Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shopping Carts - eCommerce Explained

I would like to share a very informative email that I received from The Mom Pack discussion group that I am a member of. If you would like to request membership, please visit here. Enjoy and Good Luck, Patricia


From: themompack Moderator
Subject: File - Shopping Carts - eCommerce Explained
Date: Monday, September 17, 2012, 7:30 PM

Jumping into the internet world takes a lot of pre-planning. Where do I go, what do I research, what do I need to look for, what do I need to watch out for?.... All of these are questions that we can answer. We've compiled a list of shopping carts out there and are putting out the plain facts about each. It's not meant to put a negative light on any cart out there. This is simply valuable information from those who have years of experience in the web design and web hosting field. We've seen a lot in the past 16 years in this field - good and bad. We're passing along some of our experience in hopes to save you a lot of money, time and frustration.

1. Agora Cart: This cart is written in cgi. It's a good cart, but not for the novice. It's very basic and is simple for the site visitor to process through. This cart does look nice and clean on a site when created by an experienced designer. You would need a designer with cgi experience to create a custom template and setup the cart which is all edited through the code. There is no admin interface with this cart.

2. DIY Shoppe Deluxe: This cart is a full online storefront for your business with a lot of bonuses. It has an admin interface where you can add all your products, create sales, coupons, turn items to out of stock and so on. It also has a built in gift registry, wholesale feature, affiliate program and so much more. It is search engine friendly. The template itself is easy to setup with code inserts and duplicates itself throughout the site for you. So you only need a one-page design! There are over 30 templates included. You can buy the license outright at 99.00 one time fee and only pay a monthly hosting fee of 7.00 to 10.00 or you can pick our flat rate plan of only 12.95 per month with no out of pocket. We install this cart for free for our hosting clients who are also Mom Pack Members - just ask.

3. Zen Cart: Awesome cart, but a little risk comes with this free shopping cart. It is written in php, but don't let that scare you. The admin interface is extensive and can look overwhelming at first, but this is a very stable shopping cart (as long as you stay on top of the regularly needed security updates and recommended for those that want something good, capable and best of all... it's free. You would need a designer with php experience to create a custom layout for you. The included layout is very generic (frankly, it's ugly), but is useable. The features are fantastic and is everything you'd need for ecommerce online. The Zen cart developers are very good at releasing the security updates that you need. This cart is a one-click install from your hosting control panel if you choose to host with us. NOTE: You must be aware that you need to install the regularly released security patches or your cart will no longer be secured and safe to use.

4. Wahm Shoppes: There are many people online using this option, but even more that are unhappy and those are the ones that yearn to get out of the trap. This cart uses like the mals-e processor to run the cart and is promoted with fluff words like "easy, simple, instant, online tonight, for the wahm" and so on. The url strings that you have to deal with are a search engine dead-end nightmare. No one ever mentions that once you signup and spend hours getting everything just right, you cannot make a backup copy of your site at all which is like living with your home's front door wide open all the time. Everything that you pay for is simply rented and you are completely dependent on one guy not losing all your data. We have found that the ones promoting this cart option online are those that are given free hosting strictly to refer others or encourage you to click through their link to signup so they earn a buck and are not concerned about your ultimate success online. This cart is also promoted under the name DIYestores under prim-mart with even more fluff words to bait you.

5. OsCommerce: Another very good cart written in php. It does have great capabilities and also a featured packed add-on called CreLoaded. The admin interface is extensive and may seem overwhelming, but well worth looking at. The main concern would be the difficulty in editing the included design and would require hiring a designer with php experience to create a design you would like. This cart is not as stable as the Zen cart and is a little buggy at times especially when you start adding some of the add-ons that are out there. This cart is a one-click install from your hosting control panel if you choose to host with us. NOTE: You must be aware that you need to install the regularly released security patches or your cart will no longer be secured and safe to use.

6. Yahoo Stores: A template driven shopping cart. It's easy to create and easy to maintain. But, that comes with a price. For 10 items in a store, it will cost you a $50 setup fee and $19.99 per month and also a 2% transaction fee on all your sales. They will process everything for you, but why? You can do all of that yourself. You cannot make a copy of your site - yahoo owns what you create.

Mals-e: You can create your site design by yourself and use Mals-e as your processor. If you have html knowledge or are using a sitebuilder, you can do this! You would setup your free account with Mals, enter your information, add your products and copy/paste the codes into your web site.

7. Paypal Cart: This is a quick and easy option for those that want to do it all themselves as well. You can use a sitebuilder online or any html editor that you may have. You would login to paypal, enter your product details and basically copy/paste each item over into your site. Remember, this cart is manual. So every time you have a product out of stock, you have to remember to remove it. You do not have a sale-maker, coupon options, etc. That costs additional at another site as an add-on. We do not recommend using their Virtual Terminal. It's quite pricey especially when you can get the same for a lot cheaper. We show you how under "Merchant Account" if you choose to have your own.

In a nutshell: There are many shopping carts available online. The costs can be anywhere from free to $10,000 and we didn't even evaluate the expensive ones for you. Most important is to find out if you own the cart or not. If you cannot download a FULL backup of your cart and web site, look at another option. It is VERY important to own your cart and not be surprised one morning when you log on to your site and find that the company that owns your cart or both - is gone. It's happened many times before from even places that have been online for years.

From the search engine ranking aspect, unless you plan to only self promote your site and skip the search engines altogether, you'll want to stay away from a "wahm shoppe". We know how exciting it is to 'open shop' online. Don't let that excitement distract you from getting trapped into something you'll later regret.

It is also very important to make your site a portion of your site and not the entire site. Meaning, if you are using the zen cart or oscommerce, be sure to install it in a subdirectory or folder on your site called something like /cart/ or /shop/. This way you can optimize your site accordingly. This way, you can have your site and then your shopping area. You can match your zen cart's design to your site or your zen cart to your site so they both look very similar. If you do this, you'll thank yourself later.

If you do plan to use a sitebuilder built into your web host and use one of the cart options from above that allows you to copy/paste products into it, make sure that you own what you create. We've seen some real horror stories happen when people use a sitebuilder only to find out that the web host shut down business and their site is gone. Or their web host starts having a lot of server issues and they cannot take anything to another host. If you pay for a sitebuilder and shopping cart all-in-one and did not buy a license, without even looking I can tell you that you do not own your web site. To run your business you must stay with that host. Any good business person knows it's not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket!

We're always available to answer any of your questions. If you are looking for a web designer, we have a long list of many talented designers that would be happy to give you a quote!

Best of luck to you and your business.
The Mom Pack & The Design Shoppe Staff

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Start an Online Business: 11,520 Free Resources for the Internet Entrepreneur

Offered by Paras Chopra

This 40 page guide is a massive (11,520 to be precise) compilation of free to access resources on how to start an online business. These internet resources take the form of tips, tricks, tools, techniques, advice, tutorials, tests, blog posts, articles and guides.

The guide takes you through different phases of starting an online business, right from generating a business idea to implementing and marketing it and later growing your business. To best of my author's knowledge, no other guide contains such a huge list of resources and is so comprehensive that everyone (from newbies to professionals) is going to find something useful in it.

Free PDF download. Click here for more details and to get guide

Monday, January 14, 2013

Time Management: Expand Time As You Expand Your Life

by CathyG

"Many of my clients say, “I don’t know what happened! I used to have time to do everything.” Well, what happened? Their businesses grew. Their priorities shifted...Here are a few ways to think about expanding time as you expand your life."

Read article here

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Surprising Ways to Find Great Start-up Ideas

by Penelope Trunk

"In order for your ideas to seem fresh, they have to be a little bit off-center, a little bit off-kilter. You have to see your ideas a little more clearly than everyone else in order to believe they will work."

Read article here