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Starting my very first website?

Discussion in 'E-Commerce and Online Selling' started by UKbuyer1, Sep 7, 2010.

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  1. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
    Messages:
    8,313
    Good morning all.

    I have been on eBay for quite a while now, and I am averaging sales turnover of around £800-£1000 a week. I have a lot of repeat customers, with my emphasis on a great service, great communication, and items fully described with individual pictures. I offer a no quibble money back return, and have many, many repeat customers that buy product after product.

    My current business model is not a traditional one in any sense. I buy from eBay and sell back on eBay, often with margins reaching 60%. Therefore a large percentage of my products are used items.

    I do also source some products from wholesalers, and suppliers, and although I enjoy this, and prefer this method, the margins are not great, but realise I am going to have to concentrate on this more from an ecommerce store perspective.

    I have been toying with the idea of my own ecommerce store for a while now, and have finally taken the decision to go for it. By April 1st 2011, I hope to have a fully loaded ecommerce store live, which will work in conjunction with my eBay store for the initial traffic.

    This months fees for eBay was £312, and looking back, over the last 6 months alone, I have generated £1300 in fees for ebay. For this reason, I believe an ecommerce store would be more cost effective, and more of the profit would be mine, and not eBays. I would be looking to get my repeat customers from my eBay store and into my ecommerce store in the first instance.

    Before anyone points it out, I realise eBay is a superb platform with millions of potential customers and potential exposure, but I now feel i need to branch out.

    During the time from now until late February, when I hope to pay someone to complete a store for me, I am going to redraft a business plan, and make all the necessary arrangements to ensure I am confident enough and equipped to go into such a venture. I will have around £1200 budget for this to complete. The only one major stumbling block is:

    I have no experience whatsover of ecommerce stores, how they work, what costs are involved, editing new products into the store, hosting or anything like that. terms like CubeCart, this cart, that cart mean nothing to me. Hosting and domain registration, Search engine optimization everything to do with it I have very little understanding of it.

    This is where you come in, and I hope to draw attention of some of the more experienced people on these forums.

    My questions:

    1) Can anyone recommend any books or literature that is in depth, and explains the inner workings of an online ecommerce store? Or indeed, any links that would help me? (No links to this forum please, i will be reading everything I can find on here in the coming weeks)

    2) Is my budget sufficient to buy and have someone build a website from scratch, including a domain, and hosting?

    3) What knowledge of coding do i need if any? For instance, how easy is it to upload new products to your site? This is what worries me the most.

    4) I will be primarily looking at using Paypal as the only payment option, but what are the most cost effective, efficient and safe modes of taking card payments online, and their costs? Again links appreciated.

    5) What are the running costs of a website per month.

    As you can see from my questions, I have an enormous amount to learn, but am willing to do that in the time I have stated.

    Any advice, guidance, links will, as usual, be greatly appreciated. I will not jump into this cold, before anyone points out I am not experienced, or if my budget is not up to scratch etc, if I am not ready by late February, then I will simply delay it for another 6 months or so, or until I feel I am ready.

    Cheers,
    Rick.
  2. Andy777

    Andy777

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Messages:
    23,457
    Hey Rick!

    Great to hear you're doing well on eBay! And you're def. on the right track by planning on launching your own shop. You'll have to learn a LOT as it's so much more complicated than selling on eBay but rewards are there.

    I'll try to give my insight on your questions:

    1. I would recommend my own video course, lol, but it's not published yet :D It will be launched in spring, next year. In meantime, plenty of free videos/articles on my websites:

    http://www.chatwithandrew.com/ (feel free to submit your questions)

    http://www.easyauctionbusiness.com/archive/ (some good videos on choosing a cart, designing your website)

    For SEO - best 1$ you'll ever spend:

    http://www.stomping2.com/

    Anything from Stomper is good for e-commerce as they use a lot of practical examples from their own e-commerce shops.

    2. Yes, for £1200 you can build a PRO looking online shop! (use that money wisely!)

    3. No need of any special coding skills - all modern shopping carts are web based so you'll login into your admin panel and manage products online. Depending on cart, this admin area will be more or less user friendly.

    4. PayPal alone won't be good enough for a stand alone website! Many people wil want to pay using a card. One of the easiest ways to start taking cards online is using a All In One solution, like http://www.rbsworldpay.com/

    5. Anything from £5 to £100, depending on cart (hosted or self hosted), features (Live Chat etc.). But if you use something like Cube Cart, all you need to pay is standard hosting pay (until your traffic reaches serious levels).

    Hope this helps & Good Luck! :welldone:

    Andy
  3. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
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    Andy, thanks for your time and advice, helpful as always :welldone:
  4. Michael

    Michael

    Joined:
    May 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,523
    1. You should be able to find as much as you need on here, if not each cart usually has its own forums.

    2. Your budget is fine and their is no reason you shouldnt be able to get a good bespoke design and a cart cutomised to your exact needs for that sort of figure.

    3. Uploading products and site documents (T&C's etc) is as easy as creating a word document, depending on what products you will have you should be able to have the upload section customised to make it easier (I have product attribute drop down boxes in the admin which then display when selected)

    4. Get yourself a merchant account and set it up with your site, there are many discussions on the forum about this. I use Barclays ePDQ but there are many others. See here http://www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk...n/94664-what-payment-gateways-do-you-use.html

    5. The hosting will cost you between £5-£10 but this will increase the more features you have and if your traffic levels go through the roof. Dont forget to account for merchant account fees etc.
  5. itpartsdirect

    itpartsdirect

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2010
    Messages:
    716
    Hi for that sort of money I would look at Interspire for a cart, look at the video of what it can do and how easy you can manipulate your cart.

    I would also look at Bigcommerce for the hosting as well with Interspire. Apart from that there are cheaper options. Dacs has good options as well and good cart.
  6. Saajan

    Saajan

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2005
    Messages:
    10,736
    1) Haven't got any links but I can explain it here in simple terms. A ecommerce website will have two sides, the admin side and the store front side. The admin side is where you control the ecommerce store. For example, you'll be able to set up different payment methods, i.e PayPal / Nochex / Cheque depending on which cart you pick. Each cart is different and offers different features as well. When it comes to picking the right cart, you'll need to take a few things into consideration:

    • Do you like the cart?
    • Is it easy for you to use?
    • Do you require certain features?

    The store front is what your customers will see. Every cart these days offers you to customise the store front and make it look unique, easy to use and allows a wide range of customisation.

    Picking the right cart would need to be done first. Only then will you be able to get hold of a designer who specialises in that particular cart.

    2) £1200 is enough yes.

    3) Coding is only required when you personally want to edit a certain file which is stored on your hosting account which makes the cart function. If your getting someone to design your website, it would be also good to pass on any other requests you might have.

    4) PayPal offers Website Payments Pro which will allow you to take credit and debit card payments directly via your website (if your chosen cart supports this that is).

    5) Depends on who you host with and which cart you pick (some carts cost money, but there are free ones out there which most people prefer). Also if your paying for any SEO work, they would normally charge you per month.

    What I advise you to do is, learn more about ecommerce as a whole and learn the basic stuff before you jump in. When it comes to talking with designers and developers, you'll have a better understanding of what they say and what you might personally require for your website.

    And of course, there are many here on TWF which specialise in hosting / design / development so you can also speak to us lot to.
  7. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
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    8,313
    These are just the responses I was looking for, many thanks, and keep them coming!
  8. ZeeRocK

    ZeeRocK Banned Member

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    Messages:
    4,596
    Your budget is more than enough and I'd recommend don't go for an expensive option as you are just starting out. Paypal is by default installed in almost every cart and you just have to add your details. If you go for a free/open source all you need is hosting, domain (which is one time) or probably SSL.

    Have a look at the links I posted they have all the reviews and demos for different carts.

    For open source or free shopping carts ************************************************************************

    For hosted and licensed carts ********************

    Let me know if you need some help with anything.

    Good luck!
  9. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
    Messages:
    8,313
    Thanks Zee, very helpful.

    Would you advise then not to spend the amount I have budgeted? And go for a free cart?
  10. ZeeRocK

    ZeeRocK Banned Member

    Joined:
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    As your first site, definately don't go for expensive option. Try any open source cart, all of them have demos and many free and paid templates/themes available. Also the modules are free of cost and their support also come free. If you go for an open source it would only cost you probably $150-250 with a ready made template and all useful modules. It can be reduced to only $50 if you go for a free template.

    Spend sometime in the cart support forums which you intend to use, read tutorials, learn from other users experiences etc. Even the easiest cart requires some sort of learning so its not all about this is easy and that one is hard to use.

    Whatever you do research throughly cuz if you want to change cart you will lose your backlinks or I should say your search engine positions. Look at how many products you are going to upload and how much traffic you are going to have as the hosted carts are great but they charge according to products and traffic you are getting on your site.

    As far as the licensed carts are concerned they are not bad either but you not only have to buy the license to use it but also their support and the templates cost heaps.

    Good luck!
  11. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
    Messages:
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    It is clear that i have much more to learn and think about than originally anticipated.......
  12. Pete

    Pete

    Joined:
    May 30, 2005
    Messages:
    14,067
    1 - Never seen a book that spells it out. They are all basically the same as to how they work. You enter your goods, your terms, shipping methods and payment methods. The carts all put the buyers choices into the "basket" and handle the money, sending the buyer an invoice and you an email with the order (this can be optional).

    Here are where the choices come in - The newer carts have "SEO friendly URLs" built in. This means you can have every item with it's own URL, including the description, so that instead of ending "?1y35" it reads "red dress" right in the URL in the browser. Each item can have it's own keywords and META description. Some even allow you to add ALT tags (or descriptions) to each image, more help with Search Engines.

    While some of this is available with mods to older carts, the newer ones offer this out of the box.

    Another difference is CMS. Some carts are designed from scratch for you to be able to add articles and other pages, again to help bring in traffic. Again, older carts may be modified, but newer ones have this out of the box.

    Another consideration is how each cart handles "options", such as sizes, colors, RAM, etc. Some carts you must do this on a one at a time basis, others you can set up options for let's say MP4s and have all MP4's have the same RAM options, just by putting them in the right category. Adding options individually can take hours and days.

    Same with discounts. Some carts you have to assign discounts on one item at a time, others you can set up discount schedules and apply them to a designated category. A very few carts even allow "mix or match" discounts in a category. This can be a real problem with many carts. Say you are selling tee shirts, 1 for 10, 2 for 9 each, 4 for 8 each. Sounds simple, eh? But most carts treat each option or variation as a separate item. So, 4 tees, but 1 S, 1 M, 1 L and 1 XL will not get the discount. You must buy 4 of the exact same size. Or color, same thing there.

    There are a few carts that are not this way, but again, very few. Most of the free carts are this way, but some may have mods available. Speaking of free carts and mods, my "free" cubecart has well over $100 in mods, so how free is it?

    Same with shipping. Just the UK and outer islands, you can handle that with any cart. But going worldwide is another matter.

    So, instead of reading a book that does not exist, spend some time considering in as much depth as possible what you really would like to have happen with the cart, including options, discounts, maybe a wholesale price / retail price, etc. These are the areas where the differences lie.

    2 - You can have a good "paid for" cart, domain, hosting and a custom look for your site for half your budget, probably less. The "design", not the cart and the rest will probably be the highest cost.

    3 - I intentionally did not mention it in #1, knowing this was waiting. Most carts have either included or as free options an "import / export" module. This means you can set up all your inventory in a spreadsheet or csv file (varies with carts) and import the inventory. But, this requires as much investigation as the cart itself. Some will tie in the category and the new items and add new categories if needed, others you may need to have the category existing in the cart for the items to show.

    Many will not import options and discounts, some will, I know of only one that will import images at the same time. I could name some other differences, but you can get the idea. You need to consider the entire package, including the import/export function. Some will also import customers, BTW.

    I do not know "coding" and have had carts for 10 years. I can cut and paste and follow directions, so if I do need to install a mod, or make a small change, I can do it. But if I had to start even the most simple thing from scratch, I could not do it. Don't worry about this.

    Example - I am working on a cart now with high class lingerie and costumes. The images are first rate photography, but when I entered the first set of images showing alternate colors the thumbnails looked like midgets. A square thumbnail, where the actual images were say twice as high as they were wide. The pictures were great when opened fully, just the thumbnails were goofy.

    I mentioned on the forum for that particular cart and within a couple of hours someone told me - go here, open this, change 50 to 90 and you're right. If I would have had to find "here" on my own, I would still be looking. And once I would luck up and get the right file, finding the 50 and knowing that was what I needed to change would have been a couple of more days. BUT - after being told where and what to change, the actual change was no more difficult than changing a word here.

    4 - PayPal is always included, so is at least one "merchant account" type processor. Then their may be from a dozen to 50 other payment options. This is cart specific, but they are all pretty much in the same cost range of PayPal, with some having monthly fees, some having one time sign-up or annual fees. Don't spend a lot of time on this. Figure 4% for processing, regardless of method and you will be safe.

    Once you find a cart that meets your other needs, look at the offerings, but you will always have PayPal and some alternative.

    5 - Just the hosting fee. In my case less than $5 or about 3 quid. Plus your payment processing. Virtually insignificant. If you choose to pay for SEO "expertise", you would have to factor that in. Frankly, with all the capabilities of the newer carts, I would not think about paying someone.

    6 - While you didn't ask, and while it's good to have all of this in the back of your mind, don't even think about settling on a cart until 60 days from launch, maybe even later. They are changing constantly and state of the art the end of summer will not be state of the art come spring.

    In the meantime, if you start lining up some sources, you can get working on the spreadsheets, many suppliers will supply .xls or .csv files with their inventories, costs, descriptions, etc. You will not be able to simply import them as received, but you can factor your selling prices, pick how you want them to be categorized, etc. It will familiarize you with your goods and also give you an idea of how you want things to appear in your cart.

    Then, once you decide on a cart, you will have to probably add a few columns, definitely rearrange the column order, etc. But, you'll be a step or two ahead of the folks who get a cart first, then start with the inventory.
  13. Nick-D

    Nick-D

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2005
    Messages:
    4,847
    This is one of those things that everyone will have different opinions on.

    Zeerock's post leans very much towards doing it on the cheap, I on the other hand believe that for a retail site you need to invest in getting something that is really going to show off your business. It is not a cost but an investment, one which will pay for itself many times over if done right.

    If you do not want to get down and dirty in the code and hosting side of things i recommend a hosted solution, you pay more per month but for us it is worth it as all of the upgrades etc are done automatically and we just have to concentrate on selling. The one we use is Bigcommerce

    Otherwise i hear and see very good things from Dasc and his team and will be using them for my next project.

    The one thing i will recommend is that you do your research, find out exactly what you want from a cart, it seems that your model is different to what i am used to as it is all 2nd hand?
  14. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

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    Fantastic response there Pete, many thanks for your time and advice. :welldone:
  15. UKbuyer1

    UKbuyer1

    Joined:
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    Hi

    Thanks for your comments.

    For the site, everything will be new and sourced in a more conventional way!
  16. ZeeRocK

    ZeeRocK Banned Member

    Joined:
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    I tried not to favour any specific cart there and posted some links so he could get an idea whats best for him. I don't have any sort of profit in it but as you can read from his very first post he doesn't have any idea how to operate a website. Why should I advise him to invest all of his savings to get something which he can also get for 5 times cheaper price but all he needs is some learning.

    I posted some honest reviews to all the three options he has, now its his decision which route he wants to go.

    Cheers!
  17. Pete

    Pete

    Joined:
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    I missed a few things.

    Coupons and promo codes - not all offer them out of the box.

    Affiliate program, if you want to pay commissions for others to send you business/ some have built in, some have tie-ins to specific providers, so do not even acknowledge such a thing.

    Customer Reviews - Some do, some with mods, some not at all

    Others who bought this also bought these - Same, some yes, some no, some What is that?

    Add banners to pages / sidebars. Some have from the admin area, others you do have to do some coding

    Built in sitemap - newer carts have, older maybe - probably a mod

    RSS feeds - Same as above

    Google Base - Same as above

    Google Analytics - Same as above

    Export to Quickbooks, etc. - Either have or don't

    Multiple currencies and automatic conversion updating - nothing common here, from not at all to change rates yourself to automatic changes

    Reports / graphs, etc. - Most have in some form, but many are barebones.

    And the list goes on. There are lots and lots of considerations.
  18. itpartsdirect

    itpartsdirect

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    how do you bookmark a thread?
  19. ZeeRocK

    ZeeRocK Banned Member

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    You can either bookmark the page into your browser or you can subscribe to the thread. You have posted in the thread so its automatically subscribe you in which can be accessed if you go to "Quick Links" at the top or "Control Panel" to the right of your screen.
  20. itpartsdirect

    itpartsdirect

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    cheers thanks dont know why I asked that I knew the answer! Doh.
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