Friday, January 30, 2009

Shopping for a Virtual Storefront

Recently, I decided to open an online store for merchandise based around the "Adventures of Traveling Bob" site. I already had a pretty good idea of what I was going to use. Since I didn't really have a product line of my own yet - Bob's travel guides are still works in progress - I opted to go with CafePress. But before I made a final decision, I did a little research. Since I someday hope to offer my own products through WealthTogether, I wanted to see what other options were available. And since I have heard that several of my readers have decided to start selling products online, I decided to share what I found. So here it is - my Top 5 list of virtual storefronts.

1. Volusion. I had already heard lots of great buzz about Volusion before I checked it out. It has won several awards for Best Ecommerce Solution. I signed up for the 14-day free trial to see how it worked. I was immediately impressed by the hundreds of built-in features. But I was even more impressed by how easily I could customize it to suit my own business. I am not a tekkie by any stretch of the imagination, so the fact that I did not have to know tons of code to build my store was a huge plus. The training video's and online wizards were enough to help even the novice internet marketer build a professional looking store. And I love the Search Engine Friendly Feature. You can use their templates and design tools to create your own look or you can have one of their designers do it for you. Security isn't an issue either. They are PCI/CISP certified. There are several pricing packages to choose from, based on your needs. If you have a good selection of products and you want a truly professional looking storefront, Volusion should be your choice.

2. ProStores. Another award winner. Like Volusion, ProStores lets you design your own storefront or have one of their designers do it for you. And it offers several different tiers, depending on your needs. Unlike Volusion, in addition to the monthly subscription fee, there is also a transaction fee for each successful transaction. While the subscription fee is less than Volusion's, the transaction fee could add up quickly if your business takes off. ProStores is supported by SSL encryption but is not PCI/CISP certified. If you are just getting started and can't afford the cost of Volusion, ProStores could be the right choice for you. Take advantage of the one month free trial and see for yourself.

3. Yahoo Merchant Solutions. Yahoo offers most of the same features as Volusion and ProStores. The biggest drawback for me was the 1.5% transaction fee in addition to the monthly subscription fee. If you are at all successful in building your online business, 1.5% can add up to a lot of money fast! Other than that, it brings all the experience and marketing clout of Yahoo to your efforts. Not a bad choice if you can swallow that transaction fee.

4. Shopify. Shopify's biggest asset is it's design flexibility. You can have a professional looking store up and running in no time. It doesn't have all of the features of Volusion or ProStores, but it is incredibly easy to work with. Once again, there are several pricing options to choose from and like the others, Shopify offers a free trial.

5. CafePress. I like CafePress for two reasons. It's a good way to get started if you don't have a product of your own but want to start getting your name out in the world of ecommerce. CafePress allows you to put your logo or other graphics on a wide array of "print-on-demand" products from T-shirts to dog bowls. You can set up a basic shop for free or for a very small monthly fee, you can own a premium shop. I have fun trying to think of creative ways to use the Traveling Bob logo and graphics to create products for my store. Use one of their templates or design your own store. It's a great, low-risk way to get a taste of the world of ecommerce.

A virtual storefront to sell your products is just one of the many ways to make money online. Check these out and choose the one that is right for you.


Eileen Williams said...

WOW!! You are always several steps ahead of me and reading my mind at the same time. I'm getting ready to start marketing some of my own products, and your research and information are incredibly helpful.
Good luck with your Bob products. There never was a more handsome front man, so they should do extremely well!!!

Beverly Mahone said...

CafePress is the only one I have heard of. I like CP because it's easy to work with. I'll have to check out the others. Thanks for providing this information.

Joyce Mason said...

I love Cafe Press and am thinking of opening my own storefront in 2009. So grateful for your review of it in this post, Melodieann.

PopArtDiva said...

I'm going to check out some of those other options you posted - I use CafePress and Payloadz plus a few others at the moment.

What everyone must realize about these sites is that they are not in the business of marketing your product so you have to be prepared to do it yourself. Treat these sites simply as affordable shopping carts and/or product providers.

I think the pop art I designed for Bob's shop looks fabulous (gee - why do I think that? LOL). BUT it's Bob that will be your best selling point!

And I love my Bob Bowl (Pixel and I fight over it - she wants it for her water and I want it for my candy!)

Ribbon said...

I like your blog. It's very generous.
Best wishes

Claudia said...

I've been using the auction method of selling for so long, I'm not sure I'd be ready to make the change, but this is great information.

Have you heard of Bonanzle? It's kind of ebay meets storefront meets networking site. I signed up, but haven't started to use it yet. It's free to put up the things you are selling, and you only pay a fee if you sell something, and a low one at that.

Hope you're having a great week!

Kathie said...

I only knew of Cafepress too and must update my store as I have heaps of new things (images and photos) I can use for products now.

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