods of advertising.
Im not digging at you (or anyone that uses paypal), just thinking outloud... But, to me, for all of us that are 2nd amendment loving people... Why would we support them in the first place, because of the way they treat "gun owners"? Just because they make it easy? Sure, they could be "pro gun" in their political stance, but not willing to handle payments for guns and various related items tells me they are no better than the those out to take guns away from law abiding people forever. A case of "If its not part of the solution, its part of the problem"... at least in my eyes. Just because they make it "easy to send money" we should support them though they specifically forbid transactions that are completely legal?
Originally Posted by NJGunnar
I got took by the thieves at Gpal (previous GunPal) because I was trying to support non-paypal. Lost a good chunk of money to those crooks. Went to Alertpay after them... they cost a bit more than Paypal, but they are 2nd amendment friendly. They are based in Canada. Funny, how I had to go to a different country to get a paypal like company that was firearm friendly. Then they started having issues processing Visa and MC. After 3 months of being unable to process those payments, I started digging... and I had about a year of other online payment processing, so I had an idea of my volume... Thats when I started looking at "real" merchant accounts.
I went with a payment processor that I learned about through the NRA Business Alliance... Payment Alliance Intl. I talked to many CC processors checking prices, and gave them the prices I was quoted through Payment Alliance Intl. Every single one said basically - go with them, we cant touch those rates.
The way they work, you can integrate it with a shopping cart - either one where you have a secure site (SSL/HTTPS://) or a non secure site. If you have an SSL cert/site, then you can use the normal authorize.net type gateway module (AIM), if you dont, there is an emulator (SIM) that runs ALL payment info on their site rather than yours, and you dont have all the security drama to go along with it. You can also put in payment info on a website from phone customers, or call in.
The other benefit, its cheaper than paypal and those like it. BUT it really depends on volume... you will need to figure it up based on what ever the given rates you are quotes and the monthly fees associated - to know if it will be cheaper than paypal, etc or not. For me the magic line in the sand was about 1500 a month. Over that, and its worth it and the farther over the better.
I guess to me, its worth thinking about getting set up with a real processor/gateway... if the volume is there, its cheaper than any of those types of processors.
I did a post here on PM a while ago about website/shopping cart stuff... Etomite and OpenCart. A search should bring it up and you could read a bit about what I think of them, as I have been using them for a couple years now.
All the best
First off, remember that your web site is the face of the company for most customers these days. It's the first thing they see (once they land off google) and thus it is very important to achieve a modern, professional look.
Most of those hosted stores are pretty hokey- and customers can usually spot the canned skin approach from miles away- it gives an aura of "I don't care about this enough to try hard". They will get that before they even have a chance to *look* at the product!
For one product, or a few- static html pages will work at first. I would probably suggest you lean towards a real cart though, have it professionally skinned to match your logo, feel, and general direction. Pay attention to the SEO, that is very important.
I would lean *away* from using paypal to handle all of your transactions. I must admit, a static page and paypal is exactly how we started when it was out of my dorm room... However, paypal is terrible towards vendors- they will not support you on ANY credit card charge backs, even with signed terms & copies of government id's... A real processor such as authorize.net (or most authorize.net resellers) is much more "merchant friendly".
We accept paypal payments from paypal, and process our cards through authorize.net. Our CC fraud loss rate has dropped significantly since we started doing that.
As you grow, it gets more and more expensive to switch e-store's / shopping carts- I remember doing it over a weekend... We just switched with a few thousand products and it ran into 9 months and well into 5 figures :-/
Anyways, my main suggestion would be to decide if you are serious about selling said widgit- and then approach the website with equal energy right off the bat. A proper store, with good SEO, a professional looking skin- full features including facebook integration- could be done for a few grand- and it would be something you could grow into without changing systems entirely virtually forever. A static html site will *only* work if you plan on selling less then maybe 50 products and never adding more- which virtually never happens.
My 2c- having used and grown through all of the various mentioned methods.
PS: Pay for professional product photos. It is worth it's weight in gold. If you put pride into your work, take pride in it's appearance- it's all the customers get to see before they purchase it. If you figure they are purchasing it based on a picture, a description, and if you are lucky some forum chit chat- the picture is damn important.
Don't trick yourself into thinking that your "I shot a picture of this on a big piece of white paper" photo, with a murky yellow background and terrible glare from the flash- is fooling anyone.
Using PayPal for your checkout does look shoddy... to me, at least.
But I think having a "checkout with PayPal" option is very valuable, since lots of people like to use it... but you should also accept credit cards directly.
My setup is a merchant account with Wells Fargo through Authorize.net. Then I use Foxycart for the actual cart. It is SUPER easy to use, although if you know nothing about HTML or the like, it may require a bit of hand-holding at first.
+++1MILLION on what Peter said, I believe in it so much that I bought a nice digital camera, Alien Bees flash units, photoshop, and some books on beginning photography.
Originally Posted by peter.blais
Paul C. Buff - AlienBees
With what is out there in the market for used camera equipment, along with the cost of renting a studio for the day. I can not stress the value of this route and being able to take photos immediately of something new and have it live within the hour. And not have to be dragged down by a day in a studio or dealing with someone else that is a creative type, taking product photos.
We believe in it so much that out of our 8 employees, one of them is a full time graphic designer with a masters degree in photography.
Granted, he was a customer that basically wouldn't leave. We just stole him when his old employeer abused him. Still, in this era of buying it before you can get touchy feely- that's probably the best thing we ever did.
Lots of good points.
I have been looking into and giving the merchant accounts consideration as most of my customers would be businesses. I just think it would fit with the overall professional impression I want to convey.
The photo's are also something I am reconsidering. I took some myself to get started and said "aaa they'll do to start" but I tend to be a perfectionist and your comments on "yellowish background" and "glare" could apply more than I like. I do have some experience with photography, just not digital, nor do I have the equipment.
I have about fifteen photos I want to use, most showing the product in use and requiring a fair amount of setup. It could easily take a few days to reshoot them. I wonder if a pro could take what I've got and "photoshop" them a bit to brighten the whites, remove some of the glare and red?
This site will most likely be used only to sell this one product and a hand full of spare parts and accessories. The price point on the main product is around $500 so I'm sure it will be studied somewhat before the trigger is pulled.
I think a simple, clean professional site suits the product. How much would you expect to spend having a pro put together a site, lets say 5 to 10 pages, if I provide the art work, photo's and text? What’s the best way to find someone to do this?
Times are tight so I'm really trying to make do with what little cash I got, but I don't want to be penny smart and pound foolish.
Wade, I fully understand your position and agree. As I said it does rub me but I am trying to look at this from a business aspect, something PayPal obviously is not. It does remind me though of a problem I have with many actors, I'm interested in their product (movies) not their politics, shut up and act. Nuff said. And I do recall your informative thread, you're the duck call guy.
I just reread the replies and see Pete says a professional site could be done for a few grand. Is this in line with what others have paid if artwork, photo's and text are provided?
And again, whats a good way to find a real pro but not one use to sucking the teat of a Fortune 500?
If you wind up hiring someone to create the site and the store and integrate the cc processing, it'll be most cost-effective if you hire someone who has already done exactly what you need, and is already familiar with at least the cart software, ideally also the site authoring tool and hosting arrangement. And maybe let them recommend the cart so it can be something they're familiar with. Someone fully up to speed can create and integrate a working store in a day. Don't want to pay someone for a week of time to learn new stuff.
I had pretty bad luck finding anyone to do what I wanted in a competent manner, and most folks don't think of me as a cheapskate or hard to get along with.
I might get roasted for this but I have had great success. If you are looking for getting a good site done on the cheap, go here:
Freelancer.com - Hire Freelancers & Find Freelance Jobs Online
I wrote up specs for a new site and took the time to detail everything. I got quotes back in the $20K -$30K range.
I posted on freelancer and here are the results:
Business to Business website | Graphic Design | HTML | PHP | Website Design
$2800 for an awesome sight. I have been a real pain with these guys in India and they are taking it in stride. I love what they came up with and I feel comfortable because they have not been paid and money is in escrow for them. I talk them when needed on Skype. YMMV
The best advise I ever got was to always try and outsource things like art and design. It is so subjective and if you have an employee and you don't like their style, you now have someone on the payroll that you have to fire, and deal with. Where an outside company you can just tell them to get lost.
I am of the opinion that most could take their own photos if they would invest 20 or so hours into learning about the basic camera settings or have an employee do so. If you're taking photos of stuff that is smaller than a few slices of bread get a shadow/light box and learn how to set it up. Get a dSLR and put it on Macro with the stock lens on the lowest f-#. May not be quite as nice as photos by a very good pro but I have seen a lot of photographers turn out crap anyway. This way you have all the equipment (It is not very expensive) and you can continuously update your site with new, high quality photos of jobs.
Here is my site, with shopping cart. If you click the upper Metal-tech 4x4, aka. about us it even takes you into a 2nd information site.
Quality Custom Off Road Products | Metaltech 4x4 Protection Evolved
Behind the shopping cart is a full GUI to edit and update the cart. We use three plug in's with the cart. One collects all orders off the cart and imports them into Quick Books for order processing. (no retyping!) This same plug in will upload any price updates etc. we do in Quick Books for price changes on products. It can also 2 way communicate in real time our stock on products too from our data base. (we don't currently let it do that) The second plug in makes our cart smart phone friendly. Third edits for SEO and updates with our grooming and our SEO vendor. (Search Engine Optimization)
We bought a caned shopping cart. .NET Shopping Cart & Ecommerce Website Software | AspDotNetStorefront
Its fully supported by the company that makes it. (They have been in biz quite a long time too.)
Tons of plug in's available off the shelf and by other vendors. We use three right now.
There are certified experts by the vendor that can custom code the shopping cart as need. For example we needed to add quoting truck freight in real time. This is not easy at all. We spent quite a bit of $$ to do this, however its up live now. This should = less phone calls and e-mails asking us for shipping quotes.
For credit cards, we do not let our site process our customers cards at the time of the order. We control when the cards are billed. I feel it is much better customer service to only bill when their order is with in 24hrs of shipping.
The cart also easily supports discount codes and customers "wish lists" too. In the back end of the cart we can manage the customers order, updating when it ships, tacking info etc. and the customers cart account will show all this AND e-mail them updates automatically.
YES, spend the $ with a pro to make the site look right and CUSTOM to you and your products. Don't let it look like a total site in a can #1127 etc.
Originally Posted by NJGunnar
x2 Start with an e-bay store and a paypal account. When you are ready spend the $5k or so to have a proper website built with a shopping cart. Remember you WANT your site to be set up correctly the first time so the search engines can see and crawl your site for better rankings. SEO is: Location-Location-Location of the modern web based biz.
Originally Posted by Machinery_E
Ya- that's why we do it in house, because we are always adding products. However, if he is serious about selling only a small number of items, it may not be worth the time to buy it, set it up, and learn it.
Most products you can do pretty easily- machined aluminum on a white background is awfully tricky. We ended up with a pretty serious setup to do shiney billet aluminum parts and still get a nice white background- without washing out the part.