AuctionBytes profiled EveryPlaceISell.com merchant Bubblefast, which sells shipping supplies across multiple channels in addition to its own website at Bubblefast.com. Here are tips from Bubblefast's Mark and Robin Le Vine on selecting shopping carts and web designers based on their experiences.
There are many factors to consider while choosing a shopping cart software or a website designer. Much depends on what stage you are in with your website. Here are just a few tips:
Be careful what you are signing up for. Are you purchasing the software or purchasing a license to use the software? If you are licensing the software then you are committing yourself to a monthly fee for as long as you run the software. If you purchase outright, then the software is yours. Just be careful of hefty maintenance and/or annual upgrade fees.
If you already have a website and would like assistance in redesigning or programming, it is beneficial to hire a company that is already familiar with your software. Check references and look at prior work.
Website vs. webstore vs. Venue
There are many venues such as Yahoo Stores, ProStores, Amazon, etc. where you can easily sign up for your own webstore. These webstores, in effect, become your own website. The benefits are great for small sellers with little time, knowledge or money to develop their own websites. Generally, you will pay a monthly fee and a small transaction fee per sale. A great advantage is the ease in use and the already built-in SEO features. With your own website, you have more control and fewer fees, but you may need to do your own SEO (search engine optimization, which helps drive traffic to your site).
If you already have a website that is working for you, be cautious in signing up for a webstore. While you can use the same store name to list on multiple venues, such as eBay, Amazon and Bonanzle, you cannot use the same domain name on a webstore and on your own currently operating website.
Search Engine Optimization is critical. You may have the nicest site in the world, but if no one can find you, it is all for naught. Make sure that any webstore or website design you use either has built-in SEO features or is designed to be SEO-friendly. I cannot stress enough the importance of SEO.
If you use a webstore, be cautious. Is your store within a venue, such as Amazon or eBay, or is your webstore standalone? The caution lies in what happens to your store if you stop selling on the venue. For example, if you sell on an Amazon webstore, do you still keep your store if you stop selling on Amazon?
Again, be careful here. Your domain name is your identity. Make sure that whatever webstore or website you use, you get to keep your domain name if you decide to switch to another service.
This is important for SEO. It is much better for your URL to be yours and not a subname of your host. For example, your URL should read http://mystorename. With some webstores, it may read http://webstorehost/mystorename. This method will make it more difficult for the search engines to find you.
Shared or dedicated server
A shared server is most common and the least expensive. However, make sure that your host has plenty of space. Otherwise, a huge amount of traffic on someone else's website may slow down access to yours.
Time and Knowledge
How much time and knowledge you can dedicate to designing and/or programming your own website is certainly a key factor in selecting a website. Obviously, the more you know and the more time you can spend, the less you have to pay third parties.
For more information on Bubblefast's strategies for multi-channel selling, visit the Bubblefast merchant profile in the June 6, 2010 issue of AuctionBytes Update.