How to sell from your website
Filed under: Career
First you need to decide whether you're actually ready for e-commerce. Numerous customers are turning away from cheque books as a way of getting money around so the answer is likely to be 'yes'; however this will have an impact on the prices you charge for your goods and services. If you're going to start paying someone to process your transactions you may need to consider raising prices so you don't lose out - but will you lose customers if you do so?
The most important thing to establish in your customers' minds is of course that they can trust their money to your site. Two avenues suggest themselves immediately because of this: one is considering setting up a store through eBay and related to that there is the possibility of setting up a PayPal account.
Your eBay storeIf your goods lend themselves to the eBay pattern of sale - which doesn't have to be an auction, 'buy it now' is an option - then you can consider setting up as an eBay merchant and using their infrastructure. All you'd need is your product information and pictures, and eBay will handle the rest including links to PayPal.
The disadvantage, if it matters to you, is ending up looking like an eBay shop. The company's branding will of course be everywhere. This hasn't stopped some successful businesses starting this way but some people will insist on controlling their brand.
Signing up for PayPal therefore becomes a good idea. Here's a link about how to become a PayPal merchant. There are differing levels and for a few quid a month you can have the checkout on your own page.
Inbuilt e-commercePayPal is far from the only choice for people wanting this sort of service on their site. One of the longer-established brands is Actinic; this has decades of experience in setting up shops on people's websites and they can be integrated completely with your existing site. The cost starts at £195 and it integrates with eBay if you wish, or it can integrate with a Sage 50 accounts package.
The up front cost is of course higher because you're buying a piece of software. This shouldn't be overlooked; it's not like shaving a little money off your sales so that the sales can actually happen, this is the point at which you need to be running an actual business.
It can also be a little intimidating for people with little or no webmaster experience. Of the shrinkwrapped packages it's one of the more straightforward but it does include analytics, website management and other facilities - if you're a little daunted by those terms you might want to look at something online rather than something you have to install.
You could have a look at 1-2-3-Reg's E-Commerce solution for example. This starts at £9.99 per month for a basic shopfront including up to 150 products spread across up to 20 categories, which would almost certainly cover a start-up business' needs. Options including more products and categories are available, reaching over £40 a month.
It's relatively easy to build your own logo onto the page and of course if you register your domain through 1-2-3-Reg you'll have no difficulty putting the e-commerce page onto your own site without worrying about whether your ISP can handle this sort of software. If you don't mind your store being hosted elsewhere you could look at Shopcreator, where the basic version is cheaper than 1-2-3-Reg's offering but the upper end is much more expensive.
Clearly there are serious questions to ask about all of these offerings. Will the customer find your own brand as reassuring as, say, that of PayPal, which has a reputation for sorting out disputes and difficulties relatively easily? Or do you not want to dilute your brand by throwing PayPal or eBay into the mix?
We have of course only skimmed through the choices on offer, there are many others. But in terms of deciding whether you want a small monthly payment, more up front, your own brand or someone else's, you hopefully have an idea of what the options are to start you off.
Blogger Guy Clapperton is the author of "This Is Social Commerce"