The Simplest Way to Build a Great Online Shop

Nov 23, 2010 View Comments by Steve

Market Places

The simplest way of selling online is via an existing online marketplace such as eBay or Amazon Marketplace. Even if you still want a more customised web presence of your own, these marketplaces are a useful channel for generating early sales and will help you understand the market and your business before you dive into making more significant investments.

Hosted eCommerce Store as a Service

A hosted store means that you can signup and get going with your store quickly and easily, without any technical expertise. Providers offer a range of configurable design templates and import tools and prices depend on the number of products in your catalogue. The other great thing about these services is they keep adding and improving their feature set at no extra cost to you. They look after all the techie stuff like making sure the servers stay up, connecting to payment providers, connecting to shipping providers, advertising services and social media integration. That way you can concentrate on what you are good at which hopefully involves choosing your products, marketing your site and great customer service. You can use your own domain name so it will not be obvious that someone else is hosting your site and to the end user will look completely like your website. The downside of these services is that they involve an ongoing monthly cost but don’t underestimate the time and money that this could cost you if you took in on yourself. The big players here are Volusion, CoreCommerce, ProStore, Shopify and BigCommerce.

Host Your Own Store

If you don’t like the idea of one of these companies having your data and being responsible for a big part of your business you can do it yourself and get your own web hosting and outsource the building of an online shop. In this case there are a few free open source options for creating your store that we recommend. If its just a handful of products you are selling you may not want to build your whole site around a product catalogue and instead build a more basic website using our favourite open source website and blogging software WordPress. Then you can use a cheap 3rd party shopping cart provider such as e-junkie along with the E-Junkie WordPress Plugin to add your shop functionality. Take it a step further with WordPress and use the eShop Plugin along with this beautiful theme from elegant themes. Another popular WordPress plugin is WP e-commerce which has great support and feature set but isn’t that simple to use and quality themes are lacking. If you want a true self hosted powerful eCommerce solution then we recommend Magento. It is a well maintained, very popular, open source eCommerce platform with a whole load of quality themes available. Because Magento is a large and powerful system people do come across performance problems and installation complications so make sure you get a hosting package from a provider that understands the needs of Magento and offers a quick and easy (preferable one-click) install option.

Keep it Simple

We really, really believe in trying to keep things simple. Lets face it technology is complicated and the less we have to worry about it the better. That’s why out of the options above we would usually recommend a hosted store service as its the easiest to get setup and you can expect responsive support and let them worry about performance, uptime and even SEO. When you’re starting a new business you don’t know if it’s going to work out so it’s better to jump in there and get your shop up and running quickly and start interacting with your customer base and evolve as needs must. We think the easiest way of doing this is using a hosted eCommerce service and for the first few years this is likely to save you lots of time and money. We’ve tried out all the big players, as well as read reviews, tweets and comparisons across the web to come up with what we consider our top 3 hosted eCommerce services. Please not that all of these services offer a 14 day free trial.

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