Most people realize that blogging is a stepping stone to other things. Those things normally include writing a book, becoming a public speaker, or opening some sort of online business (consulting or whatever). It makes sense. You get a great introduction into writing, building a brand and you get a taste of what being your own boss feels like.
So, here I am, a year and a half after starting this blog, getting ready to start a full-blown business. And it’s only partially online (which is what I’m going to write in-depthly about here).
I’ve been pretty chummy with WordPress, so naturally I had no idea that other platforms existed to help people sell stuff online. I had heard in the past that people somehow integrated shopping carts into their WordPress systems through WooCommerce. But I couldn’t actually find anyone who was utilizing this setup efficiently. I knew that I was going to have to abandon my beloved WordPress for a newer, sleeker, sexier ecommerce platform. The question was, which one?
I asked Google to show me the best options for ecommerce platforms. Google lovingly obliged. I needed something that could process recurring payments (monthly subscription for products) and something that wouldn’t bang me over the head financially. My Googling was pretty extensive, and it led me to Mt. Doom and back, but it helped me narrow down my decision.
The first that I checked out was BigCommerce. They don’t inherently have the ability to process product subscriptions. This was kind of a deal breaker. There’s an app that you can add to your stored called “Recurhub” but you have to manually enter the code. No thanks. I’m decent with code implementation, but I want something that I have to do almost no work for that will act properly without question. There’s nothing worse than botching something yourself and then not know how to fix it.
The second ecommerce site that I tried was Magento. They’re owned by ebay, so my initial thought was that they’d be super user friendly — I mean, they own PayPal for fuck’s sake. Not the case. Their platform is geared more toward enormous online entities. And some of their example websites in their portfolio were terrible too (even for multi-million dollar companies). Again, no thanks.
Next I checked out Volusion. For a few minutes I thought I found our brand’s new home. They inherently support product subscriptions. Boom. Then, I messed around a little more. I signed up for a free trial to check out what it felt like under the hood. The admin dashboard didn’t impress me. It seemed clunky and like there was too much going on at once. Then I realized that the themes (which are necessary) cost upwards of $900. Holy crap. They might as well be custom made for you by Jesus at a price like that.
Finally, after touring the decent, the bad, and the ugly I landed on Shopify (who I had already predetermined that we would go with before I started shopping around). Shopify had pretty much everything we needed. Great customer service. Beautiful affordable themes. Hundreds of add-on apps to make the store do exactly what you need it to do. Plus, they have an add-on for subscription payments (without having to manually enter code).
I messed around in their admin dashboard. It felt comfortable and like I had control over what I was doing. It’s inherently set up to use the payment gateway that I wanted to use (Stripe). And they have a Point of Sale system that you can set up in your brick-and-mortar for just a few extra bucks per month.
Within 5 minutes I had a beautiful (demo) store up and running. I added a premium theme to the store for trial purposes, and after adding a few pictures, and our company’s logo my store looked like a legitimate place that people would spend money.
A monthly subscription to Shopify ranges from $29 to $179 depending on the needs of your site. For us, the $29 plan is going to work for quite a while. They offer a 14-day trial to make sure that it’s going to work for your business model.
There are a bunch of other ecommerce sites out there too, that I either wasn’t interested in or just plain didn’t have time to try. Some of them include Drupal, Wix and FastSpring. Some of them make you do ALL of the work yourself. Some of them cost an obscene amount of money to operate. And others, still, let you have almost no control over the design of your site.
Customer service means a lot to me as a potential subscriber, so I sent a message to the contact email on each platform. I heard directly back from Shopify and even got a phone call from Volusion. Otherwise, my email box remained dead for a few days, but the remaining sites eventually all sent emails. If immediacy is a necessity, then definitely send a few test contact emails to weed out the noncompliant sites.
The cool thing about ecommerce — and this brood of ecommerce platforms — is that you don’t really need much experience or money to start your own store. If you can afford $29/month then you can afford to have a store. And you can sell anything you want (well, anything legal). You can sell books off your bookshelf. You can sell bracelets that you make in your spare time. Whatever you want. It’s a great way to make extra money. And if it works well, it may be a springboard for bigger and better things.
I highly recommend starting your ecommerce store through Shopify. Use this link and enjoy your first 2-weeks for free.
If you already have a store up and running what is your preferred platform, and why?